Roughing it: a soft spot in my heart

I just returned from Duck Mountain Saskatchewan. Madge Lake specifically. It was a short trip—three days and two nights. As a new location in Saskatchewan I was so impressed with its geographical contours, boreal forest and overall contrast to what is generally thought of as flat Saskatchewan.

I filled these days with hiking, taking photos, cooking on an open fire, kayaking and exploring. It was the ecotherapy I didn’t know I needed.

On the first night I took a walk around the campground just because. There was no purpose to it. I didn’t need to get the lay of the land, after all it’s a campground. I just felt a need to wander. The longer I walked the more I felt my grin grow. I remembered how much I love camping.

I’m sure I’m part gypsy

There’s this gentle distance between small groups of humans during camping. It’s not buffered with walls and man made things but with bushes and trees. People who camp know that they are, to some degree, displaying a bit of their lives to others. Sitting around campfires and picnic tables quietly chatting (and after a few drinks sometimes loudly chatting) folks inadvertently share a bit of themselves. Murmurings are muffled by the rest of all the natural sounds of trees and birds and chattering animals.

Food smells are shared as well. Smoke from the fires rises up carrying scents of bacon, burgers, garlic, meat and other fire cooked things. This together with the aroma of the earth, wet with fresh rain, flowers, the lake, layer high the olfactory memories for a later date when we are huddle in our homes.

There is a responsibility when we camp to do the work of taking care of ourselves. I think this is deep within us. We have to put in the effort—pitch a tent, start a fire, cook food, prepare for rain (in case it comes). It’s immediate and in our hands to make sure we are safe and comfortable outside of our civilized comfort zone.

Nature’s unobstructed view

Beautiful things don’t asked to be noticed. Putting ourselves in the middle of nature also effects our eyes. We don’t wake up to walls of solid colors and hard corners. We wake up and see trees and mossy ground and sky and lakes and creeks and soft edges and textures. Without even realizing it these sorts of visual moments hit a part of our brain that has been long neglected because of man made this and man made that.

Communal living

Time passed. The road got darker and the sporadic street lights glowed orange at intersections. My stride turned into a saunter. Everything was subtle yet not. Actually, maybe the word I’m looking for is selective. Everything was selective. Minimal. Neighbors quiet at their fires. Lights here and there. Music wafting above it all.

I realized that being near people is a part of being human. In the city the walls and doors and windows make us more of a specimen in a jar that people peer into. But here, listening to the buzz of conversations, the camping cuisine, the choices each group made to hang lanterns, string lights, display flags, the goings on of each gathering within small spaces in the forest felt like connection—even though I didn’t talk to a soul. It was like an understanding between the campers and me. I see you there and you see me. We are not alone. And we carry on acknowledging that the only thing between us is some fresh, clean air and Mother Nature.

Those who camp will get the “being human” part of this. Those who don’t, I encourage you to try. It doesn’t get much better or much more real than this.

I am part gypsy.

And, I am human.

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