Taking Inspiration from River Deep or Mountain High
By Sarah Locke
I’ve been quite sure for sometime now that the most important and pivotal life lessons I have learnt in my 25 years have not come classrooms nor any form of taught schooling.
Whether or not you think we’re more shaped by nature or nurture, or a combination of the two, let’s not ignore the alternative meaning to the former. Nature is the way we are born, but I believe it has a complementary and very necessary role in defining who we are – I know this is true for me.
It’s true that some things I have learnt from the powerful people I’ve been surrounded by, but I am now sure, that the majority of the experiences and life lessons that truly make me myself, originate from being outdoors. Here are a few to share with you…
Tranquility from the river. Stress and anxiety are seemingly unavoidable traits of living in the age of today and while, social media, traffic, climate change, not to mention politics, are often overwhelming, there are things that can be done to alleviate it.
For me, wild swimming anywhere: the sea, rivers, lakes, meres, waters, large ponds, has no comparison when it comes to stress relief. Freshwater is less harsh than salt and brings a feeling of peace and calm – as opposed to the rough invigoration of saltwater. Choose the cure you’re looking for!
From experience, I’ve realized that, in the grips of anxiety I need something innate to physically take my breath away in place of the rushing thoughts that swamp me Cold is best on those occasions, but it’s the peacefulness of a river I’m drawn to when I feel a heaviness takeover.
Confidence from climbs. Heights are horrible and I won’t hear otherwise. Some revel in the challenge, sure, but we aren’t meant to enjoy vertigo. Yet, there’s something to be said for summiting mountains or even scaling via ferratas – it’s a feeling that’s so unnatural and so rewarding when you reach the top.
The accomplishment of a summit –be it the Himalayas or the South Downs – that feeling of I did this! Neither a fear of heights nor fitness can take that away. It doesn’t matter when or how you reach a mountaintop, you can take success and satisfaction, regardless, and I guess that’s what keeps me coming back.
Resilience from the waves. Saltwater is strong and unforgiving,
Resilience from the waves. Saltwater is strong and unforgiving, but in the same breath it’s reinvigorating and reenergising. In the face of heartbreak, anxiety and disappointment I’ve found the sea (Cornish is best) is a master of relief.
Pebbles or sand, it doesn’t matter. It’s the harshness and severity of salt water that counts. It’s the heaviness of being submerged under waves that strip away tensions, physically leaving me restored.
Finally, perspective I take from the mountains. I have always loved being outdoors, but my heart truly yearns to follow the tightening of map contours. While the summits of French Alps, Atlas Mountains, Scotland, Snowdonia and even Kilimanjaro have all taken my affection in some way or another, the Brecon Beacons is my favourite place to flee to when I need to remind myself how to breathe.
One-foot-in-front-of-the-other offers a relaxing routine. The monotony allowing my mind to slip into a peaceful distraction. I like the all-consuming exertion that gradients physically demand, because it makes it almost impossible to think about work, home-life or any life other than the next foot placement.
I really believe there’s no other, easier, simpler (and cheaper) cure for most of life’s
ills than hopping on a train for some out-of- the-city-serenity!