‘The tonic of wildness’

In our household, whether we’re rolling or parked, Deb is the self-appointed Weather Sentinel. These days everyone has the ability keep tabs on conditions and forecasts, and she uses every tool at her disposal. I may kid her about it, and yeah, sometimes attention verges on obsession, but more than once it’s saved our ass.

For example, we’d just arrived in Shelby, Montana last month when she learned of “red flag warnings” for the route we’d planned to travel over the next several days. Thanks to her vigilance, we were able to adjust our itinerary and avoid driving in winds as high as 60mph.

Deb’s been monitoring the weather carefully the last few days, what with the boys visiting. She saw that heavy storms were headed our way late yesterday, and she issued all of us regular updates. We managed to get our canoeing adventure in, return to the campground and have a wonderful cookout before the area was put under a tornado watch.

By that time, radar looked downright menacing. Deb and I prepped for the expected blow — everything outside was stowed or secured, flag down and awning in. And right on cue, we got hit with a brief but vicious microburst.

It was over almost as suddenly as it began. Thanks to Deb’s vigilance, she and I came through it just fine. And I suppose you should expect that of us — this our life, full-time. We know the drill.

The kids’ campsite was another story.

Fortunately, their tents stayed put. An E-Z UP canopy, which they’d just bought, was picked up and mangled by the wind before they could save it. Other stuff got tossed around.

All of these young people are, by some definition, “experienced” campers. And now they have more experience. This, I hope, is how we learn.


Best we can remember, our boys last saw their cousin — the one who lives “up on the mountain” east of here — more than a dozen years ago. That called for a road trip, and since this would be their last day here, it was today or bust.

We know they enjoyed seeing where and how their cousin lives. Deb and I, after dining on BBQ we brought and engaging in some intense porch-sittin’, did something we hadn’t done on our previous visits — we got off the porch and walked the property awhile.

Guided by her cousin, we ventured away from the cabin and up the rock-strewn slope into the woods. Warm light filtering through the canopy flickered and danced on the ground. The breeze was cool but not cold, for the most part blocked by terrain and dense vegetation.

A few minutes in, we stopped and looked around. The woods had swallowed us — we could see no sign of “civilization” in any direction. Trees rustled in the wind, which carried the scent of cedar. Nearby, a small bird stirred up the leaf-covered forest floor.

Otherwise, we were enveloped in silence.

Walking those woods today evoked many of the same feelings as gliding on the Buffalo yesterday afternoon. The scene was different, as was the scale. But because we took the time and made the effort, once again we were greeted by wonder.

In the sweep of our lives these moments are fleeting. And yet, as Thoreau told us,

“We need the tonic of wildness — to wade sometimes in marshes where the bittern and the meadow-hen lurk, and hear the booming of the snipe; to smell the whispering sedge where only some wilder and more solitary fowl builds her nest, and the mink crawls with its belly close to the ground. … We need to witness our own limits transgressed, and some life pasturing freely where we never wander.”

The only way to understand that is to get out.

Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.

#WiseUp #LibertyOrDeath

#LetsGoBrandon