Finding Nature in Listening

As winter begins to tightens its grip on Canada I become nostalgic and reflect upon not only this past summer but also why I have such warm memories of that season.  Growing up my brother, sister and I spent a lot of time outside.  I assumed everyone did.  The three of us filled our days by piling wood, filling bird feeders, racing bottles in a stream, climbing trees, visiting the farm animals, among other things.  But, for myself, camping made the most significant lifelong impact.  As kids the three of us would brave a ridiculous amount of mosquitoes, pile into a tent and sleep in our backyard throughout the summer.  The family camping trips to Farran Park, the Raisin River and Lake Placid cemented an appreciation for nature that I didn’t fully grasp until many years later.

Hoping to pass a similar appreciation to my daughter, I began to press outdoor activities.  I struggled with the all too familiar parental battle of mitigating “screen time”.  Let’s go for a hike, bike ride, swim, anything to get out of the house and be active.  Why don’t you want to be outside?  Or, was it that I wasn’t listening to what my daughter was saying?  It turned out that she wanted to be active and do these outdoor adventures just not on my timeline; when I thought it would be convenient to do it.  Several weeks ago, I talked about how I had an extreme need for detailed vacation plans and wrestled to embrace not planning.  So, this season I tried not planning camping!

How can you not plan a camping trip?  Impossible you might think!!!  Actually, it’s pretty easy.  At the point when camping is suggested you look outside; if sunny you start throwing equipment into the back of the car.  My only pieces of key equipment are a tent, sleeping bags, child, dog and s’mores.  Although many other items are convenient, just roll with it and address if the need arises.  Let’s be honest – you will never be far from a store.  I found we could be completely (or more accurately incompletely) on the road within an hour.

Did I add that normally we don’t have a reservation.  The calamity and uncertainty has been made part of the fun.  Luckily, we live relatively close to several Ontario Provincial Parks along Lake Huron.  We laugh when a park is full and we are turned away at the gates, taking bets if the next one will let us in.  The unwanted adventurers persevere!  Thankfully we have always found a campsite and have yet to spend the night in a Walmart parking lot.  The spontaneity has quelled any expectations and allowed us to embrace whatever happens, live in that moment and enjoy the experience.

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I feel somewhat embarrassed even saying this but I can’t believe how much my daughter and I talked on these trips.  We talked while we hiked, rode our bikes, watched the sun set and at the campfire.  We both have had our challenges over the last two years and nothing brought us closer together this summer than our camping trips.  On weekends that we couldn’t venture off to a campsite we’d set the tent up in the back yard, have a campfire, eat s’mores and talk.

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Why did it take me so long to begin listening?  I suppose it was hard for me to hear anything with all the telling I was spewing.  Isn’t it my job as a parent to teach?  I suppose our kids do some teaching towards us as well.  I am extremely grateful to be sharing my love of the outdoors with my daughter.  I really am lucky she is so patient with me.  Especially when she is scolding me for looking at my phone while camping!!!

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Michael Brunt

PhD | Science curious | Single dad | Animal lover | Motorcycle enthusiast | Traveller

4 thoughts on “Finding Nature in Listening

  1. […] There are so many traditions in my family surrounding the Christmas tree.  I remember every year on the farm, going as a family to find the perfect tree.  We’d tie our sleds to the tractor and wagon for a ride through the fields towards the forest at the back of the property.  Even though there were hundreds of trees to pick from we always seemed to pick one that looked amazing outside but upon erecting it in the house, it turned out to be a Charlie Brown tree.  Ok, maybe not that bad but thinking back, I smile.  As we got a little older, we could invite friends to partake in the fun.  My Mom would bring hot chocolate and my Dad would start a small brush fire to roast hotdogs and keep warm. The tree quality never did improve, even with more eyes during the selection process.  Once again, my parents reinforced a love for the outdoors. […]


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