Tag Archives: nature

rustic


rustic adj. of, pertaining to, or living in the country, as distinguished from towns or cities; rural.

khaki scout

Spiders, bugs, ticks, snapping turtles, geese poop, cold, wind, rain, ticks and wet socks…these are all the things that make me cringe when I think about spending time outdoors, specifically, in the country. A decade ago I would have said the opposite of myself. I used to be a seasoned outdoors-woman, the kind you see in Patagonia catalogs – complete with handmade hemp necklace and Teva tanned feet. Girl  Scouts served as a refuge for my difficult childhood / teen years and I came to enjoy the beauty of the natural world. It became my comfort when I had no other. I knew how to survive, how to pitch canvas tents with stakes and start campfires with one match. I taught boating and canoeing, was a certified waterfront lifeguard who swam under docks during drills. I could repel, hike, brave rapids and cook a mean shepherd’s stew on an open fire. This past weekend as I listened to myself whining about the hard mattress I had to sleep on and the bug bites on my ankles during our annual trip out to my in law’s lake house, I started to wonder what had happened to make me so much different from the girl that used to count the days until the next camping trip…and more importantly, how to get some of her back.

My son is well on his way to becoming a lover of nature and the outdoors. He caught his first fish this past weekend and loves throwing rocks into the lake for hours on end. His knees are eternally bruised and scraped from running and climbing outside. He sat at the fire circle this past weekend and I could see in his face joy as the light from the flames danced across his cheeks. I knew that joy once too.  The nights of singing silly songs and acting out skits that only my friends and I thought were hysterical. The memories are as sweet as the piles of s’mores we ate and the sticky tree limbs we left behind from all of the charred marshmallows we roasted.

I also remember the not so pleasant things about living in the woods. The way you had to let yourself get completely bitten up by bugs and mosquitos for the first few weeks of the summer in order to become immune to their venom. The rolling over in the morning to find a squished daddy long legs on your pillow when you woke up. The rush to tie up tent flaps when a thunderstorm ran its path through the woods. Walking to the latrine in the middle of the pitch black night with a small flashlight and hearing the hidden animals around you rustle. I endured these things summer after summer, year after year, always returning to camp eagerly, yet now I scream at the mere sight of a spider.

To enjoy camping and the outdoors, you have to surrender control to a thing much bigger than you, that thing being nature. And these days, that scares the hell out of me…but I really, really want to find a way. I suppose at 36 years old, I have a lot more to lose than 17 year old me did. Still, I don’t want to be the suburban housewife standing idly clutching her handbag and reading texts while her husband buys their son their first mess kit. I feel that would be selling myself short. So in the next few months, I am going to try and give it my all. I am not going to turn this into an REI shopping spree either. No gear will be bought, no books other than my old scout handbook and some Google searches are needed. I’m going to go deep and find that person inside me that used to do all of those cool, outdoorsy things. This will be the most important badge I’ve ever worked for.  Hopefully I don’t hurt myself or anyone else, but I’ll have to face it if it happens.  There are bags of marshmallows waiting and wood teepees to build fires for them to roast on. But most importantly, there are all of those amazing camp songs I know are being wasted on bed time when they sounds so much better echoing through the forest, the way they were meant to be sung.

 “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity…”
John Muir

 

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Rubenesque


Rubenesque adj. (of a woman’s figure) full and rounded

 

Rubens,_Peter_Paul_-_The_Three_Graces

I have been listening to a lot of Prince and Queen lately – mostly because my 16 month old son really gets into those particular artists. He loves Killer Queen and Raspberry Beret especially and bops around to Fat Bottomed Girls as well . I feel like I am schooling him in a new form of radical feminism when we listen to these songs. They embody a sense of admiration for the full figured female we seem to have lost in this day and age. Here’s what I mean…

In Raspberry Beret, Prince notes:

Built like she was
She had the nerve to ask me
If I planned to do her any harm.

Since Prince is a pretty small dude one would have to assume that the beret wearing girl could hold her own because she was larger – but it’s not a bad thing in the song. It makes her memorable and attractive. In fact, she seems quite proud as he describes her as not wearing much else than the beret.  In Get Off, he also mentions explicitly:

Honey, them hips is gone
That’s alright, I clock ’em that way
Remind me of something James used to say
“I like ’em fat”, “I like ’em proud”
“Ya gotta have a mother for me”
Now move your big ass ’round this way
So I can work on that zipper, baby

I would bet there are other references to his preference for larger women in his music, but what I find really interesting is that even a few decades ago, there was a certain appreciation for the voluptuous, womanly body. Whether it be Sir Mix A Lot or Prince, models still had asses and boobs and I am pretty sure no one was trying to lose all of their muscle mass to be attractive. What happened between then and now to so drastically change our preferences when it comes to the female form?

