August 30, 2005

There and Back Again

Dane and his Chia Beard

I have been in the woods and now I have returned. For the moment, at least. I am absolutely exhausted in mind, body and spirit, and I have definitely strained the system in transitioning from camp to civilization by attending the Minnesota State Fair with some brave Menogynites and a hundred thousand others.

Thought and comprehension are impossible activities, and I find myself being overwhelmed by the smallest things. This morning I almost broke down while brushing my teeth, when I realized that I didn’t need to ration the amount of toothpaste I was using. For the first time in months, I knew that I could just drive to the store if I happened to run out.

I’m also extremely sensitive to the number of mirrors you encounter in the civilized world. I’ve barely seen myself since May, so to face any moderately reflective surface in the modern world and see myself is a rather discomforting experience. Also, ice. Ice in cold drinks blows my mind. Even the moderate excesses of modern life I find staggering.

That being said, I don’t wish to pine over the culture shocks rippling through my system, beyond the fact that this awkward transition makes it really difficult for me to know what the hell has happened to me over the course of this glorious season. Summer already draws to a close in the northcountry. The nights grow crisp, the undergrowth turns yellow, and a few impatient maples along the Gunflint Trail have already exploded in red.

As I look back, I know that this has been exactly the summer I wanted. I got to live in the woods with a small community of awesome folk, and introduced a ton of kids to the same place where I first fell in love with the outdoors. This summer I spent over 40 days camping out in the wilderness, and have reached a level of intimacy with the outdoors that I never knew possible. I am now completely tuned to its breaths and rhythms, which is why in less than a week I will be going back up to work at fall camp. My next return will be at the end of September, perhaps later.

There is so much to say, but I’m completely exhausted and thus eloquence does not come easy. So much has happened over the last three months that it will likely take me weeks to decompress. With only a few short days before I wander back up north, I won’t be able to sort it out now. This summer has blown my mind in every respect, and the only thing I can do is be patient as my brain slowly unfurls these precious thoughts.

Did you ride a moose? I’ve always wanted to ride a moose. I rode a mule in the black hills, and that was pretty sweet, but I’d really like to ride a moose. A big, angry moose.

You know, I never did ride a moose.
However, one of my campers told me a story about riding in the car with a friend and his dad up in northern Minnesota. His friend looked out the window, shouted “STOP THE CAR!”, darted out and ran towards a small lake. In this lake was a moose swimming, and this kid dove right in, swam up to the moose, climbed on its back and rode it, all yee-haw! style.

Wow… One moment while I kick myself in the ass for going to the music store so much this weekend when I could have been out in the wilderness. This calls for a trip to Nunavut Canada.

Heh. I’ve got some friends who just finished guiding 50-day canoe trips up in Nunavut, and they’ve got some pretty amazing stories to tell. A few interesting observations:
Caribou have poor eyesight but are rather curious creatures. If you hold your arms over your head you can run right up to them and take their picture, as they think you’re another caribou or something.
A lot of stuff is frozen, even in July. They had to scuttle their canoes across icefloes a number of times.
Grizzlies. ‘Nuff said.
The mosquitoes will drive you insane.
Once you get far enough north, everything is permafrost and there are no trees. The horizon is crazy-far in every direction, and what looks like should be only an hour-long paddle, will actually take you all day.
The wind may steal your canoes, even if you load them down with a couple hundred pounds of rocks every night.
You will see no other people. Few people besides ourselves are crazy enough to venture so deep into the wilds.
Happy tripping!

I wanted to be… a lumberjack!
Leaping from tree to tree, as they float down the mighty rivers of British Columbia. The Giant Redwood. The Larch. The Fir! The mighty Scots Pine! The lofty flowering Cherry! The plucky little Apsen! The limping Roo tree of Nigeria. The towering Wattle of Aldershot! The Maidenhead Weeping Water Plant! The naughty Leicestershire Flashing Oak! The flatulent Elm of West Ruislip! The Quercus Maximus Bamber Gascoigni! The Epigillus! The Barter Hughius Greenus!
With my best buddy by my side, we’d sing! Sing! Sing!
I’m a lumberjack, and I’m okay.
I sleep all night and I work all day.
I cut down trees. I eat my lunch.
I go to the lavatory.
On Wednesdays I go shoppin’
And have buttered scones for tea.
He’s a lumberjack, and he’s okay.
He sleeps all night and he works all day.
I cut down trees. I skip and jump.
I like to press wild flowers.
I put on women’s clothing
And hang around in bars.
He’s a lumberjack, and he’s okay.
He sleeps all night and he works all day.
I cut down trees. I wear high heels,
Suspendies, and a bra.
I wish I’d been a girlie,
Just like my dear Papa.
He’s a lumberjack, and he’s okaaaaay.
He sleeps all night and he works all day.

I can’t ever say that I’ve thought of the adjective “crunchy” to describe a beard before.
What WOULD you say to a Mountain Man?