It started with a can of soup.
I was 4 years old. My sister and brothers were at the cool place they got to go every day while I stayed home with Mom. It was called “school,” but to me it was the greatest place on the planet because it was somewhere I couldn’t go.
One of the other places I couldn’t go was camping. I don’t remember going before. What I did know was that my brothers, through the Boy Scouts, got to go some place where you carried backpacks, slept outside in tents, and cooked on fires. The cooking on fires captivated my attention.
Just how did you cook on a fire? We had a gas stove in the house and it had fire, but certainly this wasn’t the same thing, was it?
Of course not, Mom said. She said it was a fire made from sticks. Like the sticks in the yard.
And so the questions came. The kind of relentless onslaught only a small child can produce.
What can we cook? Can we make hamburgers? Can we use the pots and pans the boys use? Can we do it next week?
When can we go camping?
As you can imagine, gathering up six children, two adults, and a dog wasn’t something my mother really wanted to do at that moment. It was cold and wet and there was laundry to do.
But, as parents do, she made a close enough approximation.
Mom raided my brother’s Scout equipment for a mess kit. A church key transformed a metal coffee can into a camp stove. Inside little sticks and twigs produced enough flame to warm the contents of the tiny pot.
Cream of chicken soup.
I don’t remember much else about the cooking experience, but I remember that this was more fun than I’d had in ages. I was camping.
Years rolled on and we didn’t do much outdoors as a family. This continued into my late teens and adulthood.
In high school I went on a couple of spelunking trips and fell in love with the outdoors all over again. I wanted to be a geophysicist until my lack of Calculus ability made me drop the physics. I started backpacking and paddling while learning about the geology and natural history of an area.
My love of geology was sidetracked by studying Recreation and Parks management. I met my best friend of nearly 15 years in the Recreation program at my university. I had a career in Parks where I worked my way up from being a seasonal toilet scrubber to being an assistant manager at a large state park property in Indiana. I hiked with my dogs. I blogged about it. I met many new friends through my dogs and through hiking. I stood on mountain tops, seasides, lakeshores, and more.
I met my boyfriend. We spent weekends exploring on bicycles and canoes.
Life threw me a curve by way of a disability. I ended up leaving my life in parks after 14 years to move to Ohio to be with my boyfriend and to pursue a different career path with my friends.
Rarely a day goes by that I don’t think about the chain of events leading me here.
I have a new life because of my friends. I have these friends because I moved here. I moved here for a job in a park. I had a job in a park because I like being outside. I like being outside because I was encouraged. I was encouraged by cooking a can of soup.
It’s cold and damp today.
I think I’ll have soup.