While my Mom is certainly the greatest and I could easily write a nice long post about her, this is a story of the relationship with the other mother in my life. The one often referred to as Mother Nature.
Our relationship was always a bit complicated. Basically I believed she hated me no matter how hard I tried to love her. I grew up in the Midwest, specifically the mid-eastern part of Wisconsin, where weather isn’t exactly perfect. We were treated with freezing cold and piles of snow in winter, intense humidity and high temps in the summer and a major lack of the lovely season known as spring. I am also fair-skinned and extremely prone to mosquito bites, so while relishing in the summer heat, I was most often gifted with bright red, painful shoulders and itchy, bite-ridden legs. A stellar reward after a punishing winter.
During these years of my life I was often angry, pissed really, at lady nature. I wanted to be outside. But man, did the consequences really suck. So my relationship with Mother Nature was established. She could do without me and didn’t have a burning desire to change her opinion. At least that’s what I believed.
Fast forward to my life in Seattle. After a few months of life in the Pacific Northwest, I decided to test out my strained relationship with Ma Nature by diving in head first. I took a job as a summer camp counselor, but not the classic kind of summer camp with cabins and indoor eating, the extreme kind with tents and outdoor camp stoves. Weirdly, I didn’t hate it. Somehow I avoided getting so beat up that I never wanted to be outside again. In fact, I was sort of tan (something that had never happened) and only collected a handful of bites after 4 weeks spent outside.
The tense relationship began to ease. Maybe she didn’t hate me as much as I believed; maybe I was welcome in her vast, beautiful domain. I eased into it after the first summer, not truly believing our relationship could go from complicated to easy in one fell swoop. Seasons went by without punishment and soon I couldn’t get enough. I was hiking every weekend. Vacations were planned based on mountains I could summit in the area. I was excited to go camping, to actually live outside.
Mother Nature loved me. She LOVED me. We enjoyed each other’s company; in fact it seemed we couldn’t get enough of each other. Our relationship blossomed into something spectacular.
Now fast forward again to driving away from Seattle towards my old and new home. I was determined to continue this amazingly healthy relationship we had developed. I would explore Wisconsin, I would hike, camp, swim; discover the beauty I knew it held. The first week back in Wisconsin I decided to hike on an early Sunday morning at the lovely Point Beach State Park. Remembering my pretty perfect relationship with Ma in Washington, I ventured out into the park without much thought to Wisconsin-level preparedness (i.e. the need for bug and sun proof gear). The first steps onto the trail felt great, a reminder of what I loved so much. A few more steps and I started to see the error of my ways as I continuously slapped at the mosquitoes covering my bare legs. A few more steps and I knew it was time to abandon my hike or risk serious illness. I booked it out of that forest and back to my car, toting at least 30 mosquito bites and a nasty sting (which kept me laid up on the couch for three days).
As I sat there feeling thoroughly beaten down and idiotic, I felt myself smile. Years ago I would have believed Mother Nature was asking me, not very politely, to leave and never come back. Now I knew better. Our relationship had changed, matured. Instead of feeling victimized and hated, I felt a little stupid and strangely proud.
Proud of that fierce lady, Mother Nature.
She is a beast. She is strong. Not to be taken lightly despite her overwhelming beauty. I had forgotten that for a split second and she had given me a thorough ass-kicking. She was reminding me that it would take some effort to maintain our relationship and I had better get my shit together or stay away.
I had no intention of staying away. In return for the incredible gifts she had given me, I could definitely put in some effort to make this work. I quickly acquired the needed gear for my Wisconsin hiking: insect-resistant pants, long-sleeved shirt and LOTS of bug repellent. The next time I ventured out into her domain I was armed with maximum protective gear and a healthy measure of respect. I noticed the difference immediately. She greeted me with a sun-warmed embrace and a breeze-carried kiss on the cheek. Welcome back, I felt her whisper with a smile.