I‘m about to head out on the road for 6 weeks, and there’s a certain part of the tour that I’m uneasy with: the outdoor festival section. Not because of the festival – no, not that. It’s more of the camping part of it, and I’m finding I’m deeply at odds with myself. Witches should be all about being in nature, right? But I haven’t camped outdoors since….oh about 2001.
Why does it matter? I think various parts of myself are having an argument. (#geminiproblems). Here’s possibly why….
One of my favorite books to read growing up was My Side Of The Mountain by Jean Craighead George. I’ve read it countless times, and I still have that same dog-eared copy. In it, a boy from NYC named Sam runs away to the Catskill Mountains, intent on learning how to survive in the wild, which he does manage to do. (If you mention there was a movie made from the book, I’ll tell you it doesn’t exist – my same answer for people who seem to think there were sequels to The Matrix. NOPE.)
It wasn’t the running away part that stirred my imagination – it was the living off the land, in harmony with nature, using whatever was available to make it work. Similarly, I ate up all of Jane Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear series in my early teens, and many other pre-historic/early peoples fiction. I loved the closeness of the land, the fostering of the various relationships, and the lack of waste. I knew it wasn’t an easy life, but it made so much more sense to me.
The Little Witch’s Cabin
I attended a pretty idyllic nursery school. We learned about gardening, dug for worms, learned about plants, and played under the trees. There was a little tiny cabin/play house on the property as well. Apparently there were several times were I went “missing” from whatever the children were supposed to be doing, and could be found amusing myself in the cabin, doing “work” all alone.
My parents and grandparents decided to build me a little cabin in our own backyard. My father and grandfather built it all. It had two windows, and a Dutch door – all settled next to a maple tree. I spent countless hours imagining I was self-sufficient in the woods, collecting various plants, seeds, rocks, etc for special purposes. I knew about all the plants, trees, insects and animals that lived in our backyard.
You would think we would have gone camping as a family – and maybe my family did that before I came along. I know my brothers went to various camps from stories I heard. But nope, by the time I was in the picture, we were heading down the shore for our vacations. So I exchanged out the creek and the woods for the beach and the ocean seasonally – just another biosphere to explore!
In my college years and beyond, I was often made fun of by the person I was married to for “bringing the outdoors inside.” I was constantly dragging home interesting branches, rocks, and anything else I thought was neat. In that life, we actually did go camping at a few festivals, often with friends, but it didn’t seem like being in nature. It just seemed uncomfortable – because the tent managed to get placed over a ditch, so I pretty much slept in a hole for a week. Or the tent was under a tree that dropped spiders down on it. And the bonfire smell in everything for weeks afterward.
Yet there’s sometimes this sentiment that “real” witchcraft/paganism/whatever only happens out in nature/outdoor festivals/etc. But isn’t nature everywhere? Even in the city?
In Nature, Of Nature
When I think back to my favorite stories, the correlation that held true then and now is being aware of the rhythms of the land, the weather, the plants, the animals, the spirit. And while you can certainly become in tune with nature while camping directly out in it – I’m appreciative of my inside home, and I guess I’ve always been. I still bond with my natural surroundings wherever I live, in all the ways I can manage. I recognize the connections.
And the other important lesson from those stories: the idea of waste not, want not. That part of me is still keenly aware and contemplating on how do I reduce our footprint. How can I use materials that are better for the environment? What habits can I change or develop that are better for nature and myself? And as much as I love old houses (we currently live in one that was built around 1900, which is pretty darn old for the Pacific Northwest), I think about energy and space efficient housing that could be our forever home. (Note: you can’t put a musician and an artist and 3+ cats in a tiny house…so I’m not talking tiny – but rather the emphasis on efficient, durable, and practical). It is something I think about a LOT, and try to do what I can, when I can.
So after working all of that out in my head, the fact that I’m not looking forward to camping doesn’t mean I don’t love nature, or understand it. Perhaps it’s because I understand it that I appreciate indoor accommodations even more. And I know that I can give more of myself as a teacher, performer, artist, etc – when I’m well-rested and feeling comfortable. I’m probably also just psyching myself out over it all, because I’ll be gone for so long overall, and I’m hoping that I won’t be battling sunburn, poison ivy, or bug bites for additional 4 weeks on the road.
Who knows – perhaps in this chapter of my life, I’ll come to a new appreciation! I’m sure it’s going to be fun because I know a lot of awesome people who will be there. The company’s much better this time around for sure. Let’s just hope we manage to not put the tent over a hole in the ground, or under a spider tree.