Scouting has been a part of my life since I was a little kid literally looking up to my older brother. He was chosen our troop’s SPL, giving me yet another goal to focus on. Before Philmont, goals like these; badges, SPL, Eagle, defined my experience in scouting. Much of my life seems defined by goals; getting a perfect GPA, making a travel hockey team, beating my personal best in cross country, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of defining your experiences as goals met or missed. In March I broke my left femur. Just making it to Philmont became another goal to work towards, going to endless physical therapy. I made my goal, but the result wasn’t what I was expecting.
It really hit me on the third day of our Philmont trek. Having conquered Baldy, we headed along a ridge, down a series of switchbacks with a breathtaking view of the mountain. I became aware of so much that I had overlooked; the myriad sounds of the wind, the small, furtive movements of insects, the palpable change in the air as weather alters. At that moment when my mind spilled out onto the trail and I was able to see my whole life in front of me, I understood the Boy Scout ideal, not as a series of achievements, but as a way of being.
With time to reflect, crossing back and forth I ran through my life, pausing and replaying through the moments that seem to make me who I am today. Freed from the tether to my phone, I feel I can evade time, and allow my thoughts to flow freely, without direction. In today's world, we resist separating ourselves from entertainment, technology, and modern society, but nature will never fail to bring us back to ourselves. Paradoxically, I ended my trek with a greater bond to my fellow scouts as well. As I started my trek, my fellow crew members were differentiated by their taste in music, the foods they ate (or didn’t), the comments they made about society.
After three days together, and 30 miles, we became defined by our shared experience , with much greater connection than difference. Alone, yet surrounded by flourishing life in all directions, one gains a great sense of perspective in such an environment. Returning to school, learning to deepen my understanding of the world actually seems more valuable to me in and of itself.
Throughout the long, daunting journey of my life, I will keep these lessons in the back of my mind. Remembering that in those moments when I begin to separate from who I know myself to be, returning to nature will allow me to come back to myself. And sharing the experience of nature with others will deepen our sense of community. I grew a lot this summer, and I look forward to introducing the younger scouts in my troop, and others, to the possibilities inherent in simply spending time alone and together in nature.