Robert & Roberta Adair

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Wednesday was a national holiday, so businesses (and church) closed down. R, J, and I went to our friend’s camp (or rather the camp her parents are managing) a few hours south of us. We went in December when it was covered in a lovely layer of snow. This time it was spring, and the woods practically shouted at me as I got out of the car. The smell, the air, the breeze, the fresh.

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There is a word in Japanese that conveys a feeling of fondness, nostalgia, and joy (natsukashii – said with a lot of expression and a dopey smile). That’s what I felt – what I feel – when I’m in the woods. It’s somehow home. I didn’t grow up in the woods, but I regularly went to the woods with my family. Some of my fondest memories as a kid (and college student) are playing/helping in the woods: getting the roads passable for trucks, checking on deer stands, and, of course, getting lots and lots of firewood for our wood stove. We also enjoyed playing with ferns, looking for and eating teaberries, and…lots of make believe time.

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Then there’s the camp thing. I had a great experience with Christian camp (starting when I was 8 and going every year until I was…22?…for anywhere from 1 to 6 or 7 weeks). It’s familiar, cozy, and natsukashii.

Then there’s the work thing. I enjoy grunt, few-skills-needed work. I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment when I’ve done something involving my hands, back, and sweat. There are few things that I do here where I feel competent – that feel familiar. I’m not good at so many things (understatement of the week). Yet I am a hard worker with decent experience from going to the woods from the time I was really little, volunteering at camp, and working at a farm-ette and a driving range. (and does helping to build sets in tech theatre count?) I enjoyed doing yard work at home, too – mowing, mulching, weeding, edging, trimming trees and hedges, planting and harvesting, etc.

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I’m realizing now that going to a work day at the camp was entirely more for me than for the camp itself. I didn’t realize before I went how much I was looking forward to it (again, “it” being some combination of 1) time in the woods, 2) at a camp, and 3) working up a sweat). I guess I went with way too high of expectations…which is partially to explain why I crashed as soon as I got in the car (ahem, figuratively). I tried to be okay with working inside (cleaning an already-clean room) to be where the other young women were and where J wouldn’t get into too much trouble. I tried to be okay with going inside for lunch after I finally got to have a rake and do some exhilarating raking of twigs and branches (for at least 10 minutes – a few of which were spent extracting a pine cone from J’s mouth. true story). I tried to be okay being more or less done after lunch (2 hours of work and an hour and a half of eating and hanging out)…with not working up a sweat.

I tried to understand why I got super sullen and couldn’t talk to R for several hours except in grunts and gurgles. Then I cried…and, half praying and half swearing, said, “God, I miss home. I miss Kosovo where I could bike to a friend’s house on a day off and work outside. I miss the Barrens (the name of the woods) and mom’s garden and feeling competent and known. God.”

[There’s more I started to write but deleted – about how I still don’t know so much about Japanese culture that “helping” feels like it would be more of a burden than a help (creating obligation and all that a;ldsfkj) and I don’t know the rules (when to take breaks, the right kind of gloves or boots or sun protection, the whole precise system). It just feels hard. I also deleted stuff about being a mum, being a woman/wife compared to being single overseas, and how things I do now like hiking, beach trash pickups, and very occasionally helping oyster farmers are great…but aren’t the same as time in the woods feeling industrious, semi-competent, and sweaty.]

Originally posted on Adair Update...

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