Diapers and Dragons

Thursday, August 13, 2009

It's Pretty and All, but I'm Just Not That Into Nature, at Least Up Close and Personal

When I was a little girl out in the wilds of West Africa, I would spend hours each day outside. I'd roam the hospital compound with my younger sister and two younger cousins/next-thing-to-brothers pretending we were a band of lost orphans wandering the wilderness surviving off the fruit of the land. Literally: we'd feast on mangoes and passion fruit and the tiny little limes we'd peel with a pocket-knife and suck until our teeth surrendered their enamel in despair. We'd climb the low-slung branches of frangipani trees, each claiming one as our own "house," then jump off into the muddy ditches below and visit each other for dinner parties of mud pie and beans.

My cousin Stevie was the one who gloried most in the mud and dirt of it all--pigs had nothing on him--but we all would trek home at the end of the day more red than white with the peculiarly rust-colored dust of the Ivoirien savanna. As the oldest by three years, I was the leader of our band and bossed the others around unmercifully. Whatever it was we (I) decided to do, it was usually outdoors, and it usually required a bath afterward.

At some point I decided I was less interested in wandering the wilderness and more interested in perusing the pages of books while my younger compatriots did their "kid" things. Formerly they had protested my dictatorship: now they came begging my mother to make me come tell them what to do. My imagination still ran riot, and I would even venture outside for the occasional game of kick-the-can or freeze tag, but my days in the mud faded into the past.

Today I went down to the shore of the little northern lake on which my grandparents' rather large cabin (we call it "Chalet Shalom") perches. I pedaled my two young sons about in the small blue paddle boat that is the only operational water vehicle at our little dock. I sat on a rock and piled thick lake sand into recycled cottage cheese tubs to create mini sandcastles, which were promptly stepped upon by fat little feet. I watched as small boys splashed through the shallows up and down the stretch of beach.

I remember the days of sun and sand and water I spent here as a little girl, those few years when we were here in Michigan. I remember squatting in the wet sand making my own sandcastles, splashing through the wavelets, swimming with trepidation out to the raft that still floats in reincarnated form some fifteen yards from shore. I never did like the muck and weeds of lake bottoms, so I would swim as quickly as I could and climb the ladder to sit in the sun instead. I remember the occasions when my mother's cousin Ken would bring his speedboat to the lake and we could tube behind it: once, when I was ten, he even let me steer the boat for a little while. I remember Grandpa trying to pull us in tubes behind the pontoon boat, but it couldn't get up enough speed and we were simply pulled under the water, coming up sneezing and coughing.

Today's visit...well, it was nice enough, and I'm glad I did it for their sake, but I soon tired of the moistness in my nether region and the scratchiness of sand on my extremities, and I wished I'd thought to bring a chair and my Kindle and a drink down to the deck. I think that will be on the agenda for tomorrow's excursion.

Nowadays I'm more citified, I suppose. If I'm going to be outside, I'd prefer to sit with a good book and a glass of lemonade, perhaps a Smirnoff Ice if it's a social occasion. I'll don my swimsuit, but I rarely venture in water--perhaps if it's very hot and I'm next to a nice clean pool rather than a lake with who-knows-what lurking below the surface. I dislike the feel of sand in my crevices and weeds between my toes.

I can still rough it when called upon. I have cooked a full breakfast over an open fire, I have taken sponge baths in the woods, I used to be the one people could count upon to have a roll of toilet paper in the car for emergency situations (now I have baby wipes).

I'd simply rather not.

And I think I'm okay with that.

10 bits of love:

Mwa said...

Quite an admission. I used to shout that all the time, and I'm slowly being converted (a bit). I still want the alcohol, and at the end of the night I want a restaurant and a clean bed in a room, but during the day I can happily tolerate nature these days, and will even volunteer to go there.

Arby said...

"sand in the crevices"

(shakes head)

A picturesque choice of words.

Kathleen said...

Totally with you! I mean, I could totally do "Survivor" (except for the eating of disgusting things part), but unless someone's dangling a cool mill in front of me...just not worth it at all!

Draft Queen said...

So funny how we change over the years. (I'm so with you on the swimming in the lake thing. Used to love it as a kid, now I'm not sure you could pay me. Until today I thought maybe that change occurred when I became a stuck up snob but apparently this may just happen to adults who happen to just put more thought into exactly what other organisms you are sharing the water with. Plus, it's been a long time since I was a rich snob. Say about 10 years.)

Hope you are enjoying your getaway!

GingerB said...

Oh I love the nature experience but the one thing I really can't abide about camping and whatnot is that it makes me double extra tired, and it turns out I don't have the energy to spare anymore, with my advanced years and all.

oreneta said...

More background information required here...how long did you live on the Ivory coast? Details pls.

LoriM said...

Loved reading this cuz I know personally every person you mentioned! Even Cousin Ken! And I'm totally with you about nature - but I'm still trying to be ok with it. We have a lovely lake home and my husband adores the outside and walking the beach, or just looking at it, etc.. I tell him I can admire it Just Fine from inside (and, I think to myself, with a book and a cup of coffee or an iced tea depending on the season). He dreads seeing storm clouds and I quietly think, "Oh Goodie, an excuse to stay inside and be cozy and clean."

So - I'm glad it's not just me, or old age, or something like that.

Greet your Gramma and Grampa for me, ok?

Heidi said...

Hear, hear.

When I think about what an adventurous little kid I was (standing in a flooded creek and nearly getting swept away, anyone?), I sometimes marvel at how deeply I detest roughing it.

Give me a 5-star hotel (not that anyone ever has) and a good book any day.

Todd said...

Two things.

First, this was beautifully written. Your pictures-from-words make for lovely prose.

And B, I agree with you about not liking mucky bottoms or extensive seaweed, but I love being the water too much to let a little thing like that deter me. Although I relish the luxury of a hot shower after a day at the beach.

MomZombie said...

I consider myself a nature girl but I do not like the feeling of seaweed tendrils brushing against my legs when in the water. I tend to avoid swimming in water with seaweed visible. Glad you had a nice getaway in the north.

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