To Free Myself Completely

This past semester, students were asked to reflect on their HMI experience by creating their own blog posts. “Each blog was totally unique” explained Alex Tarika, the Semester 31 English Apprentice. For the next couple of weeks we will be posting a sample of several students’ work here on the HMI blog. Below you will find a post from Dave Anderson’s blog, or you can read his blog here.

I live right outside Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island Maine, one of the most visited parks in the USA. It is a place renowned for it’s spectacular mountains, ocean views and first class natural beauty. The park is absolutely one of the most beautiful places I have seen and I cannot imagine a better place to grow up. Before I moved to Colorado for the semester I embarked on a cross-park hike with my oldest friend, Ethan. The hike was thirty-four miles long and covered over ten thousand feet of net elevation gain spread across twenty three mountains. So naturally we started before daybreak. When sunrise came, this is what we saw:
Despite my love for the island and the park I decided that I wanted something different than what it was providing me. Something that was more raw and natural: something wild. I applied to the High Mountain Institute in Leadville in the hopes of finding this wildness. Before I knew it I was traveling seventeen hours from Maine to Colorado by bus, car and plane until I finally arrived in Leadville, the highest city in the United States.
I wasn’t to stay there long though. Before I knew it I was thrown into the backcountry with twelve other people. We stayed out of the reach of civilization for fourteen days before returning to the frontcountry. While out there, I realized something about myself and nature. While out in the backcountry I was living in a more natural state than I ever had before. I was sleeping on the ground, in the cold. The tastiest treats were not the dried up foods that were stored in our packs but wild blueberries, strawberries and raspberries we harvested with our own hands. The water we drank came not from a faucet, but from streams and ponds we ran into along our hike. And I found that I felt much better than when I left.

I realized about halfway through the expedition something amazing. It was our re-ration day and we were getting our supplies out of a truck that had driven out to meet us on a dirt road. Realizing I had not seen my reflection in a week, I walked to the fore of the truck and peered into one of it’s rear-view mirrors.

I realized that when I was living in such a natural state I could not see myself; I could only see others and that which is around me. The only time a person living naturally in the wild, like a neanderthal, would see themselves would be if they caught a fleeting glimpse of their face in a pool of water.
In the frontcountry, I wake up every morning and one of the first things I see everyday is myself, in a mirror, looking back at me. In the backcountry, I wake up and see my tarp-mates and the world around me. In the frontcountry I have so many problems that tie back to me; commitments, guilt, emotional problems. In the backcountry, I’m more concerned about how the group is doing, what we’re seeing, what we’re achieving. I begin to stop thinking of “me” and start thinking of “us” and “everything”.
I think this is what I found in the backcountry and at HMI. I found that in our natural state, living in the wild, we cannot see ourselves. We are not worried about what we look like, what we smell like, what we act like. We are not worried about how others see us, for we cannot even see ourselves. Maybe, if we could emulate this in the frontcountry, in the “real-world”, maybe if we stop waking up just to inspect ourselves in the mirror every morning, maybe then we will be free. 

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