Tags: community

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I just got back home from an amazing Canoe Trip along the Wisconsin River. What I thought was just going to be a fun nature escape weekend turned into a life-awakening journey! Meeting up on Friday, my group of five joined a larger group on a sand barge in the river. As the evening progressed finally after dark our party was complete at about 20 people. Our tents in a tight knot, and the fire roaring in one corner, the river rushing along one side our little community was complete in its place. We were completely submerged in nature, and although there was resistance to embracing it, by the end there were moments when we were one with our great mama nature.

The journey was only to last two nights and just over two days. Not a very long time, but at the same time, the lessons learned, the people meet, the bonds created, the experience… how did we fit that all into such a short amount of time?! And each person had his or her own diverse roll in the collective and it was vitally important to the dynamic no matter how prominent or mundane, involved or independent.

One of the most unexpected lessons I learned was about positive male role models (a group of people that I’ve had some severe obstacles with.) I won’t deny my biggest obstacle with this group has been me. I put up huge barriers when I see any males come along that I just shove them right away. Well, this group of people has started to teach me about trust and how to even enjoy the company of dudes.

I don’t know why I view them as something so completely foreign to me after all I am male. And the more I make contact with men the more I realize how much I have in common with them. We all seem to have a certain awkward quality, no matter how put together and equipped for the situation. We’ll this trip I enjoyed breaking down some of my awkward barriers and getting to know other guys and the amazing things that they can offer me.

For me this was the realization of a dream journey I would have had as a kid. The crazy thing was when I was on this journey I had a hard time going on any of the trips my imagination would have dreamt up when I was a child. Instead I was only able to reminisce of all the physical adventures that I went on growing up. But that’s okay, this was the element I grew up in. Drowning myself in the hustle and bustle of the city it’s easy to forget the playful woods, wetlands, and waterways that were my playground for so long.

Maybe that is why I feel so awkward when it comes to people; I was so busy running away from the abusive human contact I got from men that I retreated to the woods. The forest socialized me. Taking me in, teaching me abstract lessons about the wilderness, wildlife, plants, paths, and skies. I was too busy learning to read the forest that I didn’t really learn to read the people I should have been learning from.

It was really strange to because it came right back. Once on the path, I knew how to watch my footing, and keep the path while avoiding poison ivy. On the Canoe my balance was a little wobbly at first but by the end that paddle and the water seemed just as seamless to my body as my hand is. Noises, flowers, plants, resources could all be identified, like an archaic card catalog of obsolete information long without use, but still just as valuable.

The group of people couldn’t have been a better mix of hodge podge folks. Coming from an eclectic background the only thing we really had in common was a general proximity, and casual connections. This was going to be my community for the next few days; it’s so funny how as the vacation progressed my first impressions morphed. And the more we shared the more distinct each person and his or her character became. It was great to see roles develop and scenarios unfold. I enjoyed immersing myself in conversations with different people and listening to the distinct parts of the tale we were all together spinning!

Delightfully music was involved as there were two or three guitars, a banjo, and a musical saw to be played as wells as hands for clamping and voices for singing! I really do enjoy musical characters… something about the ability to make music right out of thin air is just wondrous to me. I can whistle; for next year I really want to practice and begin to understand the dynamic of a wind instrument amongst a group of acoustics and vocals. I want to be able to play and create music with them.

Not everyone had the glory of music on his or her side but that did not dissuade from there own amazing abilities. Al had amazing skills and intuitions with the fire. He was able to summon flames from soggy logs and fires that would roar for hours with minimal work. I adored his talent as it meant warmth, safety and sustenance. Though the fire was unhappy when domesticated into cooking, I glimpsed the coals and hot embers and just thought about the skill that would be needed to make bread in such a coal bed. Both his and Dustins fires were great story tellers, and kept us entertained through the night, and were still hot enough for me to create new flames with fresh wood each morning.

No matter what roll people were playing we were all there to have fun and work together and to create a community. It was great how we all tended to each other watching out for needs and wants. And watching on how different our admissions of love were. From the nurturing sustenance giving food shares, to the playful sandcastle built on someone’s sleeping body. We all wanted to have a good time and for everyone else to have a good time as well. And I think we all did a great job of doing that on our little escapes from the restraints of civilization.

On the topic of civility, and all the restraints there of, I do have to admit a flush toilet at the end of our journey was such a welcome sight. Some were even comfortable enough to shower in the private stalled public showers… I just opted for a sit down toilet break, deciding I could wait to shower. Though I couldn’t wait until I got back to my own house and private bathroom rituals, I know that if I were to live out in the wild I would have a much easier to acclimating to outhouses or river showers. For a weekend away, I could just wait and make due.

Although yes that was significant in the greater scheme of things toilets are just one little notch hardly tethering me to the convenience of society. What else is holding me back from a life in the woods? If I had a house in the woods I’d be safe from the elements and I’d have security. Food can be raised and harvested. Water can be distilled and purified. So why would I be so hesitant to run to the woods and disappear, or go off the grid. This tossed together community was able to, for a very short period, work together and be self-sufficient. With more in-depth planning, communication, strategizing, and good hard work, plans could be in the works for a truly self-sufficient community.

What keeps me bound to this life I’ve decided to lead. How plausible would it be to find a good group of people and step away? While I’m busy figuring out that I will just have to live off the memories of this amazing and grand adventure, and eagerly anticipate next year and the wonders that will meet me then!
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