Friday, August 10, 2012
The Hills Are Alive or Black People Like Trees Too
I'm black AND many of my "hobbies" take place in the woods or in/near bodies of water.
For some, these two concepts are mutually exclusive.
Some people think that I became an outdoor enthusiast during my time in boarding school or in college, because how could I, a little black girl from Bushwick even know that there were trees and mountains outside of the ones in the annual Thanksgiving airing of The Sound of Music? The hills are alive....
This is not the case. I blame it all on my parents.
First they sent to me to sleep-away camp Upstate New York at the tender age of eight. I was hurled into a world of nighttime stream hikes, swimming in a LAKE, playing in grass, climbing trees, camping out under the trees next to the lake, and taking walks in the woods for the sake of taking walks in the woods.
Then in middle school they signed me up for trips to the Adirondacks. The purpose of the trips was to reward those students with good grades with a chance to get out of the city for some quality time with the teachers we loved in the sticks. (Imagine a busload of urban kids hanging out in the mountains for a few days, living it up in lean-tos, scaring the "hard" boys of the group into believing there were black bears right outside their shelters in the middle of the night. Imagine.)
I discovered pretty quickly that I preferred to do this kind of stuff rather than worry about not being invited to popular kids' parties. I felt an immediate and reciprocated kinship with anything green and outside. As an adult trail-running, hiking, kayaking, canoeing, and ZIP-LINING!!!! are among my favorite things to do for exercise and for simply being in nature.
All of those activities bring back myriad memories from camp and those yearly trips up the Northway to the mountains. I breathe in the scent of pine or sassafras and I'm immediately taken back to that one time we shivered in the lean-tos in the late April snow....