Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Out of the Store and Into the Woods

Williams Lake, San Juan Mountains, CO

There's something so liberating, and shocking, really, about carrying everything you need on your back. As I backpacked through the San Juan Mountains of Colorado for five days recently, I couldn't help but think, "What's all that stuff back in my house? I have everything I need right here!" Of course, we ate Ramen and wore basically the same clothes for the entire trip, but still, it's an excellent reminder of how little we need, not only to survive, but to be happy, especially when our days are spent doing something fulfilling and soul-satisfying.

So I've returned with a renewed determination to de-clutter our house, to buy and keep only the essentials - though of course "essential" is always relative. Mostly, I want to consciously evaluate what we have and what we decide to buy. Even though J and I think of ourselves as conscious consumers, it is so easy to fall into the trap of believing that material things reflect status and represent a path to happiness (after all, there are enormous forces inundating our lives that are aimed solely at making us believe just that, and I don't think any of us are immune to them). For me, one of the best ways to avoid this, or at least mitigate it, is to leave it all behind on a regular basis, to carry only the true essentials, to sleep under the stars while the cell phone and computer beep and purr alone back at home, and to practice self-reliance.

I left for my Colorado trip thinking that it might be the final journey for my 15-year-old backpack, purchased for my first Grand Canyon hike as a teenager. "I really need a new backpack," I thought, mostly when I happened to be looking at rows of them hanging in an REI store, drawn to their shiny newness like a fluttering magpie. But guess what? When I got out of the store and into the woods, I realized it was nothing a few patches and new buckles couldn't fix. My raggedy old backpack will surely continue to take me wherever it is I decide I want to go, if I only let it.

Columbine, San Juan Mountains, CO

1 comment:

  1. Yaaaay! Yay for paring down, yay for making your backpack last, and yay for spending your days doing something fulfilling. Good stuff!