Several years ago, a friend and I went camping at a beautiful California State Park called Sugarloaf Ridge, above the Valley of the Moon in Sonoma County. Our campsite was nestled between meadow and forest. The weather was warm, and our setup was simple: we slept in sleeping bags on a tarp on the ground.
We were blissfully far from the noises of traffic and urban life, but I had trouble sleeping the first night. Animals crept around, crunching dry leaves and twigs. Breezes rustled the tree branches and stroked our faces. And the moon shone so brightly that I wanted to turn the danged thing off and get some sleep!
It only took me one night to adjust. By the second night, the same nocturnal sounds, smells, and moonlight felt deeply nourishing. I slept soundly and well, my senses gently massaged all night long by the rich textures of the living world.
I began to look forward to nighttime. Hiking and lounging by day was fun, but I derived a deep and unique satisfaction from feeling woven into the web of nature as I slept.
When the time came to go home, I felt like a baby being torn from its mother’s breast. My soul wailed over returning to my quiet, safe, sensorially bland home. I wanted only to be immersed in the scents, sights, and sounds of complex, pulsing, nourishing surroundings.
Whew. It wrenches my gut just to recall that feeling.
Here’s my take on what happened: Our bodies are thoroughly accustomed, from millennia of relationship, to the sensory nourishment of natural elements and living communities. But we’ve adjusted to indoor and urban living, with their odd combination of sensory overwhelm and deprivation. So an encounter with the complexity of a forest can initially feel unfamiliar; it takes a little time for that deeper familiarity to awaken. And once we feel that nature-love, it’s really hard to give it up again.
So, great, what do we do about this? My Sugarloaf Ridge Revelation became a touchstone for me. I can’t recreate that magical forest at home, but I can reach for ways to change my home environment to feed me more of the sensory nourishment I crave, asleep and awake. I’ll share more stories about how I’ve done so, for myself and my clients, in future blog posts.