I spent my vacation on a guest ranch trying to re-live the “Old West” – for a few days anyway. To be completely truthful, it wasn’t a traditional “working ranch” experience. There was no rounding up of cattle or horses, no wild stampedes or other challenges that make city slickers imagine they could survive in the wild. Rather, it was a luxury resort and spa where you wear Western attire at fine wine tastings and gourmet dinners. Frankly, that suited me just fine. I’m not much of a cow-girl. Some things you just don’t learn late in life. So with all the amenities offered, I had a really good time.
Some Outdoor Experiences
Can Be Life-Changing
For those who wanted it (and we all did), there was some real outdoor experience available too. Besides trail rides on horseback, one could sign up for white water rafting, hiking, rock climbing and fly-fishing. I’m not a proficient fly-fisher either, but I surely tried hard to make my catch.
I love the outdoors. Like most of us, I don’t get out enough any more and I do feel that something is missing. I’m a city girl. I grew up in London. But when World War II broke out, I was evacuated as a young child to get away from the air raids. For three years, I lived in the countryside on a farm. The farmer went hunting every day to add some meat or fowl to our otherwise meager diet. Although times were desperate, I was too little to realize all the hardship. I was happy to roam the fields and the forests in search of edibles. For me, it was just one great adventure.
I felt closely connected to nature in those days. I learned quickly to distinguish between the berries and mushrooms you can eat and those you’d better stay away from. I also became good at spotting game. The farmer used a ferret rather than a hunting dog to chase our prey out of its hiding places. Handling the ferret was my job. Hunting and killing animals for food was natural and necessary for our survival. I knew that if we didn’t catch anything, we would not eat very well.
It has been a very long time since I acquired my food anywhere else but from a supermarket. The meat or fish I buy today comes clinically wrapped and sealed and bears no resemblance to an animal. Food shopping requires no luck or patience that is inherently necessary for hunting and fishing. The predator instincts I developed in the days of my youth are no longer useful. When I did not catch any fish at the ranch during my vacation, I was disappointed, but with regards to my survival it was inconsequential. Unlike in the days of my childhood, nobody expected me to bring home the bacon.
This is comforting and a bit sad as well. Comforting, because my physical survival does not depend on my skills with a gun or a fishing pole. Sad, because I feel out of touch with something that was once so fundamental and essential for life itself. I’m no longer connected with my food, my body, my place in the world the way it must have been for my ancestor’s ages ago.
The cowboys and wranglers I met at the guest ranch harbored similar feelings. And, like me, they sensed that there was a loss in all that. After all, we all are descendants of a way of life that no longer exists.
Naturally, there’s no going back to the “olden days” and that’s not altogether a bad thing. But a little melancholy may be permitted still. Out there in the wild, I felt for a brief moment a sense of belonging. It did not come from my surroundings but rather as a call or just a whisper from deep within, reminding me of my very own roots. It made me feel sad that I was losing out on a more profound experience, by indulging too much in all the man-made comforts instead of exposing myself more to the wonders I was offered by nature itself. Beyond organized adventure tourism and outdoor sports; there may be more important reasons for us to connect with nature. It’s the place where we can find ourselves if we are willing to be still and listen. After all, it’s the place where we all come from and the only place we’ll ever have.