I Am At Two With Nature (Woody Allen)
What is it about Nature? Normal people adore it, some even worship it. I know plenty of people who actually enjoy spending their weekends and summer vacations roughing it in the wild. Me, I just don’t get it. My idea of the perfect vacation involves room service and plenty of hot water on demand.
Our summer in the Pocono Mountains is winding down and I am no more at ease with my rustic surroundings than when I first arrived. Sure the views are breathtaking – I don’t think I have ever seen such lush green foliage, and, yes, the state parks that we visited were all truly outstanding. But, that is where I draw the line. For openers, this side of paradise comes with mosquitoes, lots of mosquitoes. Most of them have settled very comfortably in and around our bunk. They probably feel right at home with the nest of skunks that have been our neighbours for the better part of our stay. Then, there are the bears. We know two people in camp who nearly rubbed shoulders with a wandering black bear –they were not amused. Personally, I signed up to work in a kitchen, not to be a contestant in some reality survival show.
We’ve sighted deer all summer long- there are droves of them all over the Poconos. Unfortunately, one of those adorable critters attached himself to the front bumper of our co-worker’s car – while he was cruising on the highway. Fortunately, our friend came out unscathed; the front of his car, however, was totaled, and the deer- well, he didn’t fare so well. According to a recent article in the New York Times, one of this summer’s most “unwanted guests” is derived courtesy of- that’s right- the common deer. Deer carry a tick that is responsible for Lyme disease, an ailment I was totally ignorant of until I came across two people this summer who were laid flat by that nasty vermin. When I was a kid it was considered healthy fun to roll about in the grass. Not these days. It seems that high grass is a favourite hunting ground for deer ticks. If you really want to play it safe, stay put in the city.
Growing up in Hamilton I never really knew anybody who regularly went camping with their family – certainly not anybody whose parents were greeners. When I moved to Toronto I discovered that there were 3rd generation Canadian Jews who actually owned cabins in the woods, even winterized cabins. They went fishing on weekends and used expressions like “casting,” and “live bait.” Where I come from, Nature was basically confined to Sunday picnics that never veered too far from home. Our family’s idea of camping started with a big cooler filled with lots of ice and plenty of cooked food. The closest we came to fishing was opening a can of sardines. As far as I remember, we never owned a barbeque; my father would have been clueless if he would have had to grill our supper.
Many of those Sunday picnics were spent together with my cousins and my Aunty Dorothy and Uncle Gary who lived around the corner from us. My uncle and my father were buddies from before the War in Warsaw. They were both in the shmatta trade; my uncle was an excellent tailor. He probably could have sewn together a great looking tent, but that’s about it. The two of them somehow survived the Second World War by serving in the Russian Army – they probably saw enough of the outdoors to last them a lifetime.
Maybe it’s genetic, but I still prefer my Nature in manageable doses. Lori and the boys are the grill experts in our house and I don’t own a sleeping bag. All the same, I suspect that at some point on some wintery Jerusalem day I will long for those days of itching and scratching up in the Poconos.