When it comes to adjusting to a life without my parents or my twin brothers, I can’t exactly say I am doing particularly well. Every night I go to bed, and every morning at the same time the alarm clock sounds, calling me to shower, get dressed, slip into my shoes and walk into the world — and the routine passing of time.
Those things seem to happen automatically these days, as if I have been put on autopilot. The person making the decision to move forward with life, in some cases, is not exactly me.
What I can say is that I have actively sought out opportunities for peace and meaningful reflection, turning my woes over to the healing power of nature as often as I am able.
A Tour of State Parks
So far this year, Matt and I have taken a trip to the north shore of Minnesota on Lake Superior, where we hiked through Gooseberry Falls State Park, and we have traveled to Interstate State Park and Great River Bluffs State Park in Minnesota, as well as Willow River State Park in Wisconsin. In April, I journeyed to Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio with my sister, bringing the number of state parks I have visited this year to five.
Considering I didn’t embark on any of these trips until late March, that’s five state parks in two-and-a-half months.
I also traveled to New York City with Matt in the middle of March, and I have flown to Ohio twice this year, both of those trips being in April (though one included the previously mentioned trip with my sister). So I count seven trips in three months, and trust me, there would have been more if it hadn’t rained so much on the weekends in Minnesota.
What is it I am so desperately seeking? A simpler life, time to think, and above all, peace. These are the things that I feel are missing from my everyday life, even though I have made quite a comfy home in an apartment situated in the Twin Cities suburbs. I have been looking to nature to find the strength and healing I need in order to go on with my daily life.
Moments in Nature
In my travels, I have been touched by the experience of moments both big and small. Whether those moments occurred in Hocking Hills — my childhood home for hiking and spiritual renewal —or in corners of Minnesota to which I’d never been before, each one was real and measurable in its ability to sustain me.
At the Great River Bluffs, I walked beside trees old enough to tell the stories of the Mississippi River, imparting their strength and wisdom on me as I hiked through their forest at sunset. At Interstate State Park, I stood on enormous rocks formed at the riverbend by ancient glaciers and took in a vivid view of the stars at night, bathing in their hopefulness and faithful light. At Willow River, I stood beside a crashing waterfall, reaching my hand out to feel the cleansing sensation of water running through my hands on a hot and burdened day. At Gooseberry Falls, I stood before Lake Superior — waves crashing violently onto the shore — and saw in those waves a metaphor of my own life, where violent currents eventually receded calmly back into the bay.
And in Hocking Hills, I experienced such a wide range of memories and emotions that my heart could hardly contain all the happiness next to all the pain. On that trip, I renewed a magical bond with my sister, sharing in all that we have loved and all that we have lost in the most private and most precious time I have had with her in my entire life.
The Long Journey Ahead
All of these experiences, and I am still searching.
Sometimes it seems like my search might be in vain, but I can’t sit idly by and watch my life pass before my eyes.
“One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it’s worth watching,” Thomas wrote in his calligraphy project at the junior high school, before he died.
Even if I fail to turn up anything in my search for answers, I would settle for finding a lasting sense of self-renewal. If I could at least restore my spirit to the level of confidence and ambition it had before the accident, that just might be enough.
My 13-year-old twin brothers knew it best. In Lawrence’s calligraphy project, he penned the famous words:
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.”