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full circle: the mountain that wouldn’t let go

“For twenty-three years now I have gazed at Mt. Rainier when her mischievous modesty prompts her to show a bit of herself above the clouds, or bare all on a clear blue day. She is a true lady, but equipped with enough tricks to keep her voyeurs gazing. I have not yet had my fill of glimpses of that mountain, nor will I have in twenty-three more years, or three times twenty-three.”

I was going through some old belongings recently and was jarred to find these words that I penned at the ripe old age of 23 after a trip to Mt. Rainier. I think everyone in Washington state thinks of Rainier, or Tahoma, as their own. It has a majesty that stirs a connection way down deep into your soul. On that trip, fresh out of college, my intoxication with the written word was as fresh as the ink on my diploma, and with my degree in English I experienced life through the eyes of a romantic poet. I’m a little embarrassed to say that I still do!

Mt. Rainier Barefoot Eco Outfitters

View from Paradise, Mt. Rainier/Barefoot Eco Outfitters

That solitary scrap of paper in a random, dog-eared box, was handwritten and full of scribbles and edits, just a snippet from a moment that felt so beautifully overwhelming that I had to try to preserve it in words. I felt inadequate to express my experience of nature then, and I struggle with that still (for more on that see my other blog post, Confessions of an Earth Empath). I continued,

“Writers through the ages have attempted to capture the magnitude of a mountain or the honey-sweet aroma of a wildflower in a sentence or word. The results can be, and have been the source of pleasure for many readers; perhaps fuel for a daydream of the city dweller gazing sleepily at a concrete landscape. Yet did these writers experience the same frustrations as I? Are there really any words or combinations of words that can express the sensation of wonder and awe that our dilated eyes send shivering to our brains?”

Mt. Rainier Barefoot Eco Outfitters

Skyler Strandness of Barefoot Eco Outfitters, Mt. Rainier’s next generation connection

I’ve said it many times before, but I’ll say it again: the glory of Mt. Rainier on a perfect summer day is a sight to behold. I had no idea then, that the stirrings of wonder in a wide-eyed young girl would lead to an identical mountaintop moment with my daughter many years later; a moment that inspired us to create Barefoot Eco outfitters. How cool is that? I’m excited to know that these feelings became so wired into my DNA that they never waned, never lost their impact. I’m grateful that my connection to nature and the alpine rivers that flow through my bloodstream are able to be shared and celebrated through this social enterprise. I hope our products make you feel that same sense of joy that only nature can bring, and encourage stewardship to ensure that our love affair with our wild places can continue for years to come.

Mt. Rainier River Barefoot Eco Outfitters

Photo: Mt. Rainier/Barefoot Eco Outfitters

But how do you describe the magic of nature? Maybe we’re only meant to feel it.

“What is the sound that a small river makes as the water rushes over the mossy green rocks? And that rush of wind that is known only to the towering treetops?

At our old craftsman on the shores of Puget Sound, there was a large patch of wallflowers outside our front gate that spread year after year much to my delight. If you’ve never smelled a wallflower, you are missing out! It’s a sweet slice of heaven! What a wonderful welcome it was to have that rich fragrance greet us throughout the spring and summer! To this day, that smell has defined home for me, and it opens the floodgates for so many happy memories. I have another wallflower now, and it stands joyfully blooming by my front door. I’m captivated every day by its perfect perfume, and I make sure to literally stop and smell the roses whenever I pass. It fills me with happiness and calm, but also a bit of anxiety for the time when the blooms will fade. I want a photo that’s infused with that smell, so I can whip it out whenever I need a lift. How do I capture that scent? How do I describe it? I want so badly to hang onto it and to stick it in my pocket! But this is the beauty of nature, and the elusive sensory intoxication that indeed “sends shivers to our brain.”

Wallflowers/Michel Viard/Getty Images

Photo: Wallflowers, Michel Viard/Getty Images

For all the ways we hope to mature and grow as we age, I’m so glad that my feelings on that mountaintop on a perfect summer day in 1983 remain the same as they are today. I don’t ever want to outgrow that sense of awe and wonder, that sacred connection with the natural world that has served and saved me so many times over the years. I may not be able to express it very well, but my heart knows, and I hope that translates through our products and our mission to protect that which we love.

Mt. Rainier Barefoot Eco Outfitters

Mt. Rainier/Barefoot Eco Outfitters

So here’s to the sights, sounds and smells of nature! May they intertwine and wrap you in moments of joyful intoxication that are impossible to express and that never grow dim!

Tracy Strandness, Owner/Founder

#BarefootEcoOutfitters #Environment #Nature #Mountain #MtRainier #ecofriendly #Conservation

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