Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Forest for the Trees

I was raised on a steady diet of hot dogs, kool-aid, tv dinners, and reruns. As kids, our summer days were spent loafing in front of the tube watching game shows while the sun blazed outside: the Price is Right, Family Feud, and whatever the one was where you yelled ‘no whammies!’ Our exercise was strolling to the kitchen to get a bag of Oreos. We also raised our heart rates by complaining vehemently when our siblings stole the good spot on the couch while we were in the bathroom. Sure, at night, sometimes we practiced cartwheels in the front yard, or played hide and seek with the neighbour kids. (Why did our parents let us use the fire hydrant as home base? Ewwww!) And, we did organized sports. Like soccer.

My husband Steve’s family, although he was also brought up in the same era, might as well have been raised on another planet. They had a cottage at the lake--with no tv. He spent his free time swimming, hiking, paddling the canoe and playing cards, and creating an elaborate pinecone fort in the woods behind his house in which the pinecones were people. As far as I can tell, very few of the seven kids ever did any organized sports. I once asked my mother-in-law if Doug, Steve’s dad, had ever been a sporty guy. “Well, when he was younger, he did some gymnastics. You know, tumbling.”

Tumbling? As in....falling down? (I think I showed admirable restraint and respect for my in-laws when I only thought this and did not say it out loud.) Of course, my father-in-law was one of the fittest men I’d ever seen, who canoed down the Yukon river in his late 70s, portaging the canoe and sleeping outside every night for weeks. Once, when we were all at the lake and Doug was maybe 80, he took his shirt off and Steve cringed, whispering to me “Look, my dad is more buff than me.” Meanwhile everyone in my family who has done years of playing on sports teams ages badly, our pathetic knees disintegrating like the weak legs of the crappy TV trays we used so often.

I’m telling you this because the other day, while my kids were at swimming lessons, I went for a walk in the woods. Now, this wasn’t the first time, of course. I was in Brownies as a kid, and I seem to remember going on walks sometimes with them. Most of the time I’d be needling the kid beside me to try to get a reaction while we were supposed to be learning about slugs or something. But as an adult? By choice? As a form of exercise? Bah. But it was......nice. It was quiet and green and I could hear birds chirping. It was cool in the forest and even I’ll admit, smelled much nicer than the chlorine-y pool we all endure while we watch swimming lessons. It looked like there were berries and stuff growing in there and I wondered when they would ripen. I was just starting to see the whole up-side to this nature thing when I tripped on a tree root and twisted my ankle. Damn! Shouldn’t they pave this and smooth it all out like a turf field? Someone could get really hurt in here!

As I limped back I began to imagine the conversation I would have about this with Steve:

“I went for a walk in the woods while the kids were at swimming lessons,” (me to him, while he only half listens and reads a book on Greek philosophy.)

“Who did? You?”

“I know, right?”

Steve is now actually paying attention and looking at me. “What happened, did a soccer ball accidently roll in there or something?”

“Har Har.” But then I started to think. You know what? It would probably be really good practice to dribble a soccer ball through that forest path. Hmm...

Now I’m starting to get this weird rash on my arm. Do you think it’s poison ivy? Also, does poison ivy just float around in the air, or do you have to actually touch the plant? Can it tell when you’re scared, like a horse, and pick on you? It’s all Greek to me.

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