My life is really loud, and has been for about as long as I can remember. Let me explain. When I was not quite three years old, three days before Christmas, my neighbor's house caught on fire. Two elderly sister's lived there, and one was bedridden. My father ran in, got the more mobile sister out, and then went back. Smoke overtook him and he collapsed. He suffered second and third degree burns over his entire body. After spending over a year in the hospital, and countless surgeries, he was allowed to come home. Some of my earliest memories are playing on the floor in my father's hospital room, or watching Thomas the tank engine, as he watched with me but could not yet talk. Three times a day now, my father has a nurse come to the house to help clear his lungs from the smoke-related disease that cannot be cured. His hands look like mittens after surgery, and he both breathes and talks via covering/not covering a whole placed in his neck.
Needless to say, my life growing up was very complicated. I cannot count the number of times I have seen EMTs come to my house because my father suffered a stroke. I cannot count the number of times that someone has made fun of my father for the way he looks, and the number of stares from both kids and parents that we receive as a family when we go out. I have PTSD from these events, and therapy has not worked. It might work for some people, but has never worked for me.
My saving grace has been, and always will be, the woods and wild places. Both of my parents instilled in me a love of wild places, both close to home and far away. My true love for hiking came in middle school, when I completed a two week long hiking trip as a twelve-year-old in New Hampshire. Not only was I allowed to push my physical limits, it was quiet - I did not hear any sirens that make my heart skip a beat with dread, causing flashbacks to sitting at the kitchen table, eating hot dogs and mac and cheese as smoke from the fire across the street curled by the window. No children asking what was "wrong" with my dad. No nurses interrupting our family dinner. Me and my backpack, me and my kayak, pushing as far as we can in the solitude that it takes to clear my mind at times. Me with my thoughts, the woods with theirs.
My love for wild places had led me on some absolutely wild adventures, bushwacking through Colorado following a herd of elk, winter camping when it is -20 without the windchill. Before my father's injury, and before kids, my parents used to do this as well. I love being able to tell my dad of my adventures and show him the pictures I take. When I became an adult, I made sure to go hiking in places where he had been, so we can talk about trail features, or how much the five-mile approach to a lake in Maine is because of the damn mosquitoes. From Tahoe to Montana, to the granite cliffs of New Hampshire, being able to get outdoors has always been a refuge for me. I take to the woods to clear my mind. #gothefuckoutside #staythefuckoutside