When I was a boy one sure place of refuge was the seemingly endless woods behind my house. Then and now there is something deeply magical, spiritual and healing about immersing myself deep in nature.
When I was growing up there were two settings in life in which I could be me without fear: in the woods and on the stage. There were all too few relationships in life that afforded me that same sense of safety; my father was unquestionably my refuge, the greatest gift of my life, then and now. He died when I was 15 (he was just 55) and my ability to feel safe in the world being me vanished for many years.
This year I am going back to the woods. For some time now I’ve been pondering life’s next steps and watching closely the lives of those around me, the choices they make, the sacrifices they make, and, all too often, in my view anyway, the tendency so many have to give up integral parts of who they are in order to be accepted by the people and or communities in their lives. Life is too damned short to be anyone but who you are. I would think if there is any one singular purpose to life we can agree on it is we are here to be who we are. How could it be otherwise?
I’ve seen many deny themselves the right to be themselves, twisting and distorting their realities so this person will like them or that person will love them or those folks over there will think well of them. While there is certainly a place for healthy compromise in life, giving up integral pieces of who you is self-destructive and builds resentment. And, it has been said, accurately I believe, that resentment is a poison you take and hope the other person dies.
One of the beautiful things about life is that each of us really does march to his or her own drummer. Those that have the capacity to accept and experience differences are in for a glorious time of it. The essence of who you are is not placed at risk and should not find itself denied or in danger because of differences between people. How boring life would be if we all marched to the same drummer!
And so it is that this year, among other things, I will be looking to spend far more time deep in the woods. There is glorious knowledge to be found there. Einstein and Wordsworth realized that nature is perhaps the greatest teacher. Einstein: “ Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” Wordsworth: “Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher.” And then, of course, Shakespeare was spot on when he wrote: “And this, our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.”
I am not interested in being an edited version of myself. I hope you, my reader, have found or find the courage to be you, the unedited you. I suspect you will find the unedited you is a beautiful place to be.