Calling in the Air

My time in the city has been wonderful. Indianapolis, Philadelphia, St Louis, and now Detroit. As a girl who remember so much of her childhood out in the woods, the city was a welcome change of pace. Detroit is really unlike any city I’ve ever lived in. It has it’s own vibe. It’s been the most “home” I’ve ever felt in a big city. I’ve enjoyed the major conveniences and some of the minor ones as well. I love the cultures, variety of restaurants, and mostly the activities. But since I quit drinking, I noticed that much of this city lifestyle includes booze. I notice that I spend a lot of time downtown, but never leave feeling relaxed or refreshed.

 Now, I can no longer walk through Detroit without being bombarded by the dozen pedal pubs and their patrons (which for some reason makes my blood boil in such  a way that I have a visceral reaction).  Every corner seems to be celebrating a new bar, restaurant,  cocktails, wine and liquor stores. Tigers games leave me surrounded with $12 craft beers and the smell of stale alcohol in the air. I find myself no longer watching the game, but staring at the skyline, the river, the moon.  

 Just as the fans stumble out of the stadium I realize how desperately I’m stumbling too. How much I miss grass beneath my feet, trees above my head, and the silence and peace that coincide with country life.

 I could never imagine I’d be as detached from the outdoors as I am now. Even though I know I was worse a few years ago when I was drinking. In those days, I’d only leave the house for more drinking related activities, but outdoors.

Now I ride my bike, am learning to skateboard, enjoy walks, hiking in parks, and just breathing in the air when I’m not in the heart of the city.

 Yesterday was July 4th and I found myself desperately longing to get away from the people, the fireworks, the hustle. We drove up to one of our favorite parks and realized we weren’t alone in our desire to be outside on such a perfect Michigan day. However, we quickly saw how terrible traffic was. The first beach was so full that the park police wouldn’t allow people to enter the lot. The second beach was filling almost equally as fast. As we drove around looking for a less crowded spot, my blood started to churn a bit. My son was whining in the back and starting to cry because we weren’t finding a park fast enough. He was more upset when I explained that we were going to hike first before going to a park.  I started to get angry, disappointed and restless. I finally insisted that we go hike, away from the crowds, or we go home.

 I needed peace.

 We calmed my son, found a somewhat quiet place to park and embarked down the trail.

Even though the beach was literally overflowing with people, the woods were nearly silent. We ran into maybe a half dozen people walking the trails. We greeted each other with smiles and nods, and we quietly continued down our path.

For about an hour and a half, we walked. We saw deer and chipmunk, we listened to birds, we swatted away mosquitos. It was peaceful, but my heart was still restless. I was thinking about my hikes in Colorado, California, and Utah last year.

My brain was saying, “Fuck, this isn’t where you want to be. You want to be back there. You know you need the mountains, you know you need this stillness." I again kept feeling angry.

I finally resolved that I was not going to find peace in the woods that day. I was going to leave frustrated, angry and touched out. Of course, that compounded with the restless feeling I already was experiencing.

 I walked. I gritted my teeth.

 An example of my inner thought process while hiking at that point:

“Fuck, that’s a blister.

Fucking rock in my shoe.

This kid won’t stop yelling, talking and I’m going to lose my damn mind.

OMG if he walks in front of me and stops again I’m just going to run him over.

I really hope we don’t get any tick bites.

I hope I put enough bug spray on.

I hope my son doesn’t accidentally ingest the bug spray I bought.

How long was this hike supposed to be?

I wonder if I'll burn off enough calories to make up for that giant breakfast I ate.

That’s about as far from peace as I can be.  

At one point I even snapped from the relentless chatter from my son, “PLEASE BE QUIET!” I barked.  (Add guilt to the list of things I felt.)  Soon after though, he found his quiet and we all walked peacefully. I began to breathe.

 We made our way back to the car. Maybe a mile from the car, my son and husband were about 20 feet ahead of me. We had finally been walking in mostly silence for about five minutes when all the sudden a scent caught me like a spider catches a fly in its web.

I stopped in my tracks. I closed my eyes and breathed in the scent. My body flooded with oxytocin, I was covered head to toe in goosebumps.  

Where was the scent from? Why hadn’t I smelled it the previous miles we had traveled? Why does it smell so familiar?

 I didn’t give a fuck.

If I’ve learned one thing, if you find something that causes that much of a positive visceral reaction without any drugs or alcohol, you lean into it a little bit more.

 Frozen in my tracks, this beam of light through the trees captured me like it was the mothership bringing me home.

 The scent.... I closed my eyes and breathed in this smell. The smell of light hitting treetops, the warm smell of the trees and plants, the animals, the wildflowers, the earth.  I let the waves of oxytocin roll over me. I let the goosebumps roll in like the tide.

 In just a few breaths, I found peace. I reconnected to the stillness.

 I fueled my soul for hopefully long enough to get through until the next week or the next hike at the very least.

Laurel Miller

Entrepreneur, Wife, Mom