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 exist. It becomes the default state. If you are thinking “What a wonderful day to be nude!” you ain’t there yet.

The world shrinks to the sun on my back, 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 to see sunlight dancing on a brook or hear the yipping of the coyote calling for the pack to assemble. I am ever watchful for the amazing and lethal 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 with me 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 stay this way for days is heaven.

Colin Fletcher understands.

What am I? Am I the relentless wolf? Am I the unrestrained wildcat? Am I the wily fox? The mighty bear? Perhaps a bit of all of them.  I am a 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 just for a minute – I feel like an idiot. I have not completely shed a lifetime of conditioning.

 

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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.  Snakes and broken glass, pointy sticks and sand burrs, sharp stones and wasps, hot sand and ants. The hat is essential for heat management.

And then a minute later I’m back.

You cannot allow other people’s opinions to shape who you are. There are no fools here. 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 cannot be false to any other man.

Or perhaps everybody is always a fool, somehow.

And there is nothing wrong with that. If I am a fool, maybe it is for allowing someone else to reverse the spell and haul me back kicking and screaming to civilization. They may seem fools for being hooked up to electronics for entertainment while being surrounded by the sublime – but that’s just my knee-jerk reaction. I have no right to judge. It may be a blessing, for anything that brings a smile to the face and one’s feet down the wild path 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. To each their own!

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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