Nature, Prince, and Pig’s Blood

On this, the last day of my mini summer vacation and a few days past my 39th (gah!) birthday, I sit by an open window, a soft breeze blows in despite the oppressive heat outside, and birds, crickets and a buzzing fly provide the soundtrack. Since moving to the country almost one year ago, I’ve often experienced the strange feeling of being away while at home. It’s a summer cottage sensation, a lazy dream state in which my body feels pleasantly heavy, my mind at peace. I look out at the trees and wildflowers and my eyes rest in a way that is impossible in a busy city landscape. It is lovely.

Ah, nature.

Ah, nature.

He must have caught me contemplating because, during our first summer together, my Monsieur looked over at me and, delighted, accused me of liking nature. I say “accused” because, for my whole life, I have thought of myself as an urban person who doesn’t like dirt, has zero wilderness survival skills, and gets stung by all the insects. It’s all too true — I would much prefer an afternoon at a museum, followed by light shopping and a Niçoise salad, to a day of hiking, followed by building a shelter and foraging for wild mushrooms. However, once all of my security and nesting needs are met, I must reluctantly admit that nature is far prettier than even a Matisse. My favourite natural thing has always been the ocean and water in general. Yet I’ve mostly disdained outdoor activities, with camping as the epitome of everything I abhor.

Brenda’s first camping recollection: I must have been 4 or 5, my parents had split up, and my dad had forgotten the tent poles. So we slept in a shabbily propped up tent, it rained and we got tremendously wet.

Since that first time, I recall many chilly nights, much rain, and frequent stumblings in the dark to get to a smelly, insanely bright campground bathroom with a million bugs in it. I should now mention two other things I don’t care for much: spiders and peeing in the woods.

I should preface this by saying that my childhood summers were extremely pleasant overall, with beach and cottage visits as highlights. Yet, one summer stands out as THE WORST. And yes, there is pig’s blood involved…

Worst camping memory: I can only guess that I was 8 years old, the summer of 1984, the year Purple Rain was released. That summer my dad must have caught a wilderness zeal that was even more intense than usual because we went on a camping trip that lasted an eternity. We left for at least one week, maybe even 8 or 9 days! That equals forever in kid time. We went to a provincial park a few hours’ drive away. I remember it through the fog of childhood with a few bizarre sharply recalled details. The trip involved some of the usual annoyances, of course, like feeling cold most of the time, having to pee in the middle of the night when it’s extremely dark with spiders and slugs lurking behind every corner, being bored by extended canoeing and such, and finding the cold river vastly inferior to the awesome seaside that existed a mere 20 minutes from our house. But there are two things that I will never forget…



The Good: crying doves

There was, mercifully, a recreation centre in the park where the bored teenagers who worked there loaned out board games to campers on rainy afternoons. There may have been ping pong tables too. Anyways, one of the employees there was named Brenda. In 1984, Brenda was already an old fashioned name and rarely did we meet each other. The other Brenda was not particularly pretty or cool, I would remember if she had been, but I distinctly recall her singing along to Prince’s When Doves Cry on the radio. I had previosuly disliked the song, but that day the plaintive crying of doves spoke to me in my camping nightmare. I have been a Prince fan ever since.

The Bad: the house of horrors

The park was about to close down for the Fall and there were celebratory end of season events. It must have been customary to include a haunted house as part of the festivities. And so, from the twisted mind of teenagers sprung this thing! How can I describe it? I recall having to enter it by crawling through broken glass. Then there was a passage with hands grabbing at me from all sides. Then, THEN, there was the fortune teller with her crystal ball. I was made to hold “eyeballs” that were really peeled grapes, that type of thing. Then I was told to sink both of my hands into a bowl of pig’s blood! Dear reader, to this day I am not 100% certain that it was not actual pig’s blood, the smell of it was so bad. Try as I might, I could not wash the scent of that gooey dark mixture off of my hands. I had trouble sleeping because of the persistent aroma and I can recall it still.

Is it any surprise that an activity I never really liked took on the status of most dreaded way to pass a vacation? Thankfully, I am now able to enjoy nature without having to sleep outside or have any direct contact with the blood of swine. How do you experience the outdoors — friend or foe?


  1. Your camping stories have me nodding – they confirm my life-long hatred of camping and all things outdoors. Tents and “comfort stations” and trying to deny a needy bladder at 2 a.m. are all that camping means to me. We went to a friend’s cottage a few weekends back and it was lovely – warm and sunny and the lake was calm and peaceful. We had a lovely time, but between the bugs and the lack of showers and the sunburns, a weekend was about all I could take. An 8 day camping trip – the HORROR, even without the haunted house!

    • I’m so glad you understand! The most insane thing to me is that camping actually costs quite a bit between the gear, fees and gas. I’ll save my dollars for a resort vacation, thanks.

  2. I’m so over camping!

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