The other day I was doing some research for a job interview and I came across what is now my favorite poem. It is by former Washington State Poet Laureate Elizabeth Austen and it is the answer to every person (and there have been many) who has ever asked me why I am ok hiking and camping in the wilderness alone.
The poem is quite long (here’s the whole thing), but here’s my favorite part:
I walk into the wilderness alone
because the animal in me needs to fill her nose
with the scent of stone and lichen,
ocean salt and pine forest warming in early sun.
I walk in the wilderness alone so I can hear myself.
So I can feel real to myself.
I go because I know I’m lucky to have a car, gas money, days off
the back and legs and appetite
to take me there.
I go while I still can.
The girl who goes alone
claims for herself
the madrona juniper daybreak.
She claims hemlock prairie falcon nightfall
nurse log sea star glacial moraine
huckleberry trillium salal
snowmelt avalanche lily waterfall
birdsong limestone granite moonlight schist
cirque saddle summit ocean
she claims the curve of the earth.
The girl who goes alone says with her body-Elizabeth Austen
the world is worth the risk.
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