5. A.E. Montana // tree-rings
I think it’s very healthy to spend time alone. You need to know how to be alone and not be defined by another person. - Olivia Wilde
I have always been drawn to the serenity of the woods. I can remember even as a young kid wishing I was allowed to wander further into the forest behind our backyard, because there is something ethereal about the hidden vibrating life resting between the trees. There is such a sanctuary in nature, if you can manage to tune out every other thing that is constantly demanding your attention. This is where I escape to reunite with my words.
Life has a way of skillfully distracting you with shallow pursuits when you are always in the company of others. As much as I’ve grown to understand that spending time out in the world with people you love is important because you are gathering experience from which to write, being left alone to do the actual writing has always been a requirement because it allows me to delve into that deeper place in my heart where true expression is possible. My family and close friends learned early on that the announcement, “I’m writing,” means that I will probably disappear from the world for at least a couple hours. Sometimes more!
Among others, my most commonly visited natural space is a quick walk from work, so I often stop by after a long, frustrating day when I’ve tired of the world in general. It’s not too far off from the main walkway by the river but always seems to be unoccupied when I need it most. Underneath a giant (now) unused powerline structure, there’s a wooden deck that juts out over a small series of waterfalls and is a perfect place to close my eyes and let the water scrub my mind of all the things distracting me on the surface.
You do not often discover the value of a writing space until you’ve had some profound experience that sears its significance in your memory forever. I’ve had more than a few in this particular spot, one of the more recent ones a few weeks ago when I found out my best friend’s dad has maybe a month to live. The news wasn’t as much of a surprise as it was a blow to my heart. It’s never a gentle path when you know you can’t do anything to take pain away from someone you love so deeply. Overwhelmed by this huge feeling of helplessness and grief, I stumbled down to this place and spent a few solid hours crying, pouring my heart out to God, and finally, after I emptied myself of everything, found some words to preserve in my journal.
Somehow, you can be more honest with yourself when the woods is sheltering you from the rest of the world, and the sounds of the river rushing by you are covering up your frustrated mutterings as you try to figure yourself out. Writing has always been a powerful tool of communication for me, but never more potent and effective than when I began using it to discover who I am and how I process life. The spaces I’ve claimed are a reflection of the life I lead and the peace I crave to find perspective on my existence and my purpose in the world.