Where is the wilderness?

“But the love of wilderness is more than a hunger for what is always beyond reach; it is also an expression of loyalty to the earth, the earth which bore us and sustains us, the only home we shall ever know, the only paradise we ever need — if only we had the eyes to see. Original sin, the true original sin, is the blind destruction for the sake of greed of this natural paradise which lies all around us — if only we were worthy of it.”

~Edward Abbey,  Desert Solitaire

You smell the sweet, sharp scent of wet wood. You hear the soft pat pat pat of the rain on the bulbous leaves sheltering you. You feel the weak crunch of soiled twigs and sticks as you make your way through the lushous brush. You see every shade of every color you’ve ever known; all of them growing, twisting, and knotting themselves into trees, birds, flowers, and insects. You taste the life and the freshness of the air, breathing in and out.

Where are you?

Are you in a forest? Are you out in nature? In a park? On a deserted island?

Better yet, where are these places? Where is the forest? Where is nature?

Edward Abbey, a famous essayist, sought to find an answer to these questions. A fierce lover of nature, Abbey often found answers by exploring canyons and mountains and rivers and everything beautiful that you and I wish we could see every day. Abbey realized that nature is everywhere. Nature does not cease to exist because someone built a highway or an office building. The city in which one commutes to work is no less of a forest than Sequoia National Park; the only difference is that our society has overrun the city and squashed its soil with our concrete such that it can no longer breathe. The bridge over which one crosses every day to work is no less a river than the rushing water below it. The bedroom in which one sleeps contains no less crisp air than the fresh air on the other side of the window pane. In other words, there is no true divide between our world and the wilderness other than the walls we build in our minds. By dissociating the wilderness with where we live and work, we stop taking responsibility for our space. Further, we become blinded to the consequences of our actions towards the environment, as our morality is defined by proximity. If nature is some distant land, we’re not so inclined to take care of it. But if nature is our street…well, then, maybe we would stop to pick up the McDonald’s wrapper lying beside the sewer. Maybe we’d be careful with what comes out of the chimney. Maybe we would step around the dandelions in the yard instead of stepping on them…because we wouldn’t treat a national park like that, so why should we treat our homes, cities, and farms any differently?

It’s important to remember that we are never truly escaping nature, and we are never truly disconnected from it. Whether you’re at the climbing gym, at home, at work, or at the crag, you’re in the wilderness. It’s just up to you to decide how you’re going to treat it.

Snuggled tight, you hear the echo of the rain on your sill (or is the faucet dripping?). Taking a whiff, you smell the faintest hint of wet dog. Peering around, you see the lightest black shapes illuminated by the moonlight. Tired, you let your eyelids fall as you are carried away into the flowing abyss of sleep…gently floating farther and farther away.

Where are you?



High-Clip (Co-writer)


42 Replies to “Where is the wilderness?”

  1. This is such an exquisite piece! I love the way you brought nature back home to the reader’s mind and reconnected the reader with what is truly, inevitably, going to be our responsibility more and more in the coming days as well as TODAY. This piece leaves me thinking about the fact that I love the dandelions in my yard and always feel bad when I accidentally step on a bug that was just living its little life to the fullest and happened to be crossing the man-made sidewalk that I was walking down as it crossed. Excellent piece!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think Abbey is awesome too. Yes, that’s a great way to look at it! Not only are our surroundings nature, but ourselves too. Thanks for the link, I will be sure to check it out!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I posted long ago about finding the beauty of the weeds growing in the cracks in the sidewalk and in the honest sweat of the people who poured them. I think this is saying something similar.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “It’s important to remember that we are never truly escaping nature, and we are never truly disconnected from it.” That’s a great thought to remember.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Love this post. When I read it, it takes me to 2 places. I live right down the hill from a lake and then about 5 mins away from a redwood park. In my mind when I read this I can picture those places. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Nature is where your heart is. I don’t always get to get to the mountains, etc, but I can always go to my backyard and sit in a lawn chair and watch the different birds fight over the seed I put out, I can watch the rabbits hop through the yards, or the bees buzzing around collecting their pollen. I can drive out on the country roads just over the hill, and see deer, coyotes (once in awhile), hawks swooping down on their prey, or a field mouse dash across the road in front of me. God & mother nature are too big to be confined to the wilderness, and if you think you can’t see nature or wilderness because you’re not ‘out in it’, then you haven’t opened your eyes and really looked.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, I’m glad you could connect to my thoughts! I must agree, running on trails is a rather distinguishable experience. How do you feel when you’re running in the forest?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I feel more care-free and in the present. I used to listen a lot more to music and audio books when I ran only on the roads. A couple of friends were always running in the trails, and I figured I’d try it out. Game changer, life changer. How often do you run?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That’s so awesome! I run pretty much every weekday, but sometimes I bike instead just because of back problems. I’ve been meaning to get on some trails, because I think that’d be way more rewarding than street running, but I worry about safety. Any tips for that? I guess running in groups?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I kept off the trails until recently for the same reason. If you ever go to an ultra/trail event, you’ll notice the old to young ratio is much higher than at a 5K. It’s actually better on your body because the ground is softer and more forgiving. The first lesson I learned is how important having a rock plate in your shoes is. That way, you can focus on not tripping rather than pain from little rocks. Also, be happy with a slower pace and run with your eyes on the ground in the beginning.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. I tried to read Desert Solitaire. I’ve had it recommended to me so many times, but I just couldn’t get into it. This essay, though, is lovely. All your sentiments about nature are so relatable.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ve been meaning to read it, too. Abbey, to me, can be rather hard to follow and his ambivalence can be confusing. Thank you! I think they’re all things that everyone can relate to, because we all live in and are sustained by nature.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Leave it better than you found it. Its a concept that applies to being a steward of nature and forests and treating people kindly and even includes the mess of crumbs on a kitchen counter. Whatever it is, just Leave It Better. Happy trails!

    Liked by 2 people

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