There are days when you need a reminder that you aren’t alone. Days when you want someone tough on your side, someone to yell at the critical voices and defend you ferociously.
For those days, I’ve got these two bears that accompany me. They are unassuming and delicate in design, but strong and bold in meaning.
They are connected to one of my favorite places on earth—Yosemite National Park. It is a place that taught me to love hiking, camping, and any kind of outdoor adventure. The days of roaming in the valley, encased by granite monoliths, are simple. From the groves of Redwoods, to the vistas above, each scene emphasizes my small presence in the world to humble me, while also expanding the limits of my mind.
It was the place where I first learned to ride a bike, gaining confidence with each rotation of the pedal, taking me to new places, and feeding my hunger for wind-swept movement. I was propelled forward, first around the campgrounds, then around the valley floor. Each year I rode the bike to new places, hiked to new heights, and found a different experience waiting for me.
Even when night falls, it is an adventure to sit in front of a campfire instead of a television, to stare at the flames pondering our ability and inability to contain their power depending on their size. Trees hoist the darkness above for hours until it seeps in and they become shadows disappearing into the sky.
John Muir, often quoted by anyone answering the call of the mountain, understood this sensation well. He spent a significant portion of his life exploring the Sierras, and he worked hard to preserve Yosemite as protected land. He knew no one could leave this place unchanged.
“We are now in the mountains and they are in us, kindling enthusiasm, making every nerve quiver, filling every pore and cell of us.”
― John Muir, My First Summer in the Sierra
I bought my bear earrings in the Yosemite Village store at the age of 18. It was the summer before I left for college, and I knew there was the possibility that I wouldn’t be able to come back the following summer. I wanted something to keep the mountains in me, before I faced the skyscraper mountains and subway valleys of Chicago.
The sentimental side of me likes that they keep part of my favorite place with me at all times. The imaginative side likes to think that they protect me and infuse me with a certain fierceness. But more than anything they are a reminder of that enthusiasm for a world beyond myself, where nerves quiver along steep precipices and pores are filled with nature’s energy.
Do you have a favorite place?
Or something that represents it?