Look, I’ve hiked the Cinque Terra, ridden a donkey up the cliffs of Crete, and waterskied down the Colorado River. I trekked through the Mayan jungle and climbed Tikal. I hiked the pine forest above Rio Caliente, scaled Nevada Falls, and climbed rickety ladders to peer into ancient painted caves in New Mexico. I explored the top of Monte Alban where I came close to sacrificing my teenaged son to the gods. I did a ropes course; actually, I only did the morning session. When I found out the afternoon was in the treetops, I bailed.
I’ve flown in the back of a four-seater out of Belize, the training pilot’s first flight with passengers. For no reason, I took an airplane ride from Sonoma Skypark in a 1941 tail dragger made of balsa wood covered in a forest green fabric that was the same color but smaller than my car.
Bats, bird crap, and biting flies were the high points of beach-camping at the Salton Sea. I’ve whitewater rafted both forks of the American River; when I flipped out at Troublemaker and got caught in a whirlpool, time slowed and I thought, ahh, so this is what it’s like to die. When I popped back up an eternity later, I frantically paddled to shore. They said I had to get back in the raft. I said pffft, I’m walking back to camp. They said you can’t, there are bears in the woods. I said I’d take my chances.
Once I rode a horse. When he bucked me, my friend said get right back on. If you don’t, you’ll never get on one again. Sure. As if I had any intention of getting back on a horse. Years later when I found myself on an old packhorse named Ike in Yosemite, it all came rushing back to me.
In Florida I sat cheek to cheek on a live alligator. Trapped in the Tropical Butterfly House in Seattle, I ducked and covered whenever one silently hovered anywhere near me. I’ve slid down more black diamond ski slopes than I care to remember. Then I got seasick snorkeling in the warm waters off Ixtapa, petrified a fish would attack me