I didn’t know I had fear of camping in the desert until confronted with the reality of its stark dry silence. The solemn landscape loomed with limestone and clay towers. Canyons leftover from a former ocean.
Approaching the desert, I suddenly became claustrophobic, small, and unsure. Surprised by my reaction, I thought,“those feelings happen in the city. Not out in the sanctuary I’ve found inherently in Nature.
I took a puff from my emergency inhaler, long breaths. AC on blast. Windows down. Whispering affirmations. Just real sexy adventurer stuff going on.
My personal wilderness street cred crumbling. A mild panic attack creeping on the edges and being quickly held at bay. Then a thought flashed: “OMG Furiosa would’ve left me out on Fury Road.” A laugh bringing a brief return to normalcy, grounding, and humbling of self.
After two years of living in a lush pacific rainforest, I was struck by the seemingly barren landscape outside Zion National Park. The vegetation and landscape across southern Utah swiftly becoming arid, cracked. All moisture was sucked from the whipping 50 mph winds. From my breath. It’s like Earth had suddenly shed her brilliance and exposed the fragility of life just a few exits down the highway.
On a conscious level- I knew I could survive in the forest for several days if stranded or lost. I’ve picked up wilderness skills the past couple of years and could survive out in the mountains for several of days if needed. (Pick me for your Zombie invasion Team!)
The desert is a different ballgame. It’s you against the elements. There’s no direct access to water. No forests to provide protection or berries, fish, or other immediate food sources.
What you bring is all that you can carry. What you don’t have you will not find it in here. Was I ready or responsible enough for that? It is okay for a moment I was too in my head about all this?
And there was no one else who could help me were I to need assistance. I was camping solo. Just me out in the wilderness. Just as I have been a lot of times since leaving Texas. Mostly due to necessity and convenience. I travel the way I live: with a loose knit plan going a million possible directions at once.
Yet, in those anxious thoughts one can remember to access our mental health toolbox: mindfulness, meditation, medication. As well as employing holistic coping strategies like actually calling your support system and being open to guidance.
Some of the strategies which work for me may also work for you: reaching out to my support system, affirmations, remembering how much I’ve overcome while also being present, letting the feelings wash over, not attaching myself to thoughts or outcomes, radical forgiveness, attempting unconditional love, forgiving myself when that doesn’t happen.
I called my sister for reassurance. She said she could talk, but was on her way to pick up her son from daycare. I told her just hearing her voice was enough. She spoke affirmations to me. She told me I could leave the desert. That it would be okay if I kept moving. She told me I would also enjoy it if I gave it a chance. I listen to her talking to the daycare as she picks up my nephew, placed him in the car, and while she goes to pick up the dry-cleaning. She kept apologizing for having to interrupt our conversation. I told her it was perfectly fine- to just keep me on the phone. It was comforting to hear her perform these every-day tasks. It grounded me to Earth to myself to family.
Even with our recent disagreements and misunderstandings- our love for one another transcends the differences. I listen to the sound of family in a different room. Because that’s all that we are when we’re away from each other right? We’re on the same channel just on a different frequency.
Maybe that was one of the lessons I was supposed to learn in the desert. This part of the Earth is still the same Earth. Life and landscape existing and abounding in different ways. I needed to adjust my perception and unpack fears of the unknown.