First Polished Piece- Writers Memo
This piece was honestly a joy to write. It brought out the creative, yet structured side of the writer in me and allowed me to see things I had never seen in myself. Most importantly, writing this piece bestowed upon me a desire to live more simply; I have no doubt in my mind that the actual act of putting these thoughts onto paper (although written months ago) still influences my thought process to this day.
I particularly enjoyed writing this ‘first polished piece’ because of the freedom of choice of what to write on. I was given the assignment to choose an important reflection which shaped my values of wilderness and it turned out to be one of my first and most inexperienced writings of the semester that effectively captured these new beliefs and values. This piece is based off of field notes taken at River Park North- a large wilderness sanctuary, if you will, on the outskirts of metro-Greenville. This writing also stands out to me because the act of taking field notes at River Park North helped me to develop a more peaceful and well-rounded view of the city I go to school in. This may seem trivial; however, finding that secret spot that brings you back to home while homesick or just lonely is an invaluable discovery. As I recall, one of the main things on my mind while writing this was the stresses of pledging my current fraternity. Although I have now made connections with some incredibly genuine and determined people, the anxiety and apprehension of getting to know every one of them were most definitely heavy on my mind at the time of writing this. These apprehensions were cured (similar to every other worry in my life) by becoming at peace with myself through the wilderness.
This piece challenged me to write freely with minimal structure. I had honestly only done free writing a handful of times prior to this exercise and one could say I was quite inexperienced in putting my feelings onto paper (more importantly, into words). Not only did I become more introspective in writing as a result of this task; I became more in touch with the writer inside me- that extremely wordy, creative child just itching to get out. My two professors suggested that I revise the introduction to show a somewhat less conspicuous display of the structure of the paper; I did this and I believe it has truly made my composition more effective. I am inspired by the advice to submit this to a real-world writing venue and I will most definitely look into doing so after this is complete.
The Importance of the Sustenance of One’s Inner Child
In a constantly developing world of technological and social advancement, we are all subject to losing touch with ourselves. Remember the creative energy you used to have as a child? Whether it was building with Legos and Lincoln Logs, running around carelessly on the playground or even just sitting in our parents laps; we all used to have the luxuries of the simplest things in life that we now take for granted. Our psyches are constantly pushed to become more mature and societally adept. As college students in particular, we are pulled away from the true child that eternally lives on inside ourselves. Sadly, this process of dying to get old is not only detrimental to ourselves- it is detrimental to our parents, teachers and others who have seen us progress over the years. For most of us, our caregivers are the ones who have raised us to be who we are today. Perhaps they may have even lived vicariously through our accomplishments and failures. It is somewhat depressing to dive into introspection of the occasions not taken advantage of in one’s childhood; however, there is an incredible resource at our fingertips for regaining that sense of wonder. This place, the only true sanctuary, is the wilderness. I particularly have an enlightening experience each time I set foot in the uncharted territory of the unknown. My most recent eye opening experience took place at River Park North, a somewhat natural refuge in the outskirts of Greenville. Let me tell you this story which will hopefully draw on the importance of cultivating and sustaining that dynamic inner child that we all possess.
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After trying (and failing) to find River Park North, Ryan Clancy and I finally arrived at the natural preserve to begin our exercise for the day. We were told to go out into a private, silent spot for roughly an hour and to take field notes of what we saw, heard, felt, smelled and (not really) tasted. At first, I was reluctant to appreciate the activity due to the hurried and somewhat negative vibes of arriving late, but after I realized that all was well, I began to appreciate this personal time to connect to the wild.
My journey started with a long peaceful walk down a dirt path. Once I was alone, I began to really enjoy being in this natural sanctuary and decided that I would use this activity as a way to be engulfed by the moment. Upon reading The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle, I have been on the pursuit of appreciating each and every moment for its own value. I have learned that the past is not important and neither is the future; they are merely either memories or figments of our imagination. The only time frame that is and has ever been real is right now. With this in mind, I walked for roughly five minutes and subsequently saw an inviting, yet not too trodden side path. Down the path I went, appreciating the spontaneity of this seldom used walkway. At the end of the path, I saw the perfect spot for my activity. It was adjacent to a little inlet with a heavily aged fallen tree. This spot couldn’t have been better for my activity; it displayed a picture-perfect view of a peaceful pond, a large forest, growing little trees and an array of different wildlife from bugs to birds. I next sat down and engulfed the essence of this beautiful place in front of me. I proceeded to set an alarm on my phone for when to head back to class. This allowed me to free myself from the constraints of frequently checking what time it was and let me soak up the moment in its entirety.
