Notes from the North

Us having a great time at Mackinic IslandCamping is my favorite!

I always say that and, in theory, it’s true. Camping is one of my favorite weekend activities. Not, like, ALL the time, but sometimes. The great outdoors. Building character. Oatmeal. You know.

So I hit the road with some friends and some others that were soon to be friends, and we rolled into a sparsely wooded camp ground by Mackinaw City at about 9 o’clock to find out we might freeze to death. We knew it would be cold. We knew it would likely rain. But we meant to have a damn good time if it killed us. I think that’s really how camping goes for me most of the time. It’s all ra, ra, ra until I get there, and then I’m a practiced stubborn blockhead practically falling over myself to “have a good time” (another way of saying I was a boyscout).

Yea, I can rough it.

“I only packed one backpack, and it’s not even full.” (I said that)

“Showers? Who needs showers?” (Said that too. There’s a record of that cause I said it on FB before we left)

…Guess who made use of those showers?

Yes, yes, so I’m like some other men who think there are dude-points to be had by being uncomfortable and roughing it. Point given and taken. But I began to realize this past weekend that there is something more to spending some time in less than optimal comfort. I like my showers, but sitting around a fire with as many extra layers as I can find, everyone staring at those flames and ducking the nastier gusts of wind – there’s nothing like it.

The week leading up to our expedition had been rough – pushed me down to a low place, and I saw this as one of those escapes. Just needed to get away and get to a space where there was enough room to think. I needed a lot of room because my thoughts were big and too loud for the dinner table. Part of my worries had to do with the future; graduation sneaks up and real life pounces from those taller grassy areas we spend our lives avoiding. I spent half the ride up to Mackinaw with this insane idea I’d move to England after they handed me a diploma. It was sort of like the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day…Can we move to Australia? I can take all my friends and leave all my problems.

I even texted my mom to see what she thought about York in a part-serious part smart-ass attitude.

“You chasing a girl or a job?” she asks.

I laughed and told her I was kidding.

But just at that moment I don’t think I was, and I thought about it after. Until that week I had been chasing after a life of comfort and security. I was comfortable where I was with the friends I had and I didn’t want to budge. No thanks God.

God shakes the snow globe and I get a headache.

Heading off first thing to England was a strong reaction, possibly inducing a heavenly chuckle or two, but in hindsight camping that weekend was enough to shake me awake a little. There were so many of those “morning alarms” I don’t know where to start: Some of the greatest people you’ll ever meet, a peaceful island with no cars, scary man-eating geese, my peculiar aversion to loosing a finger to frostbite.

It was all so anti-TV-and-couch-sulking I finally had the chance to realize that it’s in the times we are not so comfortable that we feel the most alive.

This isn’t a bro claim. Bros can claim it, (or hipsters) but I think it’s truth and it caught me by surprise. It may sound obvious to many of you, (I received a comment to that effect on the ride back when I shared), but it wasn’t to me the week before, and the whole weekend centered on that point.

During our trip it rained off and on as we figured it might, but we were never once caught in it. Always we had shelter just when it started getting wet, and by the time we had to leave that shelter (the car, the tent, the ferry) it would let up.

I came to realize I was more up for an adventure than I thought I might be, and I probably don’t have to run off to another country to find it (although I’m still open to that). I just have to be willing to set aside that treasured security we spend our lives burrowing in around us like a fox hole.

Let’s be real. I’m not the biggest fan of freezing by buttocks off. But that weekend I felt like I was on top of America!


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