I go into the outdoors to heal emotionally and physically. Welcome Ambassador Nicole Atkins to the blog today. She tell us how she uses and relies on nature as friend to help her through life.

“…going to the mountains is going home.” – John Muir

Some of us grow up with mentors. An adult to guide us through the labyrinth of adolescence. And some of us are lucky enough to have warm, loving families. People to support us, without question or suspicion.

But, some of us don’t have either of those things. We build our own families. Seek the answers to our questions wherever we can find them. Some of us navigate life through the abstract vision we see in the places that give us comfort.

For me, those places were in the great outdoors.

As a child, the outdoors were an escape. When our courtship was new, they were an effective replacement for critical missing pieces at home. A safety net from the real dangers that awaited me indoors. A shield from the empty liquor bottles and swift hand to the cheek. If I shut my eyes tight enough, I could run through thickets of Douglas Fir and wake up with only bruises remaining.

As I grew, our romance blossomed into something else. They became a place for reflection and tough questions. This was a time of awkward adolescent transition. Inexplicable miasmas of emotion that made me question my delicate sanity. At a young age, I was already trying to take death into my own hands. Searching for a place in the world was a maze of heartache and lost identity. The outdoors provided a sense of stability I couldn’t find in my own unbalanced emotions. They replaced the reality I knew, full of anger and resentment, with a new one. A reality I could choose. An open future, with opportunity and hope.

I found peace in nature. That composure gave me the courage I needed to keep going.

Sharing a bond like that creates a solid foundation for any healthy relationship. I came to rely on the outdoors as a source of joy, awe, and adventure. A place to explore my appreciation for life. Swiping my hand through blades of wet grass. Gazing over sheer rock walls to the stormy ocean below. Staring into the eyes of a 500-pound grizzly. There’s a lesson in every journey. The outdoors were the worthy adversary I needed to test my limits.

As my personality became more palpable, so did my love for the outdoors. They provided the solace I needed to push through fear. An uninterrupted source of support and guidance. Learning basic life lessons can be crippling for adults who don’t learn the fundamentals as a child.

The absence of advice creates a chasm that’s inevitably filled with frustrating questions. How do I trust? How do I love? What do those things look like? How do I treat myself with respect? With the basic elements of nature surrounding me, the process of learning was less alienating. The dirt under my feet doesn’t judge me for not knowing love. The mountains looming ahead have lessons of humility to teach me. The sun shining down on me is patient and accepting.

……..

We’re still as close as can be. Like the bond of lifelong friends, or sisters. With an enthusiastic husband by my side, we’ve assembled a close family. Life continues to produce questions, and it provides complex answers. She continues to throw curveballs. But she also grants plenty of serenity and grace. Through the good times and bad, through the joy and the pain, the outdoors remain my most trusted ally. A reminder of where it all began.

We have a bright future. Every day brings new possibilities and adventures. The outdoors have taught me that the destination is a valuable goal, but the real reward is in the journey.

6 comments on “How My Love Affair With Nature Saved My Life

  1. This was a beautiful reflection on the power of nature to heal our broken hearts, and guide lives into peace and hope. Your words completely told my story and an aspect of what nature means to me too. It has healed the broken places that I didn’t know how to. It is the place that I go to find a great connection to God, and a sense of direction that I can’t find in other places. Thank you for writing this!

    • One of the most beautiful things about sharing a story like this is finding out how many kindred spirits there are out there. I’m sorry you had to suffer through life in the same ways, but I’m also glad you had the solace and peace of nature to reach for. We still have nature, but now we also have this amazing community of like-minded women. Together we can get through anything life throws our way.

  2. Your early childhood sounds similar to the married life of Grandma Gatewood, escaping to the woods to avoid the abuse at home. Both of you are a inspiration to many women.

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