This season of Alone is over now. I wrote about this show before. Survivalists are each left alone in separate parts of Vancouver Island and they live there as long as they can take it. The winner usually lasts about two months.
Well, this year, they had three women in the mix. Two left fairly early in the game. A man left first. I don't think he was even there but a few hours. Then one lady injured herself. Then another realized she couldn't handle the bears, cougars and emotional fears there. All three were gone in the first few days. Then you get a few people who last a few weeks. Then you get the ones that are dug in for the long haul.
The third women was one of those people. She lasted 57 days. She was a cheery, sweet scientist, safari guide and mom with multiple sclerosis, named Dr. Nicole Apelian. She addresses her MS dietetically and herbally, which seemed to me to make this trip a huge risk for her. But then her knowledge of edible plants put her ahead of many of the men in terms of nutrition...until the frost. After that, I think she was doomed because her gill net became a convenience store for the bears and otters and seals. In the end, though, she left for the same reason most do...it's too hard to be alone and away from family and society (while starving and bored out of your mind) for that long.
I was really rooting for Nicole because it seemed like less of a chore for her compared to the others. And she seemed to have fewer issues finding food. She made a home on that island. This challenge was suited to her. I mean, my god, she was out there for nearly two months alone with only 10 survival items—nothing more than she could carry on her back—and she outlasted six other, equally qualified people...by a good margin.
But this entry isn't about girl power. It's about Nicole's "way" of living in nature. She was just another animal in the woods. She was careful of bears, but not so fearful she wouldn't go scavenging on their turf. She knew the bird calls and had a feel for what they meant. In short, her understanding of the task went beyond survival skills to a deeper organic connection with nature.
When Nicole left, she remarked about how all the animals knew her and were used to her. The bears knew her. The birds stopped warning each other when she would come and go. She had integrated into the ecosystem.
And I thought about all the animals in my suburban back yard. I spend time back there pretty much every day. In the mornings I drink coffee with the pups. When it rains, I sit
beneath the soffit and listen. When it's cold I wear a blanket. I've been known to sit outside in blizzards and negative temperatures for quite some time in my blanket, in fact. It's only the
hottest, most humid days that I don't go at least go out in the
morning for coffee, the evening to water the herbs, at twilight for the sunset or late at night to listen to the
quiet and hope for a random shooting star.
It had never quite occurred to me that all the squirrels and birds in the neighborhood knew me. I know them, though I have a hard time differentiating one squirrel or cardinal from another. I know they know my dogs because they are a danger (or something to be toyed with.) But I never had the thought that they know me—probably better than I know them. They have been observing me all their short lives...or for a big portion of their long ones if they're birds. Yet it never occurred to me they might expect me in predictable spots at predictable times. And that if I died or moved, they might notice me gone. It never occurred to me I might matter to them, even if in a small way.
Working alone and living alone and being an introvert, it's easy to feel invisible and alone sometimes. It's easy to feel like you don't matter. I've been doing this for a long time, so I know ways to cope. But sometimes it grabs you anyway. And you don't even have to be a suburban hermit or isolated on a Canadian island to feel that way. I imagine we all feel depressingly marginalized or invisible or unheard from time to time.
Those with faith know in their hearts know they are "never alone," but in darker times that faith is harder to find. And, in dark times or light, I think we all underestimate how much we are seen in this world and how much an intrinsic part of the larger ecosystem we are as individuals. We forget how much we matter to family and friends, neighbors and co-workers, and the people who work at the businesses we frequent...to our pets, the birds, the squirrels, the plants, the earth and to the collective consciousness.
It turns out each of us matters more than we know. I can't count the times that I have received messages, signs, reassurance, etc. from time spent in nature. And while I always consider the messages delivered by nature as spiritual intervention—and they are—they can also be considered comfort offered by my fellow organic entities who have witnessed me from afar and consider me worthy of their efforts to reach out. It's heartening to know we are seen, felt, needed, relied upon and heard, even when we think nobody is paying attention.