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How I stopped hating Mother Nature and learned to hug a tree

By Staff | Mar 30, 2011

I was fourteen, reading Seventeen, and came across one of those inane quizzes gracing magazines targeted at teenage girls. Rather than promising to unearth what my shoe choice said about my kissing technique or discover how my birth order would determine my career path, this quiz promised only to impart what my birthday month revealed about me. Seemed possible … and fifteen multiple choice questions later, I had been declared: A Nature Girl.

Apparently, I loved tying my hair into braids and yanking on my hiking boots to spend a weekend outdoors, basking in the sun’s golden rays and frolicking in nature’s playground.

Seventeen couldn’t have been more wrong.

My dislike for the outdoors was rooted somewhere in my sixth birthday. Long begging for a camping trip (without any knowledge of what camping really was), I finally convinced my parents. Neither of them being the outdoorsy type, we rented a pop-up camper trailer and took off. To set up “camp,” all that was really required was the turning of a crank to raise the trailer … which quickly got jammed … which led to my mom crawling through the window to unjam … which led to my mom getting stuck, her ass hanging out the window for half an hour. Let’s just say “mother nature” took on a new meaning after that.

But if there’s one thing about mothers, it’s that they’re persistent. Like a glacier through craggy rock, nature slowly eroded it all: my fear of insects, snakes, spiders; my hatred of mosquito bites, poison ivy, and sun blisters; my disdain for not having access to a toilet or running water.

From a hermetically sealed life indoors to a cabin-feverish yearning for the outdoors, here are the ways I have to assume mother nature converted me:

– A camping trip. I know I said camping contributed to my nature aversion, but gather your friends (not family), buy some supplies (not a pop-up trailer), and head for the woods (or your backyard). Canoe the Boundary Waters! Drink through a float trip! Hell, pack the car and road trip to Bonnaroo! It’s all a party, but outside, where you can vomit anywhere.

– An outside job. As a child I was offered a nickel for every bag of mulch I could spread in our yard. Being the industrious girl I was — naive to minimum wage and child labor laws — I accepted. This eventually lead to five summers of landscape work. Nothing helps you get over your fear of worms faster than mulching a yard or laying sod.

– A pet. Prefer not to venture out? Bring the outdoors in! Welcoming a feral cat into your domestic space will foster reverence and respect for nature’s creatures. (How can a cat get stuck between the glass window pane and the window screen? How can a cat survive living in the broiler pan for a week?)

– A landscape dominated by verdant foliage. Beautiful scenery, extra oxygen, it really needs no explanation.

– A landscape dominated by concrete. Suddenly any leaf, dandelion, or weed is a welcome source of green in your life. Indeed, with distance the heart grows fonder.

And, if all else fails, actually go hug a tree. You might feel a little creepy, might get a strange look, someone might even call you a pervert, but be it sapling or sturdy maple, nothing can beat the gentle scruff of bark against one’s cheek.

For those of you hating on the great outdoors, I urge you to slip off your shoes and socks, stick in your big toe, and get your proverbial feet wet. You might just find the water’s warmer than you thought (thanks to all the pee) and the leeches are less painful than you’d heard.