For Wilderness Sake

Skis on her feet, while the first sunbeams reaches the peaks, Daisy Maddinson shares her wakening to the beauties of the world. Underway, she questions our natural connection.

It’s 6:05 am. The biting cold prickles and scratches at the sliver of skin exposed over my cheekbones. My body aches with stiffness as I clip my boots into my skis, the kind that always catches us on frozen mornings. Weary-eyed I struggle to get my foot into the pin.

Pulled from the comfortable confines of my bed and thrust into the night sky is a rude awakening for my circadian rhythm. My eyes blink at the light of my head-torch and I start to feel ever so slightly more human.

Picking up pack and poles, I adjust the neck-warmer pulled over my face to reveal my lips, providing just enough space to inhale deeply. As I start to move uphill, I feel my chest tighten, adjusting to the harsh air hitting my lungs and pulling my system awake.

Staring ahead with nothing but my head torch and the silhouette of the ridge on the horizon as guide, my legs begin to move of their own accord. Becoming accustomed to the back and forth, my skins slide over sparkling grooves of fresh morning corduroy. I gain pace.

As I traverse, outlines of chalets come and go, thinning as I continue. For a moment, my mind is empty. The only focus the task at hand. The environment blends into me and I become part of the mountain. Integrating seamlessly into the chill of dawn.

For that moment, I’m in union with the environment. In tune with the expression of natures sanctity and brimming with awareness of the interconnectedness of all life on earth.

The sun peaks over the ridge to my right, piercing the teeth of the Dents du Midi with rays of orange light. The sky has already gone through its morning cycle of technicolour dream-coat dusty blues, purples and hazy pinks. A feeling of joy bursts deep in my chest at the simple nature of being witness to our changing landscape.

In my experience, exploring and viewing our planet like this, without judgement, creates an enriching cocktail of sensations: harmony, balance, timelessness and stability. The earnest continuum of life between us and the planet, always moving together.

Heaving my body onwards, I divert from the track and hear my skis crunch against the compression of soft deep snow. It’s almost erotic. Any skier knows that feeling; the lust and anticipation of the perfect line; the sound of awkward movement before gaining momentum; the snowflakes crystallising, sparkling against your top sheet.

Sliding over the surface of fresh snow, the ridge line comes closer. With my head torch off, my eyes have adjusted to the soft hazy light of the morning sky. I kick turn in one smooth movement and crisscross my way up the last pitch. Looking down, lights are appearing in the valley. The reality of human existence lies below, engulfed in silence.

Somehow up here, I feel utterly disconnected from that reality. Disconnected from the incessant noise of life, of relentless emails, technology, social pressure and need to conform. Up here it’s quiet. The landscape is calm.

At this moment, the mountain is still soft around the edges, demure in the morning light, shaded ever so slightly in dusty pink. I’m taken in by the full dimensions of sensory experience. The silence, a welcome deafening.

I realize I feel an unwavering sense of peace up here. Mental rumination ceases, and there’s only the present moment. My overwhelmed mind is suddenly still, restoring its sense of wellbeing, one breath at a time.

I find it all too easy in modern life to get totally engrossed by our constructed worlds. I think sometimes we forget our inherent nature; our boundless connection with the wilderness that we came from.

More often than not, we work as a separate entity. Somewhere along the way as our human psychology developed, we allowed our engagement with the natural world to diminish. We need escapes like this morning to remedy our alienation from wilderness and the raw, uncompromising force of nature. To be at the mercy of the mountains. To be a part of the very fabric of the universe.

I reach the ridge with heavy breaths, strong legs and a full heart. Hearing the voice of the earth, nature’s agency and unspoken control, I stand in pure gratitude for what is. In absolute stillness, I let the first full rays of light warm my cold-bitten skin.

Gazing at the world below, a deep knowing tells me that we’re built to exchange with the natural conditions that we evolved to inhabit. That as human beings, we have an innate instinct to emotionally connect with the nature that supports every aspect of our lives.

Allowing the sun to dance on my face for a few moments more, I set about removing my skins and drinking from my streaming flask of tea, content at the effort expended before the world was awake.

Drawn to the lights glittering further in the valley, I think of those rushing to ready themselves for the day, turning on the outpouring of negative consciousness on the news, and the start of vehicles joining one another in a mechanical orchestra. Is it any wonder we are experiencing an outbreak of mental health problems in the world?

As a species we are all so connected, and yet so utterly disconnected from the foundations of our lives. Maybe, all we need, is a little more indulgence in parsimony. That is to say, “the simplest solution is most likely the right one”.

I clip in and tentatively press over the edge. Taking one more lung-full of air, I drop into the wilderness, invigorated and alive.


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