I think about body image a lot. The smallest I have ever been was a size 4 and that was when I was in college. It was a lot of fun. I could walk into any clothing store and fit into anything I wanted. I had no breasts so the shirts buttoned perfectly. Low rise denim sat on bone, not muffin top. Being able to wear whatever I chose made me forget that I was absolutely starving all of the time. Now as I write this in the bootylicious leggings of a size 10/12 (gasp!) shopping is more akin to getting a pap smear than having fun. The fashion world has banned me from being able to look attractive easily. At 5’2 , I am petite, but with an ass and boobs, I am full figured. Anyway you slice it up, I am fat by the standards of the fashion and clothing industry and deemed unattractive by the anorexic minions of Madison Avenue.

Every time I see the standards for womanly attractiveness shrink, I pray that this time they have gone too far and that next year the new “it” size will go up instead of down. I fear that when I am hitting 40 the new goal will be to fit into 2T pants. How I long for the days of Rubens and Botticelli whose lovely ladies flaunted flesh. I think there is a definite connection between Modern Art and the cultism of waifishness that is prevalent amongst women. In the same ways that traditional, beautiful, skillful art is rejected these days, so is the traditional female body. Much of a woman’s free time is spent plucking, waxing and toning so as not to be regarded as some barbaric, poorly groomed gorilla in public. It’s as if we’re supposed to stay 14 forever.

…and the music about Fat Bottomed Girls and Raspberry Berets has faded away as well. Prince has been replaced with Justin Beiber and One Direction singing about hair flipping insecure 12 year olds in between rapid successions of “ohs” and “ahs” instead of actual lyrics. Even Jennifer Hudson lost her booty and Anne Hathaway looks like she’s dying. Good god, even the Twinkie is a thing of the past.  Alas, I lament the loss of substance in all of it’s historical forms – art, music and womanly flesh…bye, bye Miss American Thigh…

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pinion


pinion noun. the outer part of a bird’s wing including the flight feathers

Several months ago I went for a run in the mountain reserve near my home with my son in his stroller. I remember not feeling particularly well that day and being in a bad mood about something I can’t recall. Running is a stress reliever for me but I always listen to loud music in order to ignore the pain that running causes and to not hear my own huffing and wheezing all along the way. That particular day, I had forgotten my earphones. Like I said, I was in a bad mood but I still needed to run because I knew it would make me feel better. Instead of focusing on music I focused on the nature around me and tried to ignore my bodily groaning. I noticed a sparrow in the middle of the trail, not flying or walking, but just looking up toward the sky. Of course when I got closer to him, he took flight, but I was left with an amazing feeling that things would be okay. That all I had to do was remember to look up and the sky would still be there the same way it was for the bird.

Throughout my life there have always been symbolic birds. It all started with my mother when I was a child. I had never met her father, my grandfather. He died when my mother was around 20 from a heart attack, but I can tell that she loved him very much. She always told me that her father came back as a pigeon after he died. Now, we are Catholic so we don’t believe in reincarnation, but my mother was very sure that whenever she saw an animated pigeon, or one that stood out among the rest, it was her father. Maybe it was because her father used to keep pigeons on the roof when she was growing up in Brooklyn or maybe the pigeon’s stout stature and tenacity recalled fond memories of her dad. Either way, my grandfather is a pigeon.

The first grown up book that I ever read was Jonathan Livingston Seagull. I still have the paper back copy that my dad gave me and have read it over and over again. I kept the same bookmark I used as a kid in the book and every time I open it to read I feel like I am sitting by the pool at my grandmother’s house in Bergenfield reading it for the first time. I’ve noticed over time that memories of my father become fainter and I have to think harder to recall him. This book is like a totem for my memory. If there were ever a fire in my home and I could save something other than the obvious – baby, husband, dog, wedding photos – I’d reach for this book next. In a way, if my grandfather is a pigeon then my father is definitely a seagull.

But back to my bird story. So this sparrow I saw was looking up at the sky and I had never noticed a bird doing that before. Usually the birds that I see are scavenging for food or picking up bits of garbage to build a nest. Somehow I feel connected to that sparrow. He wasn’t looking at the sky because he longed to fly again…he took off and flew seconds later. The sky is a sort of home to a bird…second only to their nest. Perhaps the sky can be my second home as well. The place I look to in order to clear my head and get above all of the nonsense clouding my sight on the ground.

The sky is special place that only clouds and birds can really call a home. People and planes can visit it to get from here to there, but not really experience the sky the way a bird can. It’s interesting to think about skydiving and space needles and all the odd ways humans interact with the sky. It is as if we go up high to make where we actually reside and live every day seem a little more special so that when we go back down to the ground, we have a different perspective.The difference is we have to work pretty hard to get above the ground to look down. The sky is always there in abundance and all we have to do is look up for a different perspective.

Who would have thought that keeping your head in the clouds would help keep you more grounded?

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