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Mindful : August 2018
That night, I lie awake as the wind drums on the fly. Even ear plugs can’t drown out the sound. Tapping into my childhood fear of Creature from the Black Lagoon, I imagine something pawing at the tent. I am reminded that no matter how long I’ve lived in Nova Scotia, I will probably always be what the locals call “From Away.” When I grew up in the matchbox suburbs of Southern Ontario, my idea of camping was heading to a local lake in my family’s sedan to claim a spot on a tightly packed grid of camping sites during the peak of summer. Tanned dads sat on lawn chairs overlook- ing the lake’s briney brown water, drinking lite beers and cranking battery-free radios. We’d bring coins to operate the showers. So when I started camping with my husband, Jesse, who grew up on a Canadian farm, I was in for a surprise. For starters, I traded a four-door for a 4x4, the heav y-duty vehicle needed to handle the rutted roads that take us to some of the remote destinations that Jesse has helped me learn to appreci- ate. Our group holds on to the cooler below and the canoe overhead, and as we bounce along, my anxiety mounts. My companions’ idea of camping favors isolated spots, off-trail hikes, narrow ledges along rocky coastlines. I’ve slept in torrential downpours and learned to build a shelter out of tarps, collect rainwater, and lean in to the challenge of making a fire. I’ve slept wrapped up like a burrito in a tarp in a hole dug into the snow. With each different trip, I encounter anew the realization that my brain seems hard- wired to experience nature tinged with fear. Camping with them is to sign on for discomfort both physical and mental. It is to endure self-im- There’s a mental terrain to camping, to being outdoors, that makes me feel more vulnerable... but also more alive. posed pain, boredom, fear—not to mention bats emerging from trees if you mistakenly think you’ve found a private place to pee. But I’ve grown to love it. There’s a mental terrain to camping, to being outdoors, that makes me feel more vulnerable...but also more alive. I notice more. When I get into a kayak and needle my way around the edges ofalake,orspyafamilyofducksina meadow, or see beaver dams as wooden slabbed palaces built into shoreline, I get the sense that things have been like this long before I got here. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that the number of per capita visits to national parks began declining around the time email was invented, leading some camping enthusiasts to despair. A 2008 article in Scientific American predicted that it would take “80 million more visits this year to get the per capita number back up to the → August 2018 mindful 57 get real