From a while ago….

 

I’m on a long solo hike. I’m naked – but the good part starts when I forget I’m naked – I just am! It becomes the default state.

The world shrinks to the sun on my back, the cool wind across sweat, the relentless pendulum of my legs. The sounds of the birds and insects and the wind in the willows. I pause for a babbling brook or the howl of the coyote, ever watchful for the amazing rattlesnake. Seeing the flora and fauna as a part of my world instead of me apart from it. I hunger and I thirst and the plain water and cheese  I brought taste better than any haute cuisine. I am ageless and the world behind me doesn’t exist. Past, present and future all meld into a limitless now. To backpack this way for days is heaven.

Colin Fletcher understands.

What am I? Am I the relentless wolf? Am I the unrestrained wild cat? Am I the wily fox? The mighty bear? Perhaps a bit of all of them.  I am neolithic man enjoying what neolithic man enjoyed, the fundamental freedom to be himself as he was created. Above all, I am a consciousness, a self-aware being carried about in this wonderful – if timeworn and creaky – body. And enjoying the most primal of pleasures.

And then, miles from nowhere in the wilderness, I run into a couple, a third my age, wearing day-glow everything, jacked into their iPods, who can’t stop giggling about me and the spell is broken. Not offended or afraid or shocked. Just amused. Now I’m just a silly old man acting like a fool – and worse yet – before an audience. Arthritis and age and fatigue and general dissatisfaction with life all come flooding back and for a moment I feel like an idiot.

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Even the backpack interferes. It is best when I can cache it and enjoy the freedom. Not brave enough to go barefoot on trail. Hat is essential for heat management.

You cannot allow other people’s opinions to shape who you are. Who is the fool here? I don’t think any of the three of us are fools. We are each enjoying our time in nature in our own ways.

To thine own self be true and it shall follow as the day does the night thou can not be false to any other man.

Or perhaps we are all fools. If I am a fool, it is for allowing someone else to reverse the spell and haul me back kicking and screaming to civilization. They may be fools for being amused. Or that may be a blessing, for anything that brings a smile to the face is usually a good thing. If I’d had my wits about me, perhaps I could have turned the encounter into a positive one. I’ve done it before. My first thought is that they are fools for being hooked up to electronics for entertainment while being surrounded by the sublime. But I know the difference between opinion and truth and would never judge them for it.

But it’s all right now, I learned my lesson well.
You see, ya can’t please everyone, so ya got to please yourself

Well, maybe for just a few hours, I was a wild child again. It will take a while for the spell to return – but I know it will.

This song always makes me a bit weepy. Click to “Watch on YouTube” if it asks. Then hit “Skip ad” on the right if an ad pops up.

6 thoughts on “The Wild Child Grows Old

  1. I am pretty good at identifying poison oak, poison sumac and poison ivy. I have made all their acquaintance at one time or another. The best treatment is an immediate wash with soap and water to get the oil off. Failing that, if symptoms show up, antihistamines and hydrocortisone cream seem to mitigate the allergic reaction.

    But, you are right, prevention is better than treatment and I have seen so much of it, I identify it and avoid it without even being aware of it. Poodle dog bush is another real problem out here.

    Biting insects don’t like me and have almost no effect on me when they do. I guess that comes from growing up in Michigan where the mosquitoes fly in groups of hundreds.

    Like

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