Thursday, April 11, 2013

Short Story Thursday -Adventureland

One day on Christmas break (the second most wonderful time of the year for teachers) I was eating lunch with my (then) boyfriend when he said, “I want to go on an adventure.” This simple sentence made me like him just a little bit more because I am ALWAYS saying the exact same thing. Being a teacher I sometimes feel like my life is the same thing day in and day out. Wake up at the same time, drive the same drive, spend eight hours a day in the same classroom with the same kids, and doing the same subject 200 days a year can really get to someone. I akin it to the American educational system’s version of Chinese water torture. Eventually, the feeling of, “I MUST do something new” becomes overwhelming.

My boyfriend and I immediately started discussing viable options for an “adventure.”

I brought up to him the fact that I have been fascinated with post apocalyptic novels and dystopias for quite a while. Granted, post apocalyptic books are generally, if not always, dark and twisty, but I can't get enough of them. I think that it all started with reading Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road.” I love the idea of being one of the last people of earth and my whole life being geared toward survival. Not worrying about work, bills, or grown up responsibilities, but simply LIVING.

You've got to admit that it sounds pretty tempting!

However, I wasn’t really able to sell the whole idea of dominating the world and creating our own utopia (or dystopia depending on which end of my world domination you are on) to my boyfriend. He instead suggested we work on an adventure that would be feasible in a weekend and perhaps with less mass casualties (not devoid of ALL casualties mind you, just less).

If he was surprised by my first idea he was even more unprepared for my next response. I told him about a book that I had read last spring that completely stuck with me.

I very rarely laugh out loud at anyone or anything and generally look like I am upset about one thing or another. I can't count the number of times that people walk past me and ask, "Is everything all right?" and I always have to reply, "Yea sorry, this is just how my face looks." It's not that I don't find things funny or amusing neither do I suffer from acute disillusionment (Fun Fact: Virginia Woolf was so disillusioned with life she drowned herself in a nearby lake). It is just that nothing is funny ENOUGH. 

"A Walk in the Woods" is the first book that not only made me laugh out loud but made me HURT from laughing. I stumbled upon 'A Walk In The Woods" because I had just finished John Krakauer's book "Into the Wild" and was obsessed with the idea of dropping everything and running off into the woods and living off the land. The fact that the main character of "Into the Wild" dies of starvation and perhaps poisoning didn't dissuade me at all from my pursuit to learn more. I picked up "A Walk In The Woods" because it seemed to fit right into this desire of mine to rediscover nature. 

From the first page Bryson regaled me with his blunt, sarcastic, and crotchety accounts of preparing for his trip into nature. He details everything from the shopping, to the packing, to the hardships, downfalls, and dangers of the trail in the same witty and irreverent fashion that kept me laughing and calling my friends to share quotes (Seriously I did this...they had to ask me to stop). Bryson also adds in interesting facts about the trail and nature that he encounters on the trail. Some people might find this boring and skip through it, but I actually found it interesting and helpful. For example, I was watching "The Happening" with friends and one boy got so incensed that he shouted to the room, "This is so stupid, plants could never do that!" I was able to pull the book out of my purse and say, "Well actually, according to Bill Bryson's book "A Walk in the Woods" trees and other plants CAN communicate with each other by emitting a chemical that warns each other of incoming danger." People in the room may have made fun of me more for carrying a book in my purse instead of praise me for my remarkable intelligence, but I still got to feel personally triumphant for knowing a useless fact at exactly the right time.

This book was so amusing and addictive I was just waiting for my opportunity to wrangle someone into going on an outdoor adventure with me.

I regaled my boyfriend with sample places and ideas for hiking adventure ideas for quite some time. It didn’t have the desired impact that I had intended because he said, “Wow, lunch was great! I have some phone calls to make so I should go….I’ll call you later.”

I really didn’t feel like wasting a carefree Christmas break afternoon especially since I had gotten myself all riled up so I devised my own plan.

I decided that my puppy and I were going to explore my own backyard. I recently moved into a house that is smack dab in the middle of 8 acres of woods. It seemed like the perfect solution to my problem: easy enough to do in an afternoon, but still new and exciting enough to take a bit of the edge off.

My puppy and I headed out into the vast wilderness that is my backyard. We had a great time crawling over and under fallen trees, splashing in the creeks and rolling streams, investigating animals tracks, and being out in the fresh air. We had a great time, that is, until I realized I had absolutely no idea where we were. Yes, I will admit it, I got lost in my own backyard.

My puppy and I stumbled through the woods for what seemed like days, during which time I realized that it gets really cold, damp, and generally uncomfortable in the woods and it is really not all that fun when the only thing you have to talk to is a dog. I also realized that I am one of the most uncoordinated people you will ever meet. I must have fallen into 27 holes, 3 streams, and slipped on ice that didn’t exist 10 times. Each time I would trip, fall, or maim myself my dog would look at me with a withering stare that I just know was saying, “I can’t believe I got YOU for an owner.”

Finally, after about two hours of “exploring” I heard the sound of cars and rushed my dog towards the direction of the sounds. We crawled out of the woods and I realized that we were right in the midst of someone’s cow pasture. As covertly and quietly as possible (I live in the south where the motto ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ is taken waaaay too literally) I maneuvered my puppy and myself through and over fences so we could make it to the main road at which point I found out we were still one to two miles away from home.

When we made it back to our house I threw myself down on my warm and comfortable bed and decided that maybe my boyfriend had the right idea when he ran away as soon as possible at my “bright” idea.

Reading about adventures and actually GOING on adventures are two different things.

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