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Monday, April 22, 2013

I went to the woods

Kejimkujik National Park - Nova Scotia, 2012.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. (Henry David Thoreau)

I've been reading this wonderful, inspiring book, Walden or Life in the Woods, so full of great quotes such as the following:

"Most men, even in this comparatively free country, through mere ignorance and mistake, are so occupied with the factitious cares and superfluous coarse labours of life that its finer fruits cannot be plucked by them."

"I am sure that there is greater anxiety, commonly, to have fashionable, or at least clean and unpatched clothes, than to have a sound conscience."

"In the long run men hit only what they aim at."

"As is you could kill time without injuring eternity". (This is the one that gave me a literary orgasm!)

The book contains dozens of such considerations, but mostly it is an apology of living closer to nature, as this description of spring attests:

"They were pleasant spring days, in which the winter of man's discontent was thawing as well as the earth, and the life that had lain torpid began to stretch itself."

Spring, indeed, is finally here, and with it everything in me is thawing and stretching under the warm sun rays, literally and metaphorically.
After I finished translating the description of this new, experimental drug that will potentially save your life (if the side effects don't kill you first), and noticing that it looked nice enough outside, I decided to pay myself a little treat and went for a walk in the woods with puppy. 

This is Earth Day, after all. We all know (kind of) what to do to protect our planet, but I think the best way to feel it in our guts is to become one with nature on a regular basis. Which is why I think everyone should spend more time outdoors!

When you immerse yourself in nature you realize what just a few weeks can do. This morning, after a winter of silence and snow, the forest was full of smells (my favorite being the fir and the pine trees), and full of sounds. In just half an hour I heard robins, blue jays, doves, chickadees, a thrush, a woodpecker, a loon, a pheasant... and a bunch of other birds I could not identify. It was a full-blown party in there! (An orgy-type of party by the sight of it. Lots of fun to be had by the little feathery fellows! Ah, spring...)

Ducks at the lake - Nova Scotia, 2012.

I was paying so much attention to the wonderful sounds and smells, and I was so busy watching for the puddles and protruding roots, I did not notice we were being observed. Puppy suddenly stopped in her tracks and started pointing (I love it when she does that!) and when I lifted my gaze, I saw 3 deer almost within reaching distance! Good thing it wasn't 3 coyotes, bobcats or black bears (which are all endemic around here).

A little bit further we stumbled upon the bridge and shelter the kids have built with fallen trees and moss. Seeing them build themselves a natural life in the great outdoors has been one of my greatest joys lately. It reminds me of my old childhood, for sure. From early on I had a fascination for all things pertaining to survival in the wild. It might have had something to do with the fact that my dad, an ex-Boy Scout, and my mom, an ex canoe-camping enthusiast, regularly shared with us their  knowledge and passion in the matters. (When I was born it happened so fast my dad, who was just back from a camping trip, did not have time to change or shower, so the first smell I ever experienced was that of campfire smoke - I still love it to this day!)

My love of "survival in the wilderness" also has to do with one of the first "big books" I read, at age 8 precisely: Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe. The edition I had was adorned with fascinating pictures that left a mark in my imagination:

What Robinson salvaged from the boat

Different types of fires

All kinds of knots

The houses. LOVE the tree house!!!

After discovering that book I became an avid reader of all books involving shipwrecks and castaways and tree houses. I would also play "desert island" and "drifting raft" games. I loved the idea of starting from scratch and trying to survive with little while dealing with the - sometimes hostile - natural elements.

As a Girl Guide, I later learned to pack the right stuff the right way (e.g. water resistant bedroll), how to start a fire (one of my passions!) how to build a shelter warm enough for Canadian winters (by the same token we also learned 1st aid for frostbite, how to carry someone with fractured limbs back to civilization for treatment, etc.)

This coming weekend, my fellow Girl Guide leaders and I will take 25 little girls to camp. We'll show them how to build and start a campfire, and how to cook their meals on it. We'll show them how to orient themselves using a compass. But mostly we will all learn to live as one with nature, respectful of its wonders big and small.

To finish up beautifully, here's a little video that I took during one of my nature walks in the neighborhood. You can see the bridge and the shelter the kids built! Listen carefully and you might also hear the birds! (At the end of the video you will discover who's crying to be freed!)

By the way, there is a meteor shower going on... tonight might be a great night to watch it. Enjoy!


  1. To paraphrase a birthday card I once received, "Perhaps you hear the sound of a distant drummer, or maybe you are just a weirdo!"

    I'm sure HDT wondered the same :-)

    1. One should be proud to be "that kind of" weirdo, I say. :-)

  2. LOVED Robinson Crusoe, one of my book groups read it last year. Loved the details of what he did and how he did it.

  3. What's not to love about it, hey Vickie? :-) You should try Vendredi ou les Limbes du Pacifique (Friday, or The Other Island), a philosophical retelling of the same story.

  4. Tu me fais revenir à mon amour des bois, moi aussi! Et quel beau panorama, et les sons... wow!!! Aussi, tu m'as fait revenir à un film que j'ai vu et revu tellement de fois, voici l'extrait qui convient: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8AVKoqXbGc