I grew up in Northern Ontario where lakes and trees abound and wilderness, true wilderness, is right outside your door. The towns we lived in would look remote and rustic to city dwellers. But our families would seek out even more remote locations for our vacations. We camped in a tent in campgrounds with few amenities or we stayed in cabins off-grid and off-road.
There are sounds that wilderness lovers know. The dampened and muffled thud you make when you jump off a rock down into a moss covered bog. The shushing of the wind through the tall white pines. The galomp of a stone thrown high and then swallowed by a pond. These are the sounds of my childhood.
The wilderness was our playground. We romped in the open understory of white pine trees and swam for hours and hours in fishy smelling lakes. Our skin was tanned from the long days outside and also scarred by countless bug bites. The sun bleached our hair. We had dirt caked under our fingernails from frog hunting in mud puddles. Our knees were scraped from climbing boulders and running bare-legged through brambles. And our clothes were stained with pine gum from leaning against trees and resting on the pine needle covered forest floor.
Sometimes the wilderness was to be feared. The inky black night, with only pinholes of starlight, set our imaginations off on the unspeakable terror. There must be ferocious animals hunting us just past the edge of the trail. And we feared when the wind whipped up suddenly and we were caught in a bone chilling downpour a bit too far from the shelter of the cabin.
But mostly the wilderness was our refuge. It was a place that whispered to us, soothed our overworked and overstimulated souls, and brought us back into our bodies after weeks stuck in our insulated lives. I ran free there. I am a child of the wilderness and I wouldn’t have it any other way.