I went on my first solo camping trip this summer. Just a few days, to a favorite camping spot in the little visited wilderness of the Trinity Alps. In spite of decades of experience and a car loaded down with luxury gear for the middle-aged camper, I was unaccountably nervous. Until I hit the road and my body/soul immediately remembered why I camp, why I seek out the wilderness, why I need time alone.
There was acute luxury in attending to only my needs for a time. There was a ridiculously spacious 3-person tent for one, eating out of the pot I cooked in, kayaking every day, stillness that made it possible to notice and then watch the woodpecker make their way up the tree and to observe the encounter between a lizard and a caterpillar.
And I missed my children, my camping buddies of the last 20 years, acutely: the noise and chaos of them, their companionship, our shared laughter, games and adventure. Really I missed the boys they were before they became the men they are now. Then I missed my Gram Phyl and the way she taught me to listen to birds in the morning, and my own childhood. As I lay there in my hammock looking up into the canopy of pines, I felt the whole expanse of myself over my 50 years, all held in one moment, complete with all of the feelings.
Rabbi Alan Lew writes that, “Joy is a deep release of the soul, and it includes death and pain. Joy is any feeling fully felt, any experience we give our whole being to.” I realized it was joy I was feeling. The joy of being alive, deeply at one with the universe, and whole/holy.
Spiritual direction is a practice that helps us attune to the joy in our lives. If you encounter folks who could benefit from attending to that attunement, I hope you’ll invite them to consider my spiritual direction practice. And if you are looking for that opportunity, I have many wonderful colleagues to recommend. I’m also happy to trade camping stories, great ideas for where to camp, and gear recommendations.