I’m writing this journal entry while tending to a bonfire. My head is in two places, bouncing between the light glaring from my laptop screen and the bright, warm glow of the cedar and pine logs burning a small distance from my feet.
The bonfire and the computer screen. Two bright lights. Two very different technologies. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t dependent on both. But what’s most striking to me at this moment is how the choice between these two technologies captures the very essence of what it means to “get away””, to leave the city. To unplug from the busyness and noise and to reconnect with what sustains us most.
I chose to Getaway back in October 2021, after the release of my first book. I was exhausted and needed a moment to breathe. To settle back into the needs of my body. To reclaim my sense of self apart from all the projections and self-promotion. Interestingly, while on my way to Getaway I encountered the presence of multiple Confederate flags and other hateful paraphernalia. It made my Black, female body cringe with hesitation. How was I to come home to myself in this wild, natural, rural place while in the presence of so many markers communicating, “You don’t belong here,” and “This place is not for you”?
It was a painful acknowledgment, not only of our collective history as a nation, but of my own distorted relationship with the natural world. Not distorted by my personal choices necessarily, but by the hateful and exclusionary choices of others. As my husband drove along the winding mountain roads, I carried on this internal dialogue with myself, turning questions and concerns over in my mind.
“Do I belong here? Am I safe here? Can I rest here?”
By the time we arrived at our cabin, I’d come to some conclusions about how I wanted to experience my weekend retreat. I concluded that regardless of whether other people wanted my Black, female body in “their” town, the community of Earth itself most certainly welcomed me. The pine trees, the cedar trees, and the birch trees welcomed me. The cardinals, the robins, and the mourning doves welcomed me. The last of the wild blackberry harvest and the slowly growing mountain mint welcomed me.
These welcomes felt especially true after an incredible night’s sleep, when I awoke the next morning and stepped outside my Getaway cabin to breathe in the crisp, mountain air.
In the midst of all my questions and concerns, I was home.
As I reflect on the invitation to get away, to retreat, and to rest, I believe many of us are caught between two choices. The choice to avoid natural, wild, and rural places out of fear, or the choice to reclaim space for ourselves in the vastness of creation.
The safety and connection we long for as people is readily available to us as we shut off our laptops, power down our phones, and set our sights on collecting dried and fallen branches for kindling. As we tune out the noise and tune into bird songs. As we let our nervous systems recalibrate to the hum of creek water and wind in the trees.
When we get away, we’re invited to unlearn our fears of rural places and to find our way back home to ourselves. It’s a beautiful invitation. I hope you get away soon.
Bethaney Wilkinson is a Black, Southern, soul guided, race conscious facilitator and coach. She is also the founder and author of The Diversity Gap, a book and ever-evolving community of social change practitioners. She helps entrepreneurs, activists, and creatives bring a race conscious perspective to their work, while also deepening into nature’s rhythms as an anchoring practice for soul-guided leadership. You can learn more and follow her work at www.bethaneywilkinson.com or on Instagram @bethaneybree.
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