My legs stung with a throbbing pain from my first sunburn of the summer: a livid red. The pain served as a mark of passage from a dark Montana winter and dreary spring that had barely any sun for my vitamin-d starved body.

I watched the river’s muddy waters seethe as winter loosened its hold on the mountains above the valley I lived in. Emotions and thoughts swirled in my head as they released like the river from a frozen state. Winter is quiet, still, and peaceful while the world stills in the cold. The wild and my body held their breath in survival through the winter. And now, watching the river swell in purging, I stretched and thrashed with my own cleansing of winter.  

It hadn’t been an easy one. I’d been limp with exhaustion by the time mud season hit. So, when the sun began to shine bright, a desperation to play hit me hard. I could see the impatience in my border collie Jett’s eyes too.

I wanted to get on the water. I wanted to be on the road. I wanted to take showers in a river. I wanted to turn brown from days living outside. I wanted freedom. I wanted the wild. My pup wanted out of the house. She wanted to swim the rivers and spend her days in a forest not locked in by walls.

The itch of the summer festered until I couldn’t sit still – couldn’t look out a window at sunshine without abandoning whatever I did. It turned into a recklessness, an impossible need to get out, to leave the winter behind.

The restlessness paralyzed me to where I couldn’t be in one place. I was trying to out run winter, the uncomfortable shift of seasons, and the cleansing of my mind.

I rushed ahead, refusing to give myself space to sit and endure the spring’s release. I finished nothing. My creativity hit a wall. I either lay petrified in the sun or moved in frantic motion to distract myself from the whirling thoughts and emotions in my head.

And I wanted to keep running from them into the ceaselessness of summer: sun soaked adventurous days and long moonlit nights.

Last week, I watched the rivers that pour through the valley rise to scary levels, scattering strainers in the currents and covering islands. Every time Jett ran with joy toward the raging waters, happy with the river’s flowing, I called her back.

The water was too angry to play with. It needed time to release winter, and I realized I needed time too.

Time to sit with the purging of emotion and let my insides lessen to a peaceful ebb. Time to let the sun soak back into me until the last of my bone marrow could bend for summer.

For so much of spring, I had been unhappy, stiff and frozen. Focused on the future and unsettled by the present instead of just letting go: letting the river inside me rage as the last 8 months unfroze and watching my body empty of the mud and debris. Sitting with the discomfort to let go of the struggle. In being present, I could be happy in the now and enter the summer untainted with a purity of being. My mind needed time to heal from the harshness of winter like the mountains did.

Want more stories like this? REI is putting women front and center in their Force of Nature campaign. For stories of adventurers, makers and rule-breakers, check out their blog.

[divider]Guest Contributor[/divider]

11402868_10207282954497543_3373658032060918673_oYou can probably find LJ Dawson in the rocky mountains or in the red rock deserts. She spends her days in the sun and nights under the stars. Missoula living and Colorado grown.