Before I hooked up with my husband a few years ago, I was a city girl…more specifically, a suburbanite. Growing up, my folks were not outdoors people so I was never truly exposed to God’s untouched country – except maybe quick drive-throughs in the car growing up and a short camping trip with friends as a teenager. Never sought it out on my own, as I grew older, either. Yes, my life consisted of concrete pavements and roads, buildings as far as the eye could see, with a sprinkle of trees and lawns landscaping these areas. This was civilization to me.
That’s not to say that I wasn’t curious about the great outdoors, though it did seem like another world to me. A world for adventurers, and, as far as I was concerned, I was not an adventurer. I was a girl who liked movies, restaurants, and shopping malls. For me, beautiful lakes, forests, mountains and the like were admired from afar through photographs, TV, and movies. Though I could never deny they were a feast to the eyes. But to be a part of it seemed unreachable.
My experience camping one summer in Yosemite National Park, at the impressionable age of 17 years old, might have left some subconscious negative scarring, in some part of my being, on this subject. The set-up was fine: good friends, great weather, beautiful scenery and delicious meals galore. It was the other side that no one warned me about - the secret part of camping that I soon learned to despise – bear threats, no private bathroom, no showers for 3 days, sleeping in a cramped tent, and to top it all off, we were told to stay out of the river for a day because park rangers found an arm in there. Yes, just the lone arm, apparently no body attached. Such memories. Ugh!
Fast forward quite a few years later. Enter my husband, “Mr. Outdoorsman”. He is the knight in shining armor who showed this city girl what living is really about. It all started out innocently and familiar…movies, plays, dinners. Then he requested we take a walk. Sounded reasonable enough to me. I answered “Sure.” We get to our destination. Hmmmm. City girl isn’t pleased. I’m standing at the edge of this walking path and realize it’s not a concrete sidewalk he had in mind, but a dirt road. A dirt road, I emphasize. I guess it would have been OK except I hadn’t been forewarned and I was wearing my favorite black dressy sandals. What to do? I hesitate. He asks me to give it a try and gives me the option to end the walk anytime I like. I think about it and give him the OK because I don’t want to be a complete spoil sport. I did it….for about 200 yards then decided it was time to turn back for many legitimate reasons – honestly! Here we go: The road overlooked a steep hillside….hmmm….no safety side bars in case someone came dangerously close to flopping off the side of it. I don’t like the looks of this. Then he told me to stay to one side in case mountain bikers came careening down around the corner…hmmm….don’t pedestrians have the right of way? And….worst of all…my black sandals were covered in dirt! I was relentless in getting us off that road. I’m sure my future husband must have thought I landed here from another planet….a Miss Fuss Pot.
Fast forward again another 3 years. I am now the Mrs. of “Mr. Outdoorsman” with close to 100 hikes under my belt. His passion for Mother Nature is now my passion. How? You wonder. Well, I can’t say that this new love affair was a smooth one. It had it’s bumps. Once I got over the small fears I had, I finally got the chance to enjoy the beauty of God’s creations. The landscapes are a great escape, and refresher, from the city. It allows you to re-energize before you go back to the hub bub of daily life. I have graduated to “not screaming and jumping at every little thing that moves”. My husband is happy with this progress. I rarely jump at the sight of a lizard or “stink” bug now. Deers were never a problem. Snakes? Yep, still in freak mode if I see one anywhere close by. Don’t like to spot coyotes or bobcats either. Still working on that. Mountain lions and bears? Have never seen them and, frankly, don’t care to. What can I say? I’m a work in progress.
I bought a book called “Don’t Get Eaten” at one of the National Parks. I occasionally skim through it, trying to refresh my memory, in case something big, powerful or hungry crosses my path and I need to act fast to protect myself. If I see a bear do I confront it, run away or play dead? Even in a calm state, I can’t remember. Ugh! There’s even mention of using pepper spray if confronted by some of these animals. What?! Are they serious?! Am I honestly going to be in the right frame of mind to even logically line up the pepper spray with the animal’s peepers and spray in the right direction? And what if I did spray, but erred and only just enough got in to aggravate the animal and not paralyze it? What kind of position would I be in then? Hmmm, back to the book. I need to look for ways that coincide with my nervous nature. Something I know I could instinctively do. I don’t know if flee the hell out of there counts.
Despite some of these challenges, the pros outweigh the cons. I actually do feel privileged to live so close to such beauty as these green hillsides with vast amounts of trees, bushes, flowers, fresh air, birds singing and all the goodies that God supplied as being part of the whole picture of what we call Mother Nature. So next time you’re feeling a bit stifled by the impersonal concrete of city life, be quick to look at the sky, the birds in the air, the tree on the sidewalk, or even the potted plant on the porch to be reminded of the serenity of knowing you are part of God’s master plan in all this. I feel there is a deep connection that binds our souls with the untouched landscape of God’s creation.