April 2, 2017
What do dry bags, suitcases, wet suits, wool winter coats, sandy water bottles, and clean fresh water bottles have in common? Not much—under normal circumstances. But for us they represent an effort to combine our society and wilderness lives. Our two lives intertwine in the back of our Ford Focus, thrown together without any organization or thinking. Yesterday, in a matter of minutes I went from wearing my wet suit to searching for a place to change into normal clothes while yearning for the shower that awaited me in a St. Louis hotel room. In a matter of minutes, I went from living in the wilderness, one with nature, to a vehicle window separating me from nature’s sounds and sights. In a day, I went from drinking cowboy coffee out of a shared black porcelain mug to Starbucks from a stainless steel coffee mug.
This morning while sitting in my hotel room, I saw a picture posted on Instagram of the island the Rivergator crew called home last night. I’m jealous. I wanted to be where they were with the natural view—water, sunset, willows. Instead, I looked around at the walls, a window not with a view of the outside but of the interior courtyard. Just yesterday, I awoke immersed in nature. This morning, I couldn’t even see it.
The sun shines. Not a cloud in the sky. A light breeze blows the branches of the trees along the highway. A beautiful day. Instead of being outside enjoying the weather, I will spend the next seven hours in the car protected by the windshield and windows, wrapped in a perfect and adjustable 72 degrees environment, and isolated from what is natural. Our view will be billboards and other cars instead of eagles’ nests and tow boats.
Many people warn that the river is so dangerous. More dangerous than what we will encounter on the Interstate on our way home? Perspective.
As we travel to our society home, I take this time to examine what I am taking away from our thirteen days in our wilderness home. I can’t do this without thinking about our trip two years ago and the transformation I encountered within myself then. How my life and perspective changed as a result of three and a half months living out of two kayaks. Re-entering life in a large house, conveniences, and a lot of stuff was difficult. I mourned my simple life. I remember the first time we turned on the television. The noise was too much—we couldn’t turn it off fast enough. Last night, turning it on seemed natural and not intrusive at all. Why the difference? Because two years ago we lived in the quiet longer? Research shows a new habit takes 21 days to form. We were gone 100 days, plenty of time to form the habit of peace and quiet.
Although adjusting to the noise won’t be much of an effort because of the shortened amount of time in the wilderness on this excursion, I believe other changes won’t be as drastic as well. Not because of the length of time we were away from our society life, but because the transformations have become who I am. I try not to live the I-want-to-get-more-no-matter-what-it-takes life. My view and focus transformed as a result of our first excursion, and I have striven to keep that vision. Taking this trip provided evidence that I am still the wilderness person who came home from the Gulf. Although, I needed a little tweaking and reminding what my priorities are, the wilderness still lives within me.
In 2015 as we traveled from the Venice, Louisiana, back to Berne, Indiana, I worried that the changes I recognized in myself would disappear soon after returning to my normal. On this trip from St. Louis, Missouri, back to Berne, I recognize those transformations are still there. My wilderness self is intertwined with my society self just as my Ralph Lauren luggage is intermingled with my dry bags. I like who I have become.