Here?s an honest and raw moment: Alaska is kicking my butt. ?So I thought I was in shape, until I arrived in Juneau. ?Struggling to keep moving one foot in front of another, I watch in astonishment as my co-workers and other Juneau-ites run up mountains (literally). ?I began to harbor a bit of resentment and self-deprecating feelings. ?As a healthy, outdoorsy, 110-lb, 25-year-old female from sunny California, why couldn?t I do that?
My awesome, patient Adventure Flow cohorts have been leading me on several trails since I arrived in Juneau. ?We have skipped across the bridges of the Flume Trail, trekked up Mt. Roberts to several wonderful downtown viewpoints, adventured on the myriad of footpaths on the Dredge Lakes trail system, scrambled up the rock faces that support Nugget Falls, ascended to the snowy top of Thunder Mountain, and found many diversion points along West Glacier Trail to touch the ice of Mendenhall Glacier. ?One foot in front of the other, I followed, the rush of discovery and the push of my teammates fueling me.
It wasn?t until I ventured out onto West Glacier Trail to find an excellent viewpoint for painting, this time alone, that I really opened up to these feelings of inadequacy that had been brewing deep within. ?With no companions to keep me going, I found it tempting to rest every 100 feet, distracted by the glistening flora and fauna of the forests around Mendenhall Glacier. ?I bumped into several hikers along the way. ?Each of them asked if I was headed to the top of Mt. McGinnis. ?Begrudgingly, I?d tell them no, just to a great lookout to paint. ?Though my insides twisted with silly embarrassment, each one of the hikers would respond with wide-eyed curiosity and encouragement. ?I guess trekking up the trail with easel and canvas in tow wasn?t all that common.
By the time I reached my goal, a vista point that allows a view up and down Mendenhall Glacier, the helicopters landing on its surface, the lake below glistening in the sun, several surrounding mountain peaks, and many ice and snow-melt waterfalls plunging down rock faces, I still wasn?t inspired. ?Trying to shake these feelings, I began to meditate on the driving force of will. ?That kind of will that makes one climb a little higher, go a little further, take a larger risk. ?The psychology of will that drives the physiology of the body. ?In Women Who Run with the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estes speaks of the animus as the driving will force that makes profound psychic intelligence physically manifest in the world: the doer. ?It is the fire that warms the hands of the artist that works on her creation late into the night. ?It is the propelling force that nudges a person up the mountain. ?It is the bridge between what is desired and what is achieved.
The animus is powerful, but it is controlled by something far deeper. ?Beneath the physical surface is the strong desire to be in relation with and create with everything that surrounds us. ?Estes writes, ?It is the love of something, having so much love for something?whether a person, a word, an image, an idea, the land, or humanity?that all can be done with the overflow is to create. ?It is not a matter of wanting to, not a singular act of will; one solely must.? ?Creativity collaborates with animus to manifest in the physical world. ?I see it in my Adventure Flow teammates as they swiftly work their way through the extreme parts of this land. ?And I see it in myself, as I pick up the paintbrush, even if physically depleted, to capture the essence of wild Juneau, Alaska.
In the end, it?s not about how many peaks you?ve summited, mountains you?ve conquered, or death-defying stunts you?ve pulled off in Mother Nature. ?It?s about being open and willing to receive from a wild that continues to teach: sometimes fiercely and other times gently. ?It?s about finding that space of the deepest love for an environment, a time and place, so that psychical drive comes as a natural reaction to the powerful creative fire burning within.