I was in the Boundary Waters last weekend. It was only a few days, but I easily sank into the timeless rhythm of Nature. When I came back to civilization I felt like I’d been gone for weeks. I was in a dream state of disconnection from human activity. The usual traffic, grocery stores and Facebook seemed like another planet––one that I didn’t want to be on. I stayed home, enjoying this state, knowing that soon enough the human world would all creep back in.
I recently read a book that was also helped me reach this state, and I highly recommend it. Karsten Heuer’s Being Caribou (McClelland & Stewart, Toronto, 2006) is the first-hand account of two people who followed the full migration of arctic caribou––on foot. Their story travels 2800 miles, following 123,000 animals over trails that are 27,000 years old. The humans begin by watching and observing the caribou. By the end of this five month journey, the line between them and the caribou has disappeared. They end up being caribou.
Heuer offers several quotes from Rainer Maria Rilke that express the internal transformation he experienced. Here are two:
“There’s a lightness in things. Only we people move forever burdened,
pressing ourselves onto everything, obsessed by weight.
How strange and devouring our ways must seem
to those for whom life is enough.”
(Songs to Orpheus)
“Be. And at the same time know what it is not to be.
That emptiness inside you allows you to vibrate
in resonance with your world. Use it for once.”
(Sonnets to Orpheus)
I’m heading back out into the Boundary Waters next week, this time for six days. And I’m looking forward to another immersion.
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