The New Year brings with it a quieting of commercialism, which is a welcome treat after the dizzying overload of the holiday season. Our minds are no longer being assaulted by every media source and instead we are left with a soothing, restful peace. One that reflects the land of our Northwest, during this season. Gazing at our beautiful landscape can bring us much to contemplate and actually being a part of it, out in it, breathing it in, can lift the spiritual numbness and bring a sense of wholeness back to our lives.
No one knows this better than co-op board member, Donal Wilkinson. After spending 6 years in the Navy, Donal decided to go back to school. Being a strong activist, highly involved in student government and taking 26 credits a semester, he spent his summers unwinding and recuperating on 500-mile backpacking trips. “It’s the only way I kept sane in the intense school environment.” During his 5 years in college, in addition to his 2 associate and 3 bachelor degrees, (Humanities, Biology (2), Environmental Education and Native American Studies) he hiked the entire 2,600-mile Pacific Crest Trail, from the Canadian to the Mexican border!
Donal is a man I respect and greatly admire for his wisdom, his experience and mostly for his ability to get so much done while maintaining a clear headed, nothing-fazes-him attitude, which he credits to the outdoors. “A walk in the city park doesn’t do it, I have to have a wilderness experience. I think everyone’s the same way and they just don’t know it.”
Donal provides these wilderness experiences for others through Adventure Learning Camps, a non-profit devoted to spending time in the outdoors, where people of all ages can learn about themselves and the natural world through exciting, challenging and interactive wilderness experiences. “People don’t feel connected to the outdoors. Who knows what that means with regard to health and our psyche, it might be huge.” He wants everyone to have the opportunity to benefit from the outdoors, so much so, that he started a scholarship program for students with pledges from the last marathon he ran.
From their website, (www.adventurelearningcamps.org) “Adventure Learning gives people direct encounters with the natural processes that determine the quality of their lives… people can think about where their food comes from, the quality of the water they drink and the air they breath.” Donal expounds, “You don’t realize what chlorine tastes like until it’s not there.” Cooking in the outdoors is also not like heating something up in the microwave. Donal believes that meals are more personal and he has witnessed kids eating healthier, “because they’re running around all day, so they’re hungrier.”
So, why wilderness for wellness, I ask Donal. In a nutshell, his answer is: It’s a stress reducer that clears the mind, heightens your awareness, strengthens your confidence, builds your self-esteem, increases your connection to the earth and you come back looking at yourself and the world around you in a different light. He finished it off with, “People… beam.”
At the end of our discussion he said, “I haven’t been out in a month and it’s starting to show.” It’s time to check in with ourselves. How are you feeling? How does your body feel? Is your numbness or disconnection showing? Perhaps it’s time to detoxify your mind and body with a rejuvenating and replenishing wilderness experience. So come, and partake in the wellness around you.