Leaking air mattresses. Macaroni and Cheese without butter. No-flush toilets. Meth-head neighbors. $10 bundles of wood containing two viable logs and two more with moss all over them. The horror.... the horror...
In all seriousness, as I begin to pack up all the various and sundry gear needed to pretend we are actually going to rough it camping in the Shenandoah this weekend, I am thinking about our ancient and primal fear of The Woods. When did this fear begin? Were we frightened of the forest as primates, when we actually lived there and slept in the trees? Or was it when our race left that habitat that we began to develop our atavistic terror of the deep, dark woods? Would the dread lift if we spent a week among the arboreal Old Ones? A month? A year? Or are we now such a stranger from Mother Nature that She can only bring us nightmares when the sun goes down and we are left without solid shelter to protect us?
A lot of questions this morning and, as usual, no answers. All I know is that my overactive and uncannily powerful ears go into overdrive as I lay awake in my sleeping bag, listening to my damn wife and kids breathing deeply in their easily won slumber. I hear EVERYTHING and all of it COULD BE something DANGEROUS. I don't worry so much about bears, because if one ever did lumber through our campsite, I'd hear it coming a mile away (what to do and where to go are another story, but I've got a pretty good Voice of the Devil I plan to use on it, plus some mean camping breath). On average, it takes me two to three hours to shut down my fight or flight instincts and actually fall asleep, and by then I usually have to pee from the silly number of beers I have consumed in an effort to silence those irrational thoughts in the first place. So I get up and wander a little ways off into the woods to do my business, and that is when the real fear creeps in. The entire campground is dead silent, the witching hour is upon me, and I'm in the most vulnerable position imaginable. Assuming I make it back to my tent alive, sleep is now out of the question.
Ah the rejuvenating effects of a peaceful night in Nature... let me know what that's like when you get a chance, will you?