My first findings and perceptions were predominately about the body of water. I stated, “Water moves so beautifully. Its fluidly free yet deliberate movement is miraculous. Water is the epitome of connectedness- everything in a body of water relies on this singular force to keep it alive”. As you can see, my “field notes” are more like statements and introspections rather than typical “the tree is green” or “the bugs are haphazardly swimming around” field notes. This form of note taking allows me to record not only my observations, but my outlooks and meditations as well. After becoming almost entranced by the enthralling water, I proceeded to observe some goofy little water bugs that absolutely captivated my attention for at least ten minutes. The bugs would do a crazy little dance for me every so often that consisted of a few broad circles and dives. This dance was so fascinating that I wanted to record it on video; I consequently realized that the only reason to record it would be to show other people evidence of what I saw. This was my own personal moment of appreciation of nature; what would compel me to be so inclined as to ruin the moment by stopping to pull out my phone? I was so appreciative of the fact that these bugs are independent of one another, yet never stray too far from their pack. These bugs reminded me of myself and my social tendencies. I love having friends and I choose to surround myself with them quite often, yet when I need to, I take time to myself to ponder and regain lucidity. These bugs floated aimlessly along, casting elongated circular shadows on the bed of leaves, algae and silt below. They occasionally would bump into each other, only to turn around and go the opposite way. I loved this circle dance and felt privileged that I was in the place to see such an act.
After being extremely entertained by the enchanting water bug dance, I heard young children joyfully prancing around the trails. I then saw the children and realized that although they were under the supervision of their father, they were free from the constraints of what and what not to think. They happily walked a very energetic puppy and I could tell they felt they were the only people in the world. I reminisced of the times of my carefree mentality; when I would wear sweats to kindergarten because “cool” didn’t matter, when I would cry to my mother in public because I bequeathed zero thought to who noticed or most importantly how I used to be so inattentive of the behavior of those around me. I took a mental step back for a moment and was bewildered at the thought that I had realized such a revelation in this peaceful refuge called River Park North. This made me appreciate the city of Greenville so much more. Growing up in the mountains, I have been somewhat spoiled by nature’s beauty and haven’t really grasped its influence on me as an emerging adolescent until now. Who knew the comforts of the woods back home in Asheville could be found less than five minutes from a highly developed and somewhat industrialized campus?
The water in front of me began to develop wavering ripples from the cold wind. The wind picked up and I felt chilly, yet somehow very gratified. I stated, “I am full, happy and at peace with myself”. This is hard to find in a college town, yet it can be found so close to campus with so little effort. My shadow overlapped a trees reflection in the water and rippled in synchronicity with the steadfast body of water. This served as a metaphoric device to show me that our separate life forms (the water and I) are overwhelmingly connected. To me, this is God revealing himself. Not Jesus, not Buddha, not Allah…just God. The curiosity that the intrinsic feeling of recognition of a higher power gives me reminds me greatly of the curiosity I had of the world as a child. As I begin to grow and learn more about the world, my spiritual quest is fueled by that child-like desire to know what’s deep down inside all of our souls.
I continued taking notes when suddenly my alarm sounded; it was time to head back to the nature center. I successively saw out of the corner of my eye a person skipping joyfully down the trail. Little did I know that this was my professor! What an exemplification of a happy-go-lucky mindset. To see a grown woman skip freely like a child made me want to be more like I was so long ago.
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The tranquility and stillness I found in nature that day revealed to me how important it is for me to occasionally release the inner child that eternally lives on inside my soul. I also became aware of the pointless but existent judgment of myself and others that I penitently possess. The lesson I took from this enlightening experience was that I must embrace the innocent, inexperienced and creative child in myself and love every crazy and even embarrassing bit of it; I challenge you to do this as well. If you find yourself with the itch to get out of the dorm or your apartment- to take on a meaningful approach to your day- please just go outside and let yourself become one with the spirit of nature. This connection will truly bring you back to the child you once were; the curious yet determined neophyte of life that you need to reconnect to lies deep inside of you yet is easily accessible. I urge you to go take a walk around campus and appreciate the trees, grass and even the seemingly annoying squirrels. Go run as far as you can toward the wilderness and become more at peace with yourself while doing it. Go experience the zest of life that is at your fingertips; do not let your fear of judgment hinder your happiness. From one college student to another, we all need to put down our incorrect fabrications of who we should be and accept who we really are. The only way of knowing who we really are and what we really enjoy in life is to reconnect to the lost child inside of us.
