journeying through our inner wildernesses

This April I set out on a journey through the mountains of Iveragh, South Kerry. Inspired by a wish to immerse myself in mountain wilderness, I wanted to experience nature in a way that would bring me close to my my own wild places inside.

Authors such as Bill Plotkin have written about the ways our natural world mirrors parts of ourselves that are basic, intrinsic, and needed by us to function in life, to know ourselves fully, and to thrive.   Plotkin uses many tools to bring a person into contact with their inner landscape and the outer landscape in order to hold conversation about life.  One tool he uses is to focus on a direction as a container for a certain aspect of life.  This draws on the native american philosophy that uses the four directions as a teaching tool and way of framing life experience.  The directions can mean different things for different tribes, and so I like to think we can choose our own meanings for our direction of choice.  On this journey, we walked East for four days, camping along the way, and sleeping in the mountains, twice beside a lake.  It was a walking into the unknown, and a wish to hold council with the wild wide open spaces; a wish for a high up perspective, and the ability to travel into new horizons.  Artists such as Hamish Fulton  have used the landscape as a canvas for their creative explorations, and to illustrate aspects of our humanity.

Day One

Wild wide views, walking away from the Atlantic Ocean, and up into a world of rocks the size of a house, and blond grass studded by boggy pools.  Sleeping up high above the Kenmare Bay.

The wilder places down in the hidden valleys draw us in.  The scale of the landscape seems to send words for cover under the rocks. At first glance the landscape seems wild and unchanged by humans.  However this ground would probably have been forested almost to the tops of the hills before our forebears came and cleared the land for farming.  It begs the question how much of ourselves have we let be tamed by our culture, to the point where sometimes it’s hard to connect to the feelings in our physical body. This can also lead to a disconnection between our body and the emotions held in our muscles, tendons and bones.

Day Two

Tired limbs, a steep climb, mist, and then down to the Ballaghbeama Gap.  We find a road going our way, and it takes us almost all the way to sleep by a still mountain lake and a badger set.  Gentle misting rain and a deep sense of peace.

Walking through the mist when you aren’t sure where you are going, can be a frightening experience.  Similarly in life, when we feel a lack of direction it can be frightening.  In the mountains, you can rely on the tools that you carry: a map, a knowledge of directions, and an ability to read the ground underfoot.  If you can learn to trust your self, and get good help when you need it, you can usually walk your way out of the mists of uncertainty.

Day Three

Up into the heights of the mountains and all the world laid out before us.  The wide sweep of the plains of east Kerry coming into view.  By moll’s Gap, the traffic is rerouted due to slippage in the road.  We slip over the fence and away to another route back behind the roads and the traffic.  Sunlight dancing on water, still black lakes, reeds swaying slightly, primroses and a hazel bursting forth new green by the waterfall.

Day 4

Down to the old Kenmare road and the way takes us back into Killarney. We meet our first people on the trail in three days.  Steady rain, and a path underfoot.

Coming back to the world of people, I feel as if a re-balancing has taken place.  I feel myself smaller in this great world of passing clouds and swaying grasses.  If even for a few days, my view takes in a wider perspective of life and my place within it.  I feel a stillness inside and a deep peace of tired limbs and cleared mind.

I will not die an unlived life.

I will not live in fear

of falling or catching fire.

I choose to inhabit my days,

to allow my living to open me,

to make me less afraid,

more accessible;

to loosen my heart

until it becomes a wing,

a torch, a promise.

I choose to risk my significance,

to live so that which came to me as seed

goes to the next as blossom,

and that which came to me as blossom,

Goes on as fruit.

-Dawna Markova