My youngest, Joshua, hiking Tonto National Forest with me in September, 2008
Peace is not something you can force on anything or anyone... much less upon one's own mind. It is like trying to quiet the ocean by pressing upon the waves. Sanity lies in somehow opening to the chaos, allowing anxiety, moving deeply into the tumult, diving into the waves, where underneath, within, peace simply is.
— Gerald May
I'm reading May's book "Wisdom of the Wilderness" (after already reading his version of Dark Night of the Soul, an iteration of St. John of the Cross), and I'm loving this book.
I sought after the wilderness, Mother Nature, after Chey's death. I yearned to be close to the earth. I went on long hikes in the red rocks of Sedona; I walked along Christopher Creek in Payson; I sat atop big rocks, where many feet caressed the ground in search of truth and contemplation. Even to this day, a deep sense of spirituality calls to me from the wild, and I often find respite there. I remember studying the Bible as a child and reading about how Jesus frequently retreated solitarily into the wilderness. I understood why he did so. I have always felt closer to God- to the Universe- to Creation- to all that is and all that ever was when I was in communion with Mother Nature. May's writing feels much like Edward Abbey or Wendell Berry, two of my favorites.
But May does something special with nature: May uses the wilderness as a means to understand our inner selves as well. He says that the inner wilderness "is the untamed truth of who you really are."
Beautiful. Profound. He talks about using the wilderness as a catalyst, both the literal and the mythical, to confront fears; an exhortation toward growth. He reminds us to stay awake and present in each moment, even through the suffering that life brings.
Ultimately, he says, time within the wilderness brings us to a place within ourselves of gratitude and more importantly a place of peace.
May died of terminal cancer in 2005, after completing this beautiful book.