Between the Peaks of Pine Needles

“I went to the woods because…I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.” –Henry David Thoreau

The moment I walked off the trail, I knew this was going to be a great adventure. It took me about three different attempts to string up my hammock because the trees were too young to hold the weight of my body. But as soon as I had it up, I climbed in, stretched my body long, and looked up between the peaks of pine needles. The sunlight grazed my cheeks as I stared into the bright blue sky and pillows of clouds above me. There is something so satisfying to my soul when I am in the wilderness alone; it made me reminisce on all of the times I had ventured into the forest with nothing except my dog and a peaceful mind or all of the bike rides I’ve gone on to clear my mind of its endless stream of complex thoughts. This solo in the woods was all about mental wellness for me.

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As the evening rolled in, the wind picked up and I curled my legs into my chest in hopes of taking a nap. The thoughts running through my brain weren’t even that complex—they just had the intention of running a marathon. Laying there alone finally gave me the opportunity to reflect on all of the decisions I have made thus far in college and regain a sense of mindfulness. It felt so good to remind myself of why I chose to come here in the first place and all of the intentions I have already fulfilled within my first month living in Colorado. Between having a scattered class schedule and focusing on forming new friendships, I haven’t really had the time to myself that I wished I had. I have been “living in the moment” without actually being present in the moment, and I think that being mindful in my experiences is key to having a truly satisfying experience.

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Besides reflecting on my journey at DU thus far, I decided to draw a picture of my beautiful surroundings (no, I am not including it in the post because this sketch was poorly done in pen and it would just be degrading to the landscape). Not to mention, I was interrupted in the process due to the unexpected sighting of an unknown animal in the tall grasses beyond me. Fear instantly struck me when I first spotted the animal—it could have been a mountain lion for all I knew. However, my reaction subsided when I realized seeing a mountain lion in Jamestown, CO was extremely rare. I probably observed this animal for thirty minutes before he was scared away by the coyotes howling on a nearby mountain top. Hearing the coyotes howl put the biggest smile on my face because it reminded me that I wasn’t completely alone in the woods; about 30 other people were listening to the same glorious sounds of nature. It was as if we were all bonding over this phenomenon in our own universes. I could feel this sense of connectedness on a whole new level; this experience enhanced the bonds I was already making on the retreat.

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After we arrived on campus, I was still intrigued by this animal I spotted, so I decided to look up some common wildlife near Boulder, CO. I discovered that what I may have seen was a fawn mule deer grazing in the tall mountain grasses.

Written by Abbey Churchill, WLLC 2015-2016

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