Saturday, August 6, 2011

Call of the Wild.

What are you doing?”

I don’t know if we are standing in a canyon, small valley, subtle crevice, hilly pass or the bottom of a deep river that dried up a century ago, but I do know that the group is catching up and this view of nature was not on today’s itinerary.

We’ve already climbed 111 metal steps straight up, bringing us to a spectacular view above the entire forest. Yet to come are wild raspberry patches, a visit with the resident mycologist as he digs for pungent fungal treasure and a magnificent view from the top of the 1,000-foot rim that this beautiful forest is rooted in. But first, we are in the midst of a gentle hike and picnic lunch in the woods.

“There’s something in my pants!”

This is exactly why I don’t see any reason to drop trou in the woods unless absolutely necessary. It might have a little bit to do with those ghastly bug tales my father liked to share every now and then, like the one about earwigs crawling into your ears and eating their way back out. Or the bag-clad bucket that served as our indoor outhouse for one or two of my childhood years. (There were also one or two late-night-and-unsanctioned-boarding-school adventures that involved uncomfortably close encounters with things that crawl through the forest at night, but I think my Mom reads this so it’s probably best if we don’t delve any deeper here.)

The idea that anything could crawl, touch or pinch me there is exactly the reason that my idea of camping includes a solid agreement with Charmin Ultra Soft and the ability to flush. You would think that my daughter – the feisty free spirit that insists on bringing fashion to the forest – would feel the same way.

You’d be wrong.

If the choice was hers she’d run naked through the forest, stopping only to collect mushrooms, flowers and small animals. So when she decided to answer the call of nature behind an abandoned cabin, I simply waited until she re-emerged with that smile that is part imp, part cherub. Watching her wander along the trail in front of me, her little hands lingering on buttery petals and her eyes chasing butterflies, I hope that she is always this free. That simple treasures light up her eyes long after childhood fades. That she lives life as deeply then as she does now.

Watching her fish, I hope that whatever is in there is botanical and not entomological.

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