Sitting there perched on a rock, life was good.

The sun shone down on the five of us in our mountain meadow. We smiled, laughed, and shared stories. As we hiked back down to the trailhead, my spirit soared in a way I hadn’t felt in a long time. The world seemed like a better place.

It was an unfamiliar feeling, one I hadn’t felt in a very long time. And it surprised me.

I don’t really consider myself an extrovert. If anything, during the past several years, living in our mountain home, I’ve become more hermit-like. When I talked to friends who complained about isolating, I listened compassionately. But inside, I thought Oh, that’s not me. I like being alone. I feel most comfortable being domestic and sticking close to home. I’m handling this so well.

Working from home felt comfortable. I could sleep later, wear casual clothes, not spend all that time on doing my hair, putting on make up for my city job. We’ve gone out for walks with the dogs every day at lunch. Spending time with my husband and connecting with friends via Zoom and phone seemed fine.

We never have been big on going to parties, or going out for dinner. So I felt like I’d handled the pandemic pretty well, all things considered. I really wasn’t missing that much.

Or was I?

The past two weekends, I’ve had more social contact with more people than over the last 15 months combined. What has surprised me is how much I enjoyed having personal conversations with people face to face.

First came a barbecue potluck we hosted at our house. Sitting on the deck, with our neighbors, eating watermelon and potato salad. “What do you think of this coming wildfire season? Are you planning any trips this year?”

Normal conversation about normal stuff.

And today, getting out on the trail with like-minded volunteers from the Indian Peaks Wilderness Alliance. I’d skipped volunteering last year due to Covid. The whole thing seemed too scary given my issues with autoimmune disease. Being around hundreds of strangers, having to wear a mask the entire time hiking. It just seemed like too much anxiety and too much work for the privilege of being in the forest.

But this year, getting vaccinated and covid ever disappearing as case counts decline, I decided to resume my volunteering doing trail patrols in the Indian Peaks. And as I sat on the rock, munching a Luna Bar, chatting with my fellow volunteers, I felt healed. Healed from the long slog of the past year.

Nature has always been restorative to me. When I’m having a bad day, if I can find a way to get outside, life’s challenges feel a little less formidable. Seeing a snow-capped mountain, the burble of a creek, the silhouette of a pine tree cures my ill will.

Sharing that with others who feel the same way? Well, that connection is priceless.