Gather experiences. As many as you can. And as profoundly as you can. That's perhaps the best advice an accomplished writer once gave me.
Lay yourself bare in the wilderness. Talk to animals. Listen to the orchestra of birds. Gaze at the clouds.
Experience the experience. Not simply as a participant. As a spectator too.
The curse of being a writer is that only a part of you can relish the experience. For a part of you must always step out of it. To observe. To make mental notes.
I recently spent four days camping on a hill near the woods by the Baltic Sea. Experiencing the most surreal and sublime in nature.
Experiencing acute freedom. From the clock and the calendar.
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Early morning birdcalls
Every morning I would wake up to a delightful symphony of birds. Tickling my senses. Softly urging me to join them. In their celebration of the rising sun.
I would sneak out of my tent. Put on my sneakers. Follow the music into the woods. Where the tall pine trees made me feel humble. Reminding me of my smallness. Of what a tiny speck I was in that spectacular universe.
And as I would tread through the muddy trails at the edge of the cliff, I'd take a deep breath in to swallow the beauty around me.
The stillness of the morning sea. The brave flights of seagulls. The flocks of floating ducks. The chorus of birds. All of nature's poetry hugging my soul.
It was a celebration of a new dawn.
Days of indulgence
My days were mostly guided by my capacity for joy. I indulged in anything that deepened my pleasure.
If I felt like laying in the grass doing nothing, I did nothing.
If I felt like watching a ladybug crawl up and down a grass blade, I did so.
If I felt like writing random poetry, I wrote so.
If I felt like being a child again, I became so.
Giggling and swinging. Back and forth. In the makeshift swing tied to the tallest branch of a tree.
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Romantic Rumi Nights
We were about 15 brave campers -- an eclectic blend of wildly different personalities. As if carefully handpicked by nature to explore its little pockets of beauty.
Every evening at six, we would gather around to chat. To drink tea. To eat Russian sweets. Enjoying the camaraderie that comes from sharing the sweet satisfaction of having spent a day in self-indulgence.
Some of us hula hooped in the green fields, while others went treasure hunting in the forest. We cooked together and ate heartily. Nature has a way whetting the appetite of even the most picky-eaters.
Between binging on kombucha and beer, we managed to build a man-sized dome with wood and sail tarp. That converted into a disco after midnight and an outlet for drunk-dancing.
I spent hours listening to new genres of music. Reading. Sketching a bit. Collecting pebbles.
Every moment was an experience. A leisurely detour of sorts. From the tyranny of social conventions.
By nightfall, we'd all manage to locate some sort of silence. Within ourselves. Or around the warm blanket of a bonfire. Singing songs. Learning the art of poi.
Reading Rumi's poetry in a meditative trance. Shedding silent tears over lost love.
There is nothing I want but your presence.
In friendship, time dissolves.
Life is a cup. This connection
Is pure wine. What else are cups for?
I used to have twenty thousand
(An excerpt from You Shall Not See Me by Rumi)
Now here's to a better life, wilder adventures and lots of travel. In pursuit of happiness.