The 2020 autumnal equinox landed on a Tuesday at 13:31 GMT (9:31 a.m. EDT) just a few days ago. The planet got to witness a pretty cool phenomenon from both hemispheres: the fastest sunset of the year. Actually the fastest sunrise of the year too. They happen around the equinoxes. The slowest ones happen during the solstices (summer solstice being my personal favorite day of the year). At equinox the sun rises exactly on the east and sets directly on the west sinking below the horizon faster than any other sunset or sunrise of the year.
Living on the prairies I’m sure there will be more warm days. They pop up, charging us like the solar powered humans some of us are. Last weekend in a moment of complete acceptance that the seasons are changing and work has begun I organized and put away my camping gear.
I love camping.
It kind of stuns me that people don’t like it. I hear the anti-campers shouting out their reasons and for every reason they shout out I have a rebuttal. Sleeping on the ground! I reply peaceful nights! Bugs and wild animals! I say an opportunity to see critters in their natural habitat and remember that we are all here together. Open fires! The romance and primitive glow of sitting around and cooking on an open fire. Being too cold! Being too hot! No temperature control. Reminding ourselves that we are humble and small in the face of Mother Nature. No convenient bathrooms. Out houses. Crowd groans in agreement. I don’t have a come back for this, sorry. But it’s a small moment in the whole experience. And, let’s be honest, getting good at popping a squat is a useful skill. Having to pitch a tent or take it down. For me this connects to the freedom of being—of deciding where your home will be for a night and that we have the ability to establish a cozy bit of dwelling in a big world. Or just doing all that extra work! I like the extra work. It feels good to earn an experience.
The forest is a wild unknown territory. It’s not like our daily life so to some degree I understand the fear people feel.
A personal evolution
The first time I went camping I was with my grade seven-eight class. I had my first five wood ticks. Gross! I also had my first ever menstrual cycle. To say it was not a good time is an understatement. I don’t think I camped again until the summer of 1988 in Greece. No wood ticks and no surprises. I loved it and did it one more time in 1990. Camping in Greece on the beach was and is super easy, warm, organized and simple. Camping on the beach is different than a forest. The sea is right there with it’s comforting roll and the unobstructed view of the stars on the shore makes it as magical as being in the forest.
Almost a decade later I made my way to the Rocky Mountains with my friend Pam. We stayed near Johnston Canyon, in the woods. It wasn’t as comfortable or as warm as Greece but it offered gorgeous, misty, cool mornings among tall trees near mountain peeks. It was also magical but in a different way. A couple of years later I took my friend Maria on a similar camping experience in the mountains.
Since then I have spent time camping at local lakes, camping alone and off season (this was horrifying the first time). I chaperoned students up north on canoe trips near Stanley Mission and Nistowiak Falls. I took a girls canoe trip to Grey Owl’s Cabin and have spent many exceptional hours in various natural settings around the province in places that prove that Saskatchewan is definitely not flat. I’ve been in neighboring provinces and even in the jungle. Yes, the jungle. The more I have done it the more I love it.
Give and take
I’m trying to understand why others don’t love it. I suppose it’s a fear thing coupled with a lazy thing (no offense to you camping haters). People want their comforts. They don’t want to give them up. But when we give up our comforts we are not left empty handed. For something we give up something else is given to us. When we leave the city the sky fills with stars. Light pollution is left behind. It’s gorgeous. When we leave the city mechanical whirs are replaced by the orchestra of nature: leaves, trees, grasses, birds, animals, water lapping. When we leave the city our lungs get the opportunity to fill with fresh clean air. We surround ourselves with natural environments. No plastics. No junk. No concrete. We peel away centuries of industry and replace them with millenniums of human evolution.
The forest is our first home. A man named Roy Arroyo, a wonderful Costa Rican tour guide put it that simply. He took a leaf off a tree in a dense and rich forest where thirty years earlier there was just a pasture. He asked us if we believed in science. We nodded. He very quickly explained photosynthesis. Then he asked if we believed in magic. We reluctantly nodded. He told us that science can only go so far into explanation and then we are left with the unknown—magic: nature’s magic. “This,” he pointed to our beautiful environment “this is not just a forest. This is our first home. It’s where we collected seeds and berries, and the canopy was our roof and the ground was the floor to our first home. It’s the place where we sat quiet and where we had families. We should be for the environment not because it’s fashionable, not for the future, but for the past. It’s our first home.” We stood in silence. Looking around. He had changed the focus of my vision—and he’s right.
Being out in nature completely reminds me, even at some base level where we humans came from, what’s needed and how necessary the natural environment is.
It’s home. It’s about being a human on this planet, connected to this planet and that’s probably why I love it. I will have a lovely fall and winter however, I will be looking forward to the next time I get to camp.