"One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.”
~ Carl Jung
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River Cairns: A Mental Health and Wellness Blog
When I was in my early 20’s I went on a solo hike in Arches National Park in Utah. It was the shoulder season; grey clouds threatening snow flurries or worse were building on the horizon, and a chilly breeze was blowing a discarded scrap of paper in weary circles. The one or two other cars that I saw in the parking lot lingered long enough just to snap a few pictures, before continuing on to wherever it was they were going. Armed only with the very general map from the visitor’s center, I thought, “I’ll just go for a quick hike before finding a camp spot for the night.”
I was hiking along, lost in thought, absorbed in the awesome, ancient scenery, when suddenly I realized the trail that I had been on had disappeared. Gone. There was nothing but bare rock and sand in every direction. I had no idea which way to turn. No idea how long ago I had left the trail, or even if I had. My stomach dropped. My whole body shuttered as I realized “I don’t know where I am and I am all alone!”
I decided to continue walking in the direction I had been going, up toward a rocky outcropping that rose 30 or 40 feet from the surrounding terrain. As I approached, my mind filled with thoughts of climbing the crumbling structure to try to see the trail. Then, I saw it. A cairn! An obvious pile of stone that marked the way, meaning I was on the right track, I had not lost my way. My body relaxed! What a relief!
I have thought a lot about that cairn over the years, and how a simple pile of rocks had meant the difference between being lost and found. I then think about all of people and experiences that have served as metaphoric cairns for me in my life journey, showing the way when I have felt lost and alone. Whether through something simple or profound, I have been inspired, guided, nudged, and supported in my life by many and much – friends, therapists, teachers, poets, writers, theorists, artists, pets, the natural world. I am grateful for all of these cairns, because without them I would have not gotten this far. I, surely, would have been lost.
I have named this blog River Cairn in honor of all of those who have inspired and guided me. My hope is that it may serve, in some small, simple way, as a cairn to you. That something you read or see within these pages may excite, inspire, guide, or support you on our own journey. Thank you for reading, and I wish you well on your path.
Enter River Cairns
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Kristine Nystrom, LPC, LMHCOnline therapy across Oregon and Washington