Field Note Archive- Writers Memo
While the first polished piece was undoubtedly my favorite piece to write over the course of this class, I would have to say that the field note archive was more beneficial in my appreciation of writing as a concept. This exercise allowed me to see the imperative significance of taking field notes while on a journey to write. Field notes allow one to jot their notes down in a naïve and unbiased manner while simultaneously preserving history. Upon seeing the field notes of Thomas Jefferson and Meriwether Lewis, my eyes were opened to the fact that field note taking is crucial to preserving the thought processes of the present for the generations to come. I tried to individualize this assignment to myself by basically throwing myself out of society as much as possible while field note taking. This allowed me to A) connect with nature, B) connect with myself and C) connect with the reasons as to why I write and how writing makes me a more well-rounded academic.
This exercise taught me how to take effective field notes which was an unprecedented skill which I had never even tried to discover. Through free writing and other (more structured) forms of field note taking, I gained an admiration for the people who have so meticulously documented their findings for people like me to eventually learn from. This was an incredible inspiration- a reason to write and a reason to share my thoughts. This exercise taught me how to utilize the Grinnell field note taking method in my studies. The Grinnell method is a structured form of field note taking which encompasses taking unbiased notes in one allotment of time followed by a personal reflection in a separate allotment. I will undoubtedly use the Grinnell method in all of my wilderness trips for years to come- whether or not these notes will be graded is not the key. The key is taking these notes for their intrinsic value on the preservation of my thoughts at certain times. I know all of you have had certain epiphanies, followed days later by the “Damn! What was that and why did I forget it?” These will no longer occur in my thoughts if I strictly, yet freely follow the Grinnell method of field note taking.
My favorite set of field notes in this piece is the selection of notes from the Roanoke River camping trip. These allowed me to virtually step back in time and go through my thought processes. Doing this ‘time travel’ is helpful to the writer in the sense that they are made more aware of their note taking styles; more importantly, this ‘time travel’ is therapeutic in the sense that the writer can be brought back to fond memories of times spent field note taking.
Wilderness Ethics Manifesto- Writers Memo
This manifesto was by far the hardest piece for me to write this semester. After beginning my research with the goal of delving into why people don’t appreciate the wilderness, I was inspired to change my topic to why people SHOULD appreciate the wilderness. As a psych major, I obviously drew ties to some psychological studies and I would go as far to assume that every one of my points made in the paper could be related to our individual psychological interactions with the wilderness. If you read the piece, you will see the same. I am happy with where this manifesto went, but I believe I could have produced much better quality work had we been encouraged to initiate research into our INDIVIDUAL sources (not the course readings) earlier in the semester. This is only due to the fact that my individual research was much more beneficial in forming the framework for my final project. I felt the three week time period of start to finish could have been augmented with more time.
This manifesto also required certain aspects that I could not relate to; therefore, I incorporated them into my research (and most of them into my paper) but chose not to add trivial citations/quotes from the course readings at the last minute to add fluffy, unethical support to my claims. I have fallen in love with some of the research I did on this paper and believe that I will eventually one day write a quality, lengthy manifesto (perhaps as long as Cronons) which encompasses my wilderness values on a much more articulated and practical level.
Although I did not have a fun time crunching to write this manifesto, I learned a lot about my writing style. I have noticed that when under pressure, my statements are jaded and serve less purpose than when I am composed. That being said, I am HIGHLY appreciative of the peer review given to me by Taylor Locklear and the opportunity given to me by my professors to have that peer review aspect which significantly improved my paper. This peer review allowed me the time to make quality, purposeful revisions which shaped my paper for the better.
If given an assignment like this again, I would place much higher priority on it than other coursework. I understand that all of the coursework was meant to culminate into a cumulative thesis about wilderness, which it definitely did for me; however, with much more sufficient guidance and a push to start this manifesto long before it was assigned, I believe I could have produced a highly reputable piece of work.
That being said, I am happy with my final product. I learned a lot about my own wilderness values during this writing process and believe that I did a good job articulating why the wilderness should be appreciated by all people. On the contrary, however, I believe that I should revise this final draft once more- incorporating more sources (more support) and eventually submit it to a writing panel for criticism. One thing that stumps me to this very moment is how to cite a quote from verbal speech. John Muir made a quote about going out really meaning diving into introspection and I cannot find any textual documentation of this. This quote was used in a journal and was not cited.
The Wilderness’ Physical, Social and Psychological Therapeutic Attributes
The wilderness is not a concrete place; it is not the woods in your backyard and it is not the lake tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The wilderness is an avenue for a broad array of activities and resources which also happens to be home to the most naturally therapeutic remedies available to human beings. Whether it is physical growth, psychological restoration, connection to the inner self, education of the most viably practical life skills or even the foundation for social interaction to flourish, the wilderness offers it all. We as beings of this vast planet are seemingly cognizant of the importance and aids of wilderness; however, the appreciation of wilderness for its endless array of benefits to the human race must be recognized as a much more renowned and respected worldview. If your perception of wilderness is that it is merely a nice place or a pretty outdoor setting with recreational possibilities, I plan to convince you otherwise. The wilderness is so much more than a location; the wilderness is home to the most naturally therapeutic resources on the planet.
The wilderness boasts an invaluable resource for the availability of recreational activities. The vast majority of Americans are users of the outdoors as a recreational device. According to the project leader of the Outdoor Recreation and Wilderness Assessment Group, approximately 189 million individuals 16 years of age or older, participated in some form of outdoor recreation at some time during the previous 12 months (Cordell). This is almost ninety five percent of the US population (Cordell). This study shows that the majority of users of the wilderness for recreational purposes use it for wildlife viewing, studying nature near water or hiking. These activities all provide the user with natural forms of education, physical activity and mental relaxation. The human body must be nourished with exercise on a daily basis and there is no better place to perform physical activity than in the wilderness. Kayaking down a river, trekking up a treacherous mountain or even swimming in a hidden lake are all effective, natural forms of exercise which the wilderness provides. The recreational usage of wilderness serves as an excellent tool for the improvement of self-confidence and often leads the user to be more daring. John C. Miles eloquently describes the benefits of the exploration of the unknown that only the wilderness can provide. He states,
The mountaineer enjoys the scenery attainable only on the heights. The grand sweep of the topography lifts the spirit, as countless raconteurs of the sport have reported. Raftsmen and white-water kayakers enjoy the sensation of riding the powerful current. They thrill in moving with the elemental force of falling water. Scuba divers move suspended, perhaps as free from gravity as one can be inside the earth’s atmosphere. They observe and explore an alien and mysterious environment known only to them (Miles 7).
This exploration of the unknown is a natural cure to anxiety and could very well be a healing method for years to come if we preserve the wilderness while we can. Could it be that the reason we explore the wilderness is because of our innate desire to reveal the unknown? I believe so; I believe that we are drawn to the wilderness in an attempt to reconcile whatever stresses and trepidations we have developed for ourselves. This conquering of fear is fostered by wilderness exploration. It is imperative that we recognize the importance of the wilderness as a tool for exploration and adventure before it is no longer at our disposal.
The wilderness is also an incredible outlet for refining psychological wellbeing. The restorative values of the wilderness on the human psyche can actually psychologically improve people. A study was performed by two psychologists at National Chung Hsing University in Taiwan which focused on the Attention Restoration Theory, or ART, to determine if the wilderness is a place of psychological restoration in subjects (Kaplan). ART builds on the theory of limited human cognitive capacity, mental fatigue, and the possibilities of psychological recovery when in restorative environments (Chang). This study focused specifically on the restorative capacities of natural, wilderness-like environments. Pictures which displayed wilderness environments were shown to one hundred and ten laboratory participants. The subject’s levels of stress and negative emotion were monitored through EEGs, BVPs and EMGs which are all brain activity mapping devices. The study resulted in the finding of concrete psychophysiological evidence that psychosomatic restoration does in fact occur in natural settings, particularly the wilderness (Chang). This could be a main part of the reason the majority of humans feel more at peace in the wilderness and shows that the wilderness is such a useful restorative environment. Humanistic studies similar to this and experiences in wilderness prove that the wilderness is the world’s most accessible and beneficial restorative environment.
The wilderness is also a place for regaining composure within oneself and is an excellent place for inner exploration. John Muir stated, “I only went out for a walk and finally decided to stay until sundown, for going out, I discovered was actually going in” (Muir). The inner journey present in the wilderness is an invaluable tool for self-recognition and self-exploration and eventually leads to a self-actualized being. Self-actualization, according to Abraham Maslow, is the ultimate attribute to attain in life and is only achieved by few. Self-actualization is a concept comprised of the acts of realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment and seeking personal growth and peak experiences (McLeod). In Thoughts on the Inner Journey in Wilderness, by David Cumes, the hunter-gatherers of the Kalahari tribe (commonly called bushmen) are acknowledged as being impressively apt in group interaction, harmony and spiritually. These tribesmen have actually acquired many of the attributes that dedicated Eastern spiritual devotees strive for such as living in the present moment, inner peace, unconditional positive regard for one another, unconditional love for children, a low sense of ego, and a disinclination to judge others or circumstances (Cumes). If we all assimilated these qualities, our lives would be dramatically improved and we could literally transform the world for the better. Living in the present moment and maintaining a low sense of ego have been the goals of many transcendentalists over the course of history and the wilderness just may be the key to these self-bettering traits. Cumes states that the Kalahari are said to be self-actualized not because of any religion or esoteric practice, but because of their proximity to nature. He remarks, “they do have a pure spiritual practice, maybe the purest of all: a nature practice” (Cumes).
Cumes refers to the effect of nature on the human psyche as “Wilderness Rapture”. He points out that the more we remove ourselves from the comforts of home, the more powerful of a Wilderness Rapture we will experience. This Wilderness Rapture is crucial to the welfare of every human because self-exploration and recognition are both invaluable characteristics to be developed. Cumes lists an array of benefits to be experienced by Wilderness Rapture and they are all quite important, but (in my opinion) the five most relevant to self-help are:
- Being or feeling more like our true self
- An appreciation of awe, oneness, wonder, transcendence or a peak experience (Maslow 1971)
- Release from bad habits or addictions. These could be past patterns of behavior that are undesirable, such as watching too much television, or something more drastic such as chemical dependency
- A connection with nature and a sense of comfort in her surroundings
- A sense of renewal and vitality, feeling less cluttered, more mindful and focused
Is it not remarkably apparent that every single one of us should dive deep into the wilderness for self-help and exploration? How can we be so ingrained by technology, society and modern life that we have lost touch with our true benefactor: Mother Nature? One extremely viable way for us to reconnect to this innate oneness with the wilderness is to reflect on the spiritual practices of ancient wisdom. Ancient religions commonly practiced transcendence. Transcendence, according to Cumes, is going beyond ordinary limits, beyond the bounds of human experience and connecting with the supernatural. Cumes states, “This mystical event often promotes feelings of awe, oneness, harmony and inner peace” (Cumes). Wilderness allows us to connect with our inner being and higher self (Cumes). According to Cumes, Wilderness Rapture is the most viable way to obtain a glimpse into the astonishing ambiguity of the universe. This is similar to the peak experience referred to by Maslow. If we are all, eventually, supposed to become self-actualized human beings, we must recognize the importance of transcendence. Personally, I find no better place to transcend the bounds of the human experience other than the wilderness and believe that Henry David Thoreau could not have agreed with me more. In “Walking”, Thoreau comments on the transcending attributes of a walk through the woods. He claims that ‘the Holy Land’ (basically a personal connection to one’s environment) can be experienced through sauntering. He states, “For every walk is a sort of crusade, preached by some Peter the Hermit in us, to go forth and reconquer this holy land from the hands of the Infidels” (Thoreau). The Infidels Thoreau refers to are those who do not appreciate the wilderness (holy land) for its innate qualities. This places even more of an importance on the appreciation of the wilderness by transcending the normal human experience and finding the true self that lies within us. Thoreau even goes to say that the experience of the wilderness is an inspiration to transcend- an invitation to remove oneself from society and to explore the vast unknown beauty of the world. He says, “Every sunset which I witness inspires me with the desire to go to a west as distant and as fair as that into which the Sun goes down” (Thoreau). Transcend the bounds of your ordinary life and see what can be found in the wilderness. Open your mind up to the true gifts that Mother Nature provides you with and ingratiate yourself with the wilderness’ endless therapeutic properties.
The wilderness also serves as an excellent classroom for the student who desires to learn real-life, practical skills. John C. Miles, an author who focuses the majority of his writings on adventure and outdoor education, agrees that the wilderness is an incredible place for education. He states, “[courses taught in the wilderness] may contribute to humility, sense of wonder, and connectedness to nature and help develop the learner’s sense of personal, social, and natural history” (Miles). These are all practical and invaluable skills which must be taught to every human in order to give them a more holistic approach to the world. The fact that these courses are taught outdoors may be the key factor to why they are so successful. Denise Mitten, a professor at Ferris State University, developed an excellent essay entitled The Healing Power of Nature. In this composition, she states, “While facilitation and programming are integral to the success of outdoor trips, the fact that these experiences take place outdoors in a natural environment is a critical factor” (Mitten). The Outward Bound program is a program designed to provide experience-based outdoor leadership to people of all ages. Outward Bound focuses specifically on expeditionary learning, which serves an excellent avenue to teach the imperative values of wilderness. Outward Bound is a special program because it serves to make the participants more well-rounded people, rather than serving to solely educate the students. Miles states, “ While most outdoor education traditionally focused on learning, in outdoor settings, about natural history and resource management, the Outward Bound approach set its sights on contributing to the personal growth of participants” (Miles 7). Outward Bound is a program that is incredible in the sense that it recognizes the importance of wilderness for its applicable educational properties.
Courses taught in the wilderness have a significant impact on the leadership skills of students. In a study done by the Educational Resources Information Center, or ERIC, students said to have improved their leadership skills drastically in the wilderness. They areas in which they most improved were: fundamentals of leadership, written communication skills, speech communication skills, character-building skills, decision-making skills, group dynamic skills, problem solving skills, personal development skills and planning skills. All of these abilities are crucial to becoming a good leader and the future leaders of the world will most definitely need a background in all of these aspects in order to be purposeful, empowering, inclusive and ethical. Courses taught in the wilderness also contribute greatly to the students’ appreciation of self-sustainability and self-reliability. NOLS, the National Outdoor Leadership School, is home to an excellent community of like-minded educators whose sole focus is to improve the ethical leadership skills of their students. In a study titled Long-term Impacts Attributed to Participation in Wilderness Education: Preliminary Findings from NOLS, the point is made that NOLS creates lasting impressions on the real-world edification of the majority of their students. In this study, they surveyed 3,000 alumni across the world about the program on the lasting impacts of learning in outdoor settings. The vast majority of the students said they had a lifelong improvement in:
– Outdoor skills
– Cooking skills
– Ability to take care of themselves and their needs
– Ability to communicate effectively
– Ability to work as a team member
– Ability to manage conflicts with others
– Ability to make informed and thoughtful decisions
– Ability to serve in a leadership role
– Ability to function effectively under difficult circumstances
– Ability to plan and organize
These are all such incredibly valuable skills. Practical education is rarely taught in conventional classrooms these days and organizations such as NOLS strive to make students and people more adept to the most important things known to humans- real-life skills. These abilities would most definitely not have been ingrained into the lives of these former students if they had not been taught in the wilderness. We need to recognize and appreciate the educational values of real-life, practical and useful skills which can all be taught more effectively in the wilderness. The need to use the wilderness as an educating resource is imperative; we need to identify the benefits of outdoor education in the sense that it provides the student with an education that is more translatable to any career, dedication or pursuit.
The wilderness is an excellent avenue for social interaction to blossom and teambuilding to occur. When working in groups, team members often share a wide range of emotions in trying times. These emotions not only build bonds and promote group connection; they create memories to be recounted for lifetimes. On a personal level, I will always remember climbing up the rocks of Hebron Rock Colony in Boone, North Carolina with my fellow classmates my freshman year of undergraduate studies at East Carolina University. The difficulty of jumping across boulders with ominous drops below forced me to rely heavily on the advice of my fellow climbers. This mutual interaction of giving and receiving such crucial advice most definitely influenced my relationships and feelings of trust with the respective members. In The Value of High Adventure Activities, John C. Miles comments on the teambuilding aspect of social interaction in high risk situations. To be lengthy with such references is not ideal, but the value of this passage is so great that I could not let it go unshared. He states:
A group of people, whether two or twenty in number, share an intense personal experience [in the wilderness]. They struggle with heavy packs over miles of trail only to set up camp in a driving cold rain. In better weather they climb their mountain, carefully negotiating the crevassed glacier and exercising great care on the rock pitches. The summit views are magnificent with clouds below and peaks jutting through. Then they help each other down again, carefully all the while, until they exhaustedly return to camp and hot food and sleep. All day they have shared pain and pleasure, anxiety and exultation. They have protected each other on the rope and cooperated to an extent uncommon in the daily round of activity. If the summit was climbed, or even if it was not, they shared an effort and accomplishment that was physical and spiritual and clearly perceived by the whole group. The personal bonds that develop in such experiences are remarkable and of inestimable value to many people (Miles).
This shows (with perfect example) that such experiences are vital to the teamwork and social interactions of people. Similarly, the wilderness is an excellent place for family therapy and improvement of family morale to occur. Marilyn J. Mason, a family therapist at the Family Therapy Institute in St. Paul, Minnesota, developed a theory on the incredible benefits of family interaction in the wilderness. In her composition, Wilderness Family Therapy: Experiential Dimensions, she exemplifies the fact that the wilderness serves as such a perfect place for family therapy due to its unexplored and undefined limitlessness. She states, “The relevance of changing the family context through a new and natural environment allows family members to experience deeper levels of intimacy” (Mason 91). Like Miles, Mason agrees that there is a great amount of therapeutic benefit to be found in high-risk wilderness situations, even going as far as to include the high-risk aspects of wilderness exploration in the definition of wilderness family therapy. She states, “The term “wilderness family therapy” can be defined as the process in which family members participate in a wilderness experience and take risks which are often in high-stress situations” (91). Through familial interaction, these experiences are augmented. Mason says, “These adventures are woven together by family group discussions (or sometimes family therapy) in which the metaphors (such as climbing or paddling) are translated into daily living patterns to deepen individual and family self-knowledge, self-esteem, and intimacy” (91). This is yet another example of the wilderness working as a therapeutic tool to implement connection and closeness within a group. In all of my wilderness experiences, I must admit that the most beneficial to my communication skills have been those which take place in a group context. The wilderness must continue to be appreciated as a teambuilding resource simply because it is the best possible place to require social interaction, yet encourage introspection simultaneously.
Upon deep introspection, I have found that over the course of writing this manifesto I have become more appreciative and in awe of the therapeutic building blocks that the wilderness has to offer. The mountaineer who uses the wilderness for pure exhilaration and recreation appreciates the wilderness as a sanctuary for growth and rehabilitation. Chang and his colleagues appreciate the wilderness’ extremely viable home for psychological restoration. Cumes appreciates the inner-journey that is often a result of Wilderness Rapture. John C. Miles appreciates the wilderness as a nurturer of social interaction and even suggests that high risk activities in the wilderness bring people together closer than any other activities known to man. Lastly, NOLS appreciates the wilderness for its innate properties of teaching practical and useful skills to students of all ages. It is time for us all to see these people and groups’ views as a framework for wilderness appreciation and to translate this appreciation into our own lives. We can never be sure of how long we have on this earth and even more shockingly we can never estimate the longevity of wilderness as a place at our disposal. All we can do at this moment in time is appreciate the wilderness for what it is. I encourage you to talk a walk into the woods. Go on a solitary kayaking trip to a place you’ve never even heard of. Get out and dive into the wilderness. Perhaps you may find out that although you initially believed you were going out into the woods, you found out you were going on an inner-journey on the quest for self-betterment and genuine appreciation of Mother Nature.
Bergstrom, John C., J. M. Bowker, and H. Ken Cordell. “An Organizing Framework for Wilderness Values.” The Multiple Values of Wilderness (2005): n. pag. Print.
Chang, Chun-Yen, Ping-Kun Chen, William E. Hammitt, and Lisa Machink. Psychophysiological Responses and Restorative Values of Wilderness Environments. Rep. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
Cronon, William. The Trouble with Wilderness: Or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature. New York: Norton, 1995. Print.
Cumes, David. “Thoughts on the Inner Journey in Wilderness.” International Journal of Wilderness 4.1 (1998): n. pag. Print.
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