My husband and I split up on Saturday. It was just for the day, but what caused us to go our separate ways was something that has always divided us and that reveals how very different we are.
My husband loves nothing better than to camp and hike in the great tick-ridden, mosquito-filled, venomous-snake-laced outdoors. I too adore nature. I am enthralled by the writings of naturalists such as Loren Eiseley and Annie Dillard. I am awed by nature photography and documentaries. I am stirred by poetry that celebrates the seasons, the starry firmament, or the miracle of life in all of its myriad manifestations…But Lord knows I certainly don’t want to actually be in nature.
I can’t fathom it. Why would you subject yourself to the hassle and discomfort of camping, if you weren’t homeless? Why would you want to gnaw on dry, uncooked food fished out of a hot, sweaty backpack? We’ve progressed so far beyond this! Flushing toilets, hot showers, comfortable beds, refrigeration, microwaves, air-conditioning, couches! Why would you give that all up on purpose?
…Which brings me back to Saturday. My husband decided it would be the perfect day to go on a hike in the Blue Ridge. I decided it would be the perfect day to take a daytrip to visit my parents and sister in Arlington. We knew the boys would want to go hiking, but we weren’t sure what our daughter’s preference would be. We presented her with the two options, never dreaming that we would be inflicting an agonizing Sophie’s Choice moment on her. Honestly, she looked like she was going to cry as she deliberated out loud.
“I really, really want to go to Grandma and Grandpa’s, but I really, really want to go hiking too!”
“Well,” I reasoned, bewildered by the fact that this was actually a difficult choice, and trying to make the decision a little easier for her, “I’m planning to take you to their house over Labor Day weekend, and that’s only a week away, so maybe you should go hiking.”
“But that’s SEVEN WHOLE DAYS,” she wailed.
Finally, we decided to put the poor girl out of her misery by flipping a coin. She went on the hike.
In Arlington as my sister and I drove to Harris Teeter to pick up some groceries, she asked me what my husband and kids were doing.
“They’re going hiking,” I said, shrugging my shoulders.
“Hiking?! What do you even do on a hike?” she asked.
“Well…I guess you drive to a mountain, find a trail, and then walk up to the top.”
“Why would you do that?” she asked, sincerely mystified.
“I have no idea. It’s not as if they’re being chased by Nazis.”
“Huh! I just don’t get it.”
“Me neither. That’s why I’m here, and not there.”
At that moment my husband called. He and the kids had gotten back from the hike and he was checking on my whereabouts.
“Ask him why he went hiking and if he really thinks that’s an enjoyable activity,” my sister urged.
I relayed her questions to him. He was rendered speechless. All he could muster was a: “Hunh?!?!”
“Oooh, gotta go,” I told him and hurriedly hung up the phone, because just then I witnessed a real spectacle of nature! I saw a flock of little birds taking a dirt bath in the mulch rings around the trees by the grocery store parking lot. I hung out of the window of my sister’s air-conditioned car and took a picture with my camera phone: