No, I don’t mean you should strip to a loincloth and go see if you can survive with just a knife. what I do mean is that if you’re going to go out and enjoy nature; if you’re going to “escape civilization” and all the negative energy and stress that comes with it; if you’re going to go out and enjoy nature, then you should do so with an eye toward getting in touch with your inner animal.
I have no clue when early man first used a sharp-edged tool to cut something (more than likely himself accidentally before realizing the tool’s potential). I have no idea when early man first discovered the ability to make fire rather than just utilizing it when nature created it. I DO know that, at least for me, there is a visceral connection to using either one.
Let’s be honest: knives are scary. Sure, if you’re the one holding it and using it, it’s not scary. Then again, if you’re quartering a chicken at your kitchen sink, you’re pretty careful not to cut yourself with that butcher knife. Why? Because being cut is something we’ve all experienced accidentally at some point in our lives. It’s a known injury, pain and fear. It’s not something we ever want to voluntarily experience. So why do I say knives are scary? Because if they are in the hands of someone else and that someone else seeks to do you harm, that sharp edge flashing back and forth will certainly make your stomach clench with fearful anticipation of that fast, sharp bite that (eventually) starts to bleed. You don’t know how bad the injury is until the blood starts to flow and you can find out what still works (or not). So I guess the best way to say this is, knives CAN be scary – if you’re facing them instead of using them.
Fire is just as scary. Have you ever been burned? Gotten too close to the flames when roasting a marshmallow and singed the hair on your knuckles? hand? arm? Have you felt the sear on your flesh when you did something wrong in the kitchen and touched that hot metal? Have you reached for the iron, misjudged distance, and felt that sting? Flames produce heat, and heat is scary if experienced the wrong way. What’s the right way? When we’re using that heat to cook or generate warmth for comfort. There is something particularly satisfying about cooking food over an open fire. That’s why campfires are so much fun!
So, think about it: that’s two very primitive tools and/or skills that we possess. Usually, during a camping or backpacking trip, we end up using one or both. I encourage you, during those moments, to experience them fully. Let go your thoughts about the television show that your DVR is recording for you while you’re gone. Release yourself from the stress of work waiting for you when you get back. FOCUS on the simple pleasure of building that fire and then using it to prepare food and generate warmth. Heck, sometimes it even helps to keep the bugs away. FOCUS on holding that knife and using it in a safe skillful manner to perform a task that will help you build your shelter, prepare your food or modify some other item you need to use.
While you’re doing either one of those, embrace the animal that we all are. Yes, I know it sound hokey, but we quite often completely ignore a great deal of what we experience because we’re so busy being “grown up” or “civilized.” SMELL what’s around you. Every batch of woods smells different. Rivers, creeks, lakes… they all have their own scents. Mountains smell different that beaches; beaches smell different than wetlands; everything smells different after a good rainfall. Whatever your location and circumstance, SMELL it.
SEE everything there is around you. Quite often we focus on the grand scenery and the wondrous views. While you’re busy looking at the snow-covered mountain tops, you might miss the chipmunks skittering away from your footsteps, or the beauty of a spider’s web (usually we don’t see those and we walk right through them, immediately cursing the spider who is only living as nature designed him to live).
FEEL the air around you; how humid it is; how cool it is; which direction the breeze is going – and what scents it’s bringing you from places you’re not close enough to see yet.
Experience your time in nature from that primeval perspective. Enjoy it all you can as a human animal. Once you get “back to the world” then the experience is limited, if not (temporarily) lost. Enjoy it while you can!
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