Politics Magazine

The Pull of Summertime Wilderness

By Epicadventurer_

Every year, like clockwork, I start to crave wilderness.

It's a summer craving, a desire to go deep into the woods, or up into the mountains, or along a river - just so long as it's quiet, expansive, and disconnected. I think a lot of folks get a pull like this, to the wild, though I can't quite pinpoint why it's such a seasonal, predictable, instinctive urge.

Like nesting, perhaps, but inside myself.

I think there's a bit of American folklore about it - the idea that there is always space, and all we need to do is go find it. Having just landed home in the States yesterday for a brief vacation, I have space on the brain anyway; a trip to the supermarket last night saw me actually taking out my camera in wonder at an entire fridge for just hummus, and what felt like acres of fruit and fresh vegetables.

I think, though, that we at least appreciate the bounty of our country. And to grow up with an expectation on space, of privacy, or room for your thoughts and wide rambling trails and trees that sometimes actually can reach the clouds... it's a luxurious way to live. The simultaneous notions of roominess and autonomy appears to have seeded a nation where the ultimate indulgence for many is not to go glitz it up in a big city, but rather to grab a pair of boots and walk.

My new country, England, doesn't really "get" summer camp, which I think is a big part of the American mania for the outdoors - sending kids to get outside and swim, row, hike, build things (with their hands!) has no doubt impacted our adult identities. Even non-survivalists like myself (arts day camp, self-five!) would end up playing in the far fields, climbing campus trees, and staying out in the humid heat until the mosquitoes drove us in.

I think often of the film Dirty Dancing, and not only because I can very nearly credit Patrick Swayze with cementing that I wasn't gay. I think it's astonishing, given our current no-vacation work culture, to imagine that there was once a time when families would take weeks off in the summer to pack up the car, go for some wholesome outdoor fun, and inhabit a world of their own making. I wish it were that easy to leave things behind, to go away with no work or cell phones or beeping toys (let's face it, our gadgets are nearly all just toys), and come back tanned and scraped and blonder and stronger from time in the sun and lakes.

Every summer, the same instinct kicks in - to go slowly among the trees in a deep, quiet wood and come out again, richer.

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