Lately, I have had an overwhelming desire to get out of the city and go hiking or camping or canoeing in the wilderness. This shouldn’t be strange since it is summer and I’m living in Oh Canada where the wilderness is just a few hours away (if I had a car). Everyone, it seems, packs up their gear on Fridays and heads out of the city. When I first moved here, I remember being in a restaurant and talking to some folks about my coming up here from the States. They asked if I liked the outdoors. I answered, “Not particularly.” They shook their heads and advised me to rethink my decision. I’ve never been a great outdoors woman — or even a mediocre one. That’s why this latest urge to go rough it by a lake somewhere is totally out of character.
When I was growing up in Columbus, we didn’t have much of an opportunity to leave the city and go romping in the woods. For one thing, there were 14 of us so how do you even organize such an outing? Plus, and a bigger problem, was that we didn’t own a car until I was a Junior in high school. I sincerely doubt that there was public transportation that we could have used. I do remember one summer when some of my parents’ friends from church, piled all of us into their various vehicles and took us to Indian Lake for a picnic. That excursion holds a special place in my memories — perhaps because it was such a rare treat. I was as excited that day going to that lake as if we were going to the ocean. At Indian Lake, all of us little girls would run down the hill from our picnic table to the lake and splash our way in. It was glorious until my mother called all of her little chicks back up that hill when an “older” man started to pay too much attention to us. I just thought he was being a nice guy when he picked us up and splashed us in the water. I don’t think we ever went back there.
So I did not, obviously, develop a lasting connection with the great outdoors in my childhood. I think that’s really when it has to happen. You have to get used to outhouses and mosquitos and weird noises in the woods when you’re young. I did go out camping with a few friends in DC, but when they invited me, I had to stipulate that I could not sleep on the ground and would, only reluctantly, tolerate the trek to the outhouse. Needless to say, I only got invited a few times. When I moved to Toronto, I had a friend whose family had a whole spit of land sticking out into a lake. They had it all to themselves. They built rough cottages and outhouses so that all of them could hang out up there. The first time I went, I arrived at dusk. No one had warned me about the wall of mosquitos and black flies I’d have to walk through to get from the car to the cottages. I wondered at the time, how could putting up with all these bugs be worth the outdoor experience. I didn’t voice that opinion and, thus, got invited a few more times arriving at mid-day.
I think this recent wanderlust is due to my being stuck in the city for far too long. It’s been a while since I’ve been anywhere that was more than a subway ride away. I don’t think that’s all together good for the spirit and the well being of this woman. This yearning desire to escape to nature certainly doesn’t prey on my mind all the time; I don’t moan around feeling sorry for myself in this not-so-bad concrete jungle. But every once in a while, a longing comes over me and I really want to just get away somewhere quiet. I was reading this blog the other day written by a woman who lives on an island in the Pacific Northwest of the US. She was writing from her campsite next to a rapidly, rolling river surrounded by shade trees and probably an eagle or two. As I looked at her pictures and read her words, I could almost see myself there, breathing in the cool island air and watching the little ducks and their mum splashing around in the river. But I’m not there and not likely to be there any time soon. I guess I’ll content myself this summer with a street car ride down to the lake and pick up the ferry to the island. I can pretend I’m on that other island and I won’t even have to worry about sleeping on the ground or finding a place to pee.