Always in big woods when you leave familiar ground and step off
alone into a new place there will be,
along with the feelings of curiosity and excitement, a little nagging of dread.
It is the ancient fear of the unknown, and it is your first bond
with the wilderness you are going into.
You are undertaking the first experience, not of the place,
but of yourself in that place. It is an experience of our essential loneliness,
for nobody can discover the world for anybody else.
It is only after we have discovered it for ourselves
that it becomes a common ground and a common bond,
and we cease to be alone.
And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles,
no matter how long, but only by a spiritual journey,
a journey of one inch, very arduous and humbling and joyful,
by which we arrive at the ground at our feet,
and learn to be at home.
The Unforeseen Wilderness: Kentucky’s Red River Gorge
photo: Peter Bowers