Wilderness Therapy


Wilderness Therapy

On New Year’s day, I went for a relatively arduous hike from Greyton to McGregor. We started a little later in the morning than I would’ve liked, possibly due to a couple of single malts the night before.
Within a kilometer or two, the temperature had soared to 30+ degrees and kept climbing. As we tackled the steep gradient, the conversation dwindled, sweat soon replaced words and the only sounds were the metronomic crunching of shale beneath worn, hot hiking boots.

Once my body had become aware of the requirements needed, my mind slipped its leash and began to roam through the vast open space. I watched it swoop and turn through the past year, the often agonizing trials and tribulations of 2014. My heart dipped as my mind lightly touched old wounds. The question that emerged as I walked was whether I have the wounds or they have me. I have metabolized some successfully, surprisingly…others linger, some I may still be chewing on as I close my eyes for the last time.
I know now that I will not die one day clear, enlightened, unfettered, rather I will be covered in my many scars and heart wounds, a proud testament to having risked life, marked at times by unfulfilled dreams and unrealized love. But…there will and have been successes too, i’ve found them growing in the gaps between hope and dread, some so brilliant and unexpected that my jaw has hung slack.

A sudden fall brought me painfully back into the present(as it often does). The full weight of my body landed on my wrist. White hot pain burst behind my eyelids. We stopped, clutching to a thin piece of shade and drank the last of the now precious, hot water. My legs ached and my chest burned. With the introduction of pain, my mind began to get sloppy, groaning, focussing exclusively on the physical discomfort. Just as I was about to retrench my rebellious thoughts, we reached the promised waterfall. Instantly discarding our dusty, sweat drenched clothes we bathed in the soft, clear, nurturing waters. The surface was unexpectedly warm, but as I dived into the darkened depths seeking the bottom, it was dark, quiet and cold, another world. I hung between these two worlds, suspended.
As I broke the surface gasping, smiling, I was amazed at how many subtle variations of reality I could experience within a single day, the disconnection, memory, dismay, awareness, pain, exhaustion, relief, joy…how many variations of these themes does one experience in a lifetime?

The hike took 8 and a bit hours. As the day faded, we emerged burnt and bedraggled, our lift was nowhere to be seen. 14 kilometers of empty dusty road leading towards rest yawned ahead of us. A moan escaped my lips.

Eventually, a wry smile twisted the corners of my mouth, I reshouldered the pack and flipped a good natured bird heavenward as we trudged off again down the path, towards another gloriously uncertain future.

About the author

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Jamie Elkon http://shrinkrap.co.za/

The author can be found rummaging through life looking for nourishment in the early hours of the morning. He is slowly going sane by using his actual life and relationships to wake up.He lives in Cape Town with his teenaged daughter, two bassett hounds named Thelma and Louise and Digit... the cat. He hugs trees, has experienced numerous dark nights of the soul, collects incorrect Chinese packaging and tracks curious things to their lair.