Finding the Peace Within
This is second in a series of blogs by participants in the Climate Reconnaissance Team trip to Glacier National Park. This was written by Eve Chase, the founder and Executive Director of American Women Veterans. She served in Afghanistan.
I have spent a lot of time processing my thoughts on the amazing experiences that occurred on my trip with the Sierra Club Mission Outdoor’s, Climate Recon Team ‘s (CRT) expedition to Glacier National Park. I tried to take time to journal many of these thoughts while on the trip as well as note the many reflections I’ve had since returning back to “society."
First, I’d like to thank the many employees of our several sponsors, supporters, and the Sierra Club, as well as Nick Watson of Veterans Expeditions for making this happen. To world-class mountaineer, Conrad Anker, and award winning photographer, Jim Balog from Extreme Ice Survey, I am forever grateful to you both for your knowledge, wisdom, skills and camaraderie. It was truly an honor I can't adequately express.
One of my goals in joining the CRT for this trip was to learn and see as much as I could- from getting a better understanding of the science behind climate change and asking tough, challenging questions from the skeptic in me, to exploring a part of our home that I had never known existed (I thought Glacier National Park was in Alaska when I first heard about it!) and to seeing what discoveries I could make about myself and my place in this world. I didn't know what to expect but I was extremely grateful and had very much looked forward to the opportunity. In some ways, I knew that it would be a life changing experience. What I didn't know was how life affirming it would end up being.
From the very first days of starting American Women Veterans (AWV) in 2009, I believed that getting veterans together, away from their daily lives and amongst the perfection and unpredictability of nature, was a key to finding our way back to the lives we felt disconnected to. For some, it would be a journey we could take to find whatever we'd felt we lost. I sensed that we could discover new aspects of ourselves and in the safe space created by a small group of those who understood where we were coming from, we could maybe also find healing. I never could explain it, but I knew it to be true.
Before going to Montana I had one other mountain top experience in New Zealand this past April. While sitting on Single Cone peak in the Remarkables in New Zealand, I'd had what I can only describe as a moment of perfect peace, or perhaps... a revelation. Watching small wisps of a cloud swirl around the ridge below me, I took in the expanse of the view. How do you describe heaven? I took a deep breath and tried to get in touch with what I was feeling. In that moment, I was truly in awe. Everything in the world below looked so vast and so out of reach. The mountains in the distance beckoned to be climbed so that they could, in turn, reveal their glories. If I ever thought that I could fly and wanted to... it was in that moment.
But what of the "social" world? The town below looked so insignificant. And then a realization... "All that matters in this moment, here and now, is me and the rock I'm sitting on." I tried to recall my worries, the massive responsibility of growing AWV, my injured and raw heart, the overwhelming and oppressive monster of medical bills and debt, the uncertainty of my future - my purpose in this life. None of the thoughts that weighed so heavily on me hours before, evoked in me any sense of fear or anxiety as I sat on that peak. I could think about those things and not feel overcome by them - I was sitting above the clouds, looking down on the worries of my daily life and I knew that everything... absolutely everything, was going to be okay.
To test this new liberated feeling, I pushed myself to think of even more painful memories, remembering friends and family that I've lost. No pain. From that same place of peace, I knew that everything was and has been unfolding as it should. I felt closer to those I’ve lost, up there above the clouds. I could feel no sadness, just a sense of indescribable love. And I knew that I would be able to let go and move on.
As I packed for my trip to Glacier National Park, I wondered if I would I be able to find that place within again in Montana.