Part 1: Has Nature Become Unnatural?

Hello, everyone! How are you? Personally I’ve been dealing with the valleys in life rather than the peaks the past few weeks. I’m finally done working overnights! Getting home before the sunrise was like seeing it backwards.

Anyhow, I would love for this post to become an open discussion: city life vs. country life. I’ve been thinking lately, “When did nature become so unnatural??” Let me explain.

In regards to life’s valleys – my mortgage company decided to pull a little stunt; it hasn’t been a great week. Actually their little stunt landed me in the bank manager’s office (a few times this week). My Gramps lives with me. He’s 82 years old and still working. We were both fired up, so naturally when he demanded I ask question A, B, and C I decided to ask him to come along if he wanted to. If you know Gramps – you’d know that he didn’t hesitate!

Now, he grew up in a polar opposite environment than I did. New York City was his stompin’ grounds! Later in life he’d go on to live in Denver and Chicago. He’s a city fella through and through. I only lived in the city for about 4 years out of my entire childhood, and I HATED it for multiple reasons. Now, listen – my Gramps isn’t your average Grandpa! Here’s a picture of him.

I took this just a couple of weeks ago. He had no idea about the song, but he bought the shirt when he saw it on Facebook because of the skeleton wearing infantry clothing. He was in the infantry as an Army Captain Ranger in the 50’s. Before night vision goggles, darkness really was their best friend.

Here he is spending some time with my girls.

Anyhow, as we were sitting in the bank manager’s office the two of us got to talking; she was typing for a good 20 minutes. He started talking about what it would be like for me in the future: folks my age vs. the government. With as crazy as this world is, his belief may not be far from the truth. He believes there is a good chance that in the future the government will value its elderly less and less and will fund less and less medical assistance for them – possibly none. Due to the fact that we’ll be draining the government instead of contributing through employment, he also says they may figure out a way to “do us in” once we reach a certain age! I laughed and told him I’d be living in the middle of nowhere happy as a lark so it wouldn’t matter. This is a debate we’ve had quite a few times.

He laughed loudly, but in a manner that admitted defeat. His laugh alone said, “Well she may have finally gotten me with that statement.” Then, as I’ve heard from him a few times before, he told me that, “Country life is bullsh*t.”

His primary argument is that if you need help – whether it be police or an ambulance – that it wouldn’t be easily obtained. Okay, well obviously this is true, but I also feel that those aren’t routine necessities. We currently live in a town in Indiana between Indianapolis and Lafayette. He’s definitely made it clear that he sees it as a town – and I think it is, too. Honestly, the population here is at the peak of what I feel comfortable with.

He’d rather be amongst many, many people surrounded by convenience. I’d rather be in the midst of nature and create my own convenience. He said, “Isolation isn’t good.” Now, I know he’s talking about isolation from people. But when I’m in the woods surrounded by so many things that breathe life… I feel less isolated. In fact I feel connected, like I’m where I should be. The core of my soul stills, and I feel inspired. For me, that is home.

Again, I thought to myself – when did nature become unnatural?? WHY is it that the environment human beings are meant to be in has become what is foreign – and even scary??

If you think about it, as human beings we aren’t naturally meant to spend our days on the internet (as I’m doing now – uh huh I see the irony there), watching a box that plays images and storylines, or stacked on top of each other in apartment cages picking up a phone to order a meal to be delivered to our door. We’re living, breathing animals. As a society I think the more connected we are by technology and convenience, the more disconnected we become from what and who we really are – thus the massive amounts of depression we experience as a society.

Please understand that I do like certain conveniences (I wouldn’t be writing in this medium if I didn’t, right?). I do think there is value in a lot of them. And I could absolutely understand why others prefer the city life or the town life. My goal is not to knock on anyone else’s lifestyle, this is just a topic that has had me thinking for a long time.

I could go on writing about this for a long time, but for now I’ll put my thoughts on hold. What do you think?? Has nature become unnatural? We’ve all lived differently and experienced unique things as individuals, city lovers and country lovers, so I’d love to hear anything you have to say! Talk to you soon!

Also if you’re new and would like to know the purpose of my blog, just click here.

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Where It All Started

I’m sorry I haven’t posted in awhile! There’s been a surgery in the family I’ve been focused on, but all is well. Actually, I’ve also been sorting through old photos. I found a few that I wanted to share! They show where and when this love of the woods of mine came from.

My first camping trip was at 5 months old!

This is bad quality, but I remember that canvas tent well! Mom is keeping a close eye. I need a canvas tent now for the colder months; in the winter we had a large kerosene heater we used inside the tent to keep warm. At the moment I’m stuck with a thin summer tent. Dad made the storage box out of sheet metal that Mom has her feet on. Crafty fella – I’m still jealous of his ideas and his skill.

Oh, the 80’s! We were still using the same tent then. They just don’t make them like that anymore!

Then we moved here… and here was home. It was Brown County, Indiana. Just look at the next few views…

Words can’t express the peace that accompanies living in a place like this. No matter your age, the only influence on your actions is your own. I remember Mom sewing the little clothes for my Barbies. We all made sure we had enough firewood for winter. Life was simple. I swung from the tree swing Dad made for me; I even remember the day he made it. I played in a mud pit just along the edge of the woods when I wasn’t exploring the woods themselves. Life was happy. There was appreciation for all of life’s basic joys. I found a little bit of Fool’s Gold every day; and by the stock pile I kept I swore I was a rich five year old.

And you know… the Fool’s Gold belonged to this little fool of a girl. But, the irony is that I was right. During those years I was rich. Even with no other children to play with, no amount of extravagant money, I found my happiness in the world that surrounded me. It was in the leaves, in the whisper of the trees, in the hooting of the owls, in the earth between my fingers, and the love of my family. It was in the discovery of something new every day. There was no criticism from outside sources, no one judging the clothes on our back or the words that passed our lips. Life was humble, and in that innocent humility… I was rich.

The Woods in December

First of all I just want to say thank you to those of you who have subscribed thus far! I so deeply appreciate your support in this journey, and would enjoy hearing from you!

So before I decided to start this here blog, it had been a couple months since I’d been camping. I’d decided on a whim to go alone, unless you count bringing one of my dogs (It was glorious! See pictures and read about my little adventure here). Years ago I used to be able to step out of the house and into the woods, but today I live in the middle of town. I needed some time in the forest again, so I decided to take a long winter walk in the nearest nature park (trespassing and being shot at didn’t sound altogether alluring).

Initially I planned to go deep into the woods, but I saw signs pointing towards a lake and decided to follow. When I arrived it was beautiful, but I decided to walk through the surrounding woods, first.

The colors were more vivid in person. When I looked back through the pictures I’d taken I was disappointed. This time of year reminds me of a painting of the woods that I grew up with as a child. Actually, I have it hanging in my living room. To the naked eye the leaves had hints of pinks and purples, but of course the camera isn’t going to pick up on every little detail quite like the experience of being there. Being in the woods always feels like going back home, too. I decided to make my way down to the water and spend some time there. The house I grew up in was on a little canoe boat-only lake in the woods, so what could be more perfect?

In Indiana winter doesn’t usually get very cold or snowy until sometime in January. During this December visit it had just been very cold, and jumped back up to temperatures in the 50s in the blink of an eye. This gave me some pretty unique opportunities to capture ice alongside the thawing of what was underneath. I love all of the textures in these photos! The water on this small lake was so calm that the trees were reflecting almost like glass where the ice had thawed.

On other parts of the lake where it hadn’t, the sunset glowed off the ice’s surface.

On the far end of the lake sat this bench. Names had been carved on every surface, and I could only imagine how many lovers sat here before the wood on the seat had broken and rotted away, and been embraced with moss over time. I thought of the families that must have sat here and taught their children or grandchildren how to fish – and how many kept returning to their favorite spot to keep the memory alive. I did see a classic red and white bobber hanging from the tree limbs in the distance (the result of a little rookie fisherman, I’m sure). Places like these bring out our inner stillness. The best thing to do here is to enjoy the moment and to let the world whiz by on its own time table while you take a deep breath and appreciate the little things that life has to offer.

And you’d better believe I found a log stretched out over the water to take a breath of my own. What a beautiful day it was!

Icy Winter

Hello, everyone!

It felt like it took so long for winter to officially arrive. I love the snow, and have recently learned to appreciate the colder temps more than I used to. I’m thinking that when I do reach my goal of living back in the middle of nature again (you’ll want to read about that here), it may need to be in a cooler climate. You can even hear the snow fall to the ground if you’re quiet enough.

This weekend we finally got some snow! Unfortunately not the 12″ that was originally forecast. Instead we got just a few with a really thick coating of ice! I was aching to go outside and photograph the snow falling, but I was sick. Instead I decided to go for a little walk just before the sun came up. It was about 8 degrees outside, and it didn’t take long for my cheeks to freeze! The only vehicle I saw out and about were road treatment pick up trucks, but it was quiet and the air was so crisp and pure.

After being down for the count for a weekend, having just a short amount of time in the icy weather gave me the refreshing little boost I needed! What are your feelings about winters vs. summers? How do they differ from one another where you are?

Enjoy the photos; I’ll write back again soon. 🙂

Camping Solo

This past summer I was working both a full time and a part time job – and still struggling. No matter what I did it STILL wasn’t enough (If you haven’t read my previous blog post yet, it will explain more here). I had to get away from it all. So I packed up the car and brought my dog, Angel, with me to the woods for a weekend of camping – just the two of us. It was exactly what I needed!

The Arrival

When I arrived to the park I immediately turned off the radio and rolled down all of the windows. I wanted to enjoy just being in the moment and turning the world off. Angel stuck her head out of the window and together we enjoyed the 4 mile curvy ride winding through the wooded Indiana southern hills accompanied by the sounds of crickets, sunshine, and fresh scent of the forest until we arrived to our site. First I set up the tent and got the air mattress inflated and the bed made. I have to say – a tent that houses 9 people is a challenge to pitch alone! Then it was time to build the fire and organize the rest of camp. I grew up tent camping. In fact I had such an early start that I have a picture of me somewhere buried in a box of old pictures: a 6 month old infant propped up in a metal folding chair at camp with nothing but the woods behind me. However, it had been a good 20 years since I went as an older child, and this was my first solo trip. I started the fire and began chopping up the chicken and the veggies. This would also be my first time cooking over a fire with a cast iron skillet, but I wasn’t worried! Dinner was fantastic – juicy and flavorful. Although nothing burned at all – I learned two things.

1. Don’t warm the skillet before the flames die down a bit and the coals are hotter. Not to worry, when you’re done cooking, the hot coals and small flames that lick the bottom of the skillet are easy to coax back up to a raging fire again! The food just cooked a little faster than I would’ve liked and it was difficult to maintain control of the cooking process.

2. Chop/prepare whatever food you can ahead of time. I ended up having to cook way too much food. I gave some to Angel and had to toss the rest in the fire so the animals wouldn’t come after it while we were sleeping.

3. Well I suppose there’s a third. Bring ziplock baggies for the extra food just in case! This is yummy stuff, and it’s a shame to let it go to waste. I did bring extra the next time.

Then came the cleanup. No need to overthink here. I brought 3 one-gallon jugs to use for the weekend. There was also the convenience of a spicket nearby if I needed a refill. I just poured a little bit of water into a cup and poured it in with soap to wash and poured over the skillets to rinse – easy peasy. Clean up is important so that no critters (or larger unwanted animals) are making visits to your camp. I sat by the fire for a good long while. I can watch a fire for hours. Feeding in the logs and giving the coals a jumpstart while I listened to the millions of crickets around me was so grounding. I felt like I was coming back down to who I was – like I was home. All that mattered in that moment was just that moment. There was no one I had to impress. No concern for what I should wear or what I should say – just me, Angel, the fire, and the symphony of crickets and frogs that surrounded me. I wouldn’t be able to achieve that on a beach surrounded by a multitude of people (don’t get me wrong – I do love the beach!).

I’m a night owl. After I couldn’t hear the other campers anymore and the fire was at a point I could leave without worry of it causing a larger fire and could easily bring it back to life upon returning – I decided to go on a little moonlit walk with Angel. When I was in high school I was outside in the moonlight almost every evening – even in the winter months when the ground was blanketed with snow and glowing from the moon and the shadows of the trees. I lived on 80 acres then, so there was plenty of room for long walks. I took a small flashlight in case I were to pass any people or a random vehicle might be coming back to their camp late so I could be seen. I only turned it on for those reasons, and would then turn it right back off. That was such a perfect evening.

And the sleep… falling asleep to the sounds of the woods was something I had missed. I was glad to have Angel with me; I knew she’d alert me immediately if there was something or someone in our camp.

Ahh… Another Day in My Paradise

The morning was quiet with just a few birds chirping here and there. I remember how cold it used to be getting out of the sleeping bag during the mornings when I was a kid. But you know what? There’s no better method to wake you in a hurry. Usually when I camped as kid it was in the cooler months, but this was July. So the cold air in the morning wasn’t so brisk that it was jolting. I felt refreshed as I sat outside of the tent with Angel and pulled on my shoes. Angel and I had another chill moment cooking by the fire in the morning; you’ve never had bacon until you’ve had it cooked in a cast iron skillet over an open flame.

After breakfast Angel and I went for a hike in the woods. It hadn’t rained in quite some time, so the creek beds were barren. But it was beautiful to see how the moss grew near the mushrooms with the light shining through the tree beds and beaming onto the creek bed floor. Later we hiked to a tall lookout over hills. We sat and looked out over them for a good hour watching the clouds move and altering their shadows across the landscape. We met some really kind people along the way! The rest of the weekend was wonderful.

Now What?

After this I knew I had to make a point to be in the woods more often – and to camp when I was able to. I felt like myself again; this is who I am and where I should be. I could’ve stayed here for weeks and been happy as a lark. When it came time to leave, I was feeling a little sad. This was the perfect way to recharge myself! …And then I thought, “What if I could live in a place like this again? I wouldn’t need to recharge – I’d be living more happily on a regular basis.” Why not? Why can’t I? Maybe I wasn’t meant to be the “career woman,” and that’s why I’ve been so unhappy. I’ve been forcing myself to live up to someone else’s definition of the way my life should be. Why not surround myself with the things that inspire me to create? Well, there are reasons I can’t just make it happen tomorrow. But I can make it my aspiration. So that is what I’ve done.

Here are some pictures for you from the trip! 🙂

This was camp! I headed straight there from work, so I raced against daylight to get it all set up.

Morning bacon for me and for my girl!

That view…

The next morning’s breakfast.

All packed up to leave two days after arrival. I was so sad to leave!

The Journey Begins

There’s nothing that awakens me and brings peace to my very core quite like the moonlight shining through the trees in a place where every star can be seen dancing in the sky. There is no interruption of light pollution or the sound of engines whirring by in the distance. There is no honking, no neighbors yelling, and no worry of what shady character may approach from the shadows. Just the world the way it is supposed to be. A natural world before the population of man grew so rapidly that many of us have lost sight of the way it was meant to be. Instead we focus on convenience, material items, and accomplishments.

I used to live in more than one place like this – places that have been altered by time, but for the most part have been minimally affected by what society has evolved into. There are advantages to living in more highly populated areas. Easy access to grocery stores, pharmacies, hospitals, and restaurants that offer an endless variety of ethnic foods are a few. When it snows, it is still dangerous to drive, but really you aren’t stranded. These roads are among the first to be treated and plowed. If you really had to get out and about – you could. Even though these things are abundant in towns and cities, I’m still longing to be back where I belong.

Life in the country means appreciation. You’re sure to think long and hard about all of the food and supplies you’ll need before you make the trip to town. After all, if you forget something it will take another hour round trip to go get it. Gardens and food preservation for the winter months have a monumental role to play here. When you have land to maintain you have to work harder to maintain it; the first thing I learned to drive was a diesel tractor. Even though that life requires more hard work, I always enjoyed the feeling of laying my head down at the end of the day completely exhausted – and knowing I earned it with my own two hands. Life is simpler. You appreciate the small things life has to offer – and have even more appreciation for the big things.

Since then I’ve stepped out into the world. I worked my way through college and after nine long years, I have two degrees. I’ve worked in management for a few companies, and was even my own boss for awhile – but I’m a people pleaser. What do you think I found? Stress. Mountains of it. We have no control over the actions of anyone else – yet I was in charge of those actions and had to answer for them. Was I giving enough of myself to accomplish the goals of the large company I was working for? Was I available enough for my clients? What else can I do to contribute? Am I wearing the right thing? Did I say the right things? Why is this person treating me this way? Could I or should I have done something differently? Am I good enough?

I was experiencing so much stress that it was affecting my body in ways that scared me – including waking up with my left eye stuck facing a different direction. I was literally bumping into walls, so driving wasn’t even an option. Yes, I did have someone take me to the doctor and then a specialist. The diagnosis? It was an ocular migraine caused by: stress. In the years to follow I had a few more of them – along with other complications. It was a never ending state of second guessing myself, and it was EXHAUSTING. The most important thing to me since losing my mom to lung cancer 9 years ago is my happiness – living life in a way that makes me happy. That much stress isn’t healthy for anyone. I’d been working towards the best way to accomplish that. So what could I do to minimize it?

Since then I decided to step away from what others (and yes myself from time to time) thought “should” be doing with my life. I have a simpler job that doesn’t pay nearly as much – and I’m actually happy with it. Some (maybe most) other people are able to handle the stress, in fact they choose it, they plow through and accomplish all they set out to accomplish in the first place. I’m not that person, even though sometimes I wish I was.

No, my focus has shifted elsewhere. In future posts I’ll explain my “why” and the “how” I’ve arrived to this goal that I have for my future. It may take years, but ultimately I want to live that simple life again. I want the forest. I want nature. I want to live surrounded by what inspires me – every day. Until then I’ll be writing about my journey and all of the little things in between. This is the beginning.