Getting Away from Already Being Pretty Much Away from It All
I used to be an outdoor kid. I grew up in a log cabin overlooking fifty acres of farmland. My brothers and I would spend hours playing in the stream on the property. We would bring a saltshaker with us to help remove the leaches from our legs. I would run barefoot over gravel and construct elaborate straw bails forts with questionable structural integrity.
The summers were punctuated by camping trips up in the lakes and trees of the Canadian Shield. These trips as a child didn't seem to hold any cultural weight at the time. It was part of living; another thing to do. My mind hadn’t been molded to compartmentalize the experience I was having. Kids carry on with their imperfect life in another location, just with more places to explore.
Phase of Nothingness By Nobuo Sekine, 1969
City Mouse, Country Mouse
A few things have changed since those childhood camping trips. Firstly, I’ve been a city dweller for the past 13 years, where shoes are almost universally mandatory. I’ve also entered the very adult world of time management and experience compartmentalization. Like all adults, my days are divided into blocks. Each life experience being given an allotted amount of time and filed with the correct category, title, description, location, and attendees.
Camping trips are a rare opportunity where its possible to briefly return to a childlike understanding of the world. As you hike further from your car your perception of time starts to slowly dissolve. A few days of sleeping in a tent and you naturally sync up to the sun. Because you are quite literally outside the entire time you have a direct relationship with the weather. A numerical read out of temperature becomes incredibly abstract. How would a specific number be helpful? You already know what the temperature is!
The same can be said for time. You may look up the time out of curiosity (or to see how close you can get by eying the angle of the sun… turns out not very close). But as you get further into the trip the time of day becomes less and less important. Meals are eaten when hungry, rest is taken when tired. Tasks are completed based on how much sun is left in the sky.
Forest of Okukuji by Nobuo Sekine, 1979
Be Here Now
Of course, in adult life the camping trip itself fits nicely within the category of ‘vacation time’, but this fact doesn’t diminish the feeling. The feeling of simply experiencing where you are. The further I get from that access point parking lot, the slower the mind becomes. The less compartmentalization and experience sorting is going on in that adult brain of mine.
The real trick is how to pull that feeling from out of the woods. I am trained to want to block out time to allow for this, which of course completely defeats the purpose. It’s important to note that there is nothing more ‘real’ about being in nature, such as a provincial park that was somewhat arbitrarily deemed worth protecting (the general concept of a wildlife park acts as another abstraction formed by the adult world). There is no secret to presence hidden within their boarders that cannot be found on the 5th floor of an office tower, or around a dinner table with family and friends.
I suppose to be truly present it's probably best not to think too much about it.
Mother Earth By Nobuo Sekine, 1968
I love a camping trip shoutout!
Love your letter . Fun to remember the salt trick with those gross leaches . Looking back how cruel we were -they were innocent, just living their life .