Lessons Learned from my Mountain Lion Encounter
I told you all about my encounter with the mountain lion in my last post and this time I want to tell you my thoughts about it a few days after it happened. But first, let me thank you all for you kind comments about being glad we were okay. It’s very nice to know that people are so concerned about us! I’ve written before that I’m a broken person and while many of you have written me and said, “Oh Bob, you aren’t broken!” I know the truth and that’s that I am truly and deeply broken. If you had said to me twenty years ago that today many people would want to read about my life and be concerned for my welfare I would have laughed in your face! No one but my mother wanted anything to do with me!
There are two things that changed me and brought healing to my life:
- A spiritual program that performed miracles on my personality and changed me at the cellular level.
- A deep and continual contact with nature which is the result of vandwelling.
One thing that remains true about me is that I have very little connection with my emotions. The old saying “Still water runs deep.” very much applies to me. I try to avoid feeling anything, but when I do feel, it’s intense. That worked in my favor in this instance because I easily kept a level head through the whole time I was in contact with the Lion and then, for the first several hours, my emotions were still calm—eerily calm. All the questions I listed in my last post actually went through my mind, but I was never in any danger of making big changes in my life, I don’t generally make emotional decisions. The truth is I can’t imagine what it would take to make me give up this life—nothing less than catastrophic disease could pry me out of my van or my beloved nature! I’m certain that the healing changes that have happened in my life are only temporary and if I give up the two root causes of them (1) my spiritual practice and 2) my connection to nature) I will very quickly revert back to being that broken, miserable human being I was 20 years ago. I will NOT give up being a boondocker!
If Cody was gone, I could not be alone and needed to be around my friends.
Very quickly I felt a deep and intense feeling of needing to be with people and not to be alone; that came as a shock to me and was very revealing. I’ve never had that feeling before because I’ve always been such a loner and never felt like I belonged. For example, I’ve been camping and traveling alone for the last 6 weeks and have been as happy as I can be. But take Cody away and I instantly felt a very strong need to go back and camp with my friends. Now that Cody is back, that feeling is gone—I’m perfectly happy alone again. I haven’t spoken to another person in 4 days and that’s fine with me. Apparently dogs have a profound influence on me!
Part of my brokenness is that I can just barely make connections with other people, and then make up for that by connecting with my dog.
I’ve had wives and girlfriends be jealous of my dog and tell me that I loved him more than her. They were right, I do. Oh well, no need for me to judge that, it’s just who I am. I work very hard to compensate for my lack of connection with people by my work on this website. I love, serve and help people safely from a distance behind this keyboard and, to the best of my limited ability, try to do so face-to-face whenever possible.
There has been a lot of scientific research into the human need for nature and the effects of disconnection from it. And one constant in their findings is that being in nature makes us empathetic and being separated from it reduces our empathy (see the footnote at end of the post). I have found that to be extremely true in my life. As soon as I became a vandweller I felt a big increase in empathy for all the broken people out there who needed to find vandwelling just like I did. It was that empathy that led me to start this website in 2005. When I became a boondocker, my empathy gigantically increased and out of it came the RTR, the blog and forum. It was a lot more work, but it was truly a labor of love. I intensely enjoy the thought that my writing may make people’s lives better and I joyfully do the “work.”
I realized that I honestly believe all my preaching about needing to live like our distant ancestors.
The guiding idea behind all I do, say and write is that humans evolved for millions of years deeply connected to nature and that separating ourselves from it now is causing us great mental, emotional and physical harm. I blame my brokenness on being separated from nature and my healing on re-connecting to it. This experience has only reinforced that idea.
I’ve been saying for a long time that humans need adventure, risk and discomfort in their lives—even if it means the serious possibility of death. Here it is a few days since I faced the Lion and I’m not traumatized or afraid of walking in the wild in any way. Just the opposite, I’m delighted to have had that experience! This is going to go down as one of my very best memories in my entire life. In fact there has only been one thing I was more delighted by and that was last year when I did the fly-in bear viewing trip. To stand deep in a National Park and look all around me and be surrounded by wild bears and then have one approach within 6 feet of me—that was the single best experience of my life! The Lion was number two, jumping out of an airplane was the third.
No, death and danger are essential to being fully human and to hate and fear them is dehumanize ourselves and turn ourselves into ants in a hive, or cogs in a machine. I won’t do that to myself.
Is it abusive to put Cody in that much danger?
Because Cody is okay, I’m not really forced to reach a conclusion to the question of whether it is wrong to let my dogs live wild even at greatly increased risk from predators or getting lost. But to me the answer is obvious; dogs are much wilder than we are and if being tamed and domesticated has done us so much harm how much more harm does it do to them? If domestication is human abuse (and I totally believe it is) then it’s equally dog abuse.
If Cody could “think” like we do I could ask him to make the choice for himself: wild and at risk or tame and safe? But he can’t think that way, or talk, so I can only judge by his actions.
Judging by his actions, his answer would be that he chooses wild, free and at increased risk. He seems to greatly dislike being on a leash but loves running wild in the woods. Every morning if I’m slow getting us out for our walk he starts to whimper and whine like I was abusing him. And, to his “mind” I am abusing him because tame is abusive and wild is normal. He doesn’t seem to care in the least about safety versus risk: Nature Is Calling, and He Must Go!!
I guess the best thing I can do is to apply the same rules and standards to him that I apply to myself, I choose to live wild and natural because it is what I was born to be and do and I can’t truly be myself or deeply happy any other way. Live Free or Die really is the motto of my life. If that’s my choice for me, and Cody is even closer to a wild creature than I am, it should be my choice for him as well
And so it is!
I guess this is going to be a three part series because this got too long. I’m so far behind on my travel posts that next I’ll do some of those and then I’ll talk to you about steps I’m taking so I can be safer. I can’t reduce my time in wild nature because it’s absolutely essential to my very fragile mental and emotional health, but standing and staring at a Mountain Lion without any form of self-defense was an eye-opener for me and common sense says don’t let it happen again. I’ll tell you what I am doing about that next time.
I would rather be ashes than dust!
I would rather that my spark should burn out
in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot.
I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom
of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.
The function of man is to live, not to exist.
I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them.
I shall use my time. ~Jack London
*Footnote on nature increasing empathy: Check out this page from the University of Minnesota:
A quote from the page:
“According to a series of field studies conducted by Kuo and Coley at the Human-Environment Research Lab, time spent in nature connects us to each other and the larger world….
This experience of connection may be explained by studies that used fMRI to measure brain activity. When participants viewed nature scenes, the parts of the brain associated with empathy and love lit up, but when they viewed urban scenes, the parts of the brain associated with fear and anxiety were activated. It appears as though nature inspires feelings that connect us to each other and our environment.”