Camping With Sixteen Year Old Boys

August 1, 2017   The three boys were tethered together, heads bent towards a small object. Behind them, a pond was jiggered by a strong breeze. Around them sturdy maples shifted in the same air. Only the phone existed in this moment. It is the reality of our world. Sixteen year old boys aren’t likely to shift their reality simply because they find themselves in a world of forests, ponds, loons. They aren’t enthralled by the family of Mergansers or the nifty tautline hitch holding the tarp tight against the breeze.

As lovers of the wild, we are gospel-spreaders. With ardor in full sail, we expound on what we know and see. What we don’t see are the shifting eyes and disinterested body language of others. We forget the elemental rule of outdoor leisure: let boys be boys. They will ask if they want to know. They will try if they want to learn. Boy-learning evolves from goofing around, overcoming fear, and playful experimentation. It has to be fun and self-chosen. If it is important it is retained. Otherwise, they move on.

Ultimately, it is about the experience, the collection of memories, the stuff talked about, and the sense of being unbound. An over-engineered experience, heavy on structure and lecture sends them to the tent. Turning them loose, scaring the shit out of them with tales, and providing alluring food and drink gets their interest. If you are really lucky they ask about doing it all again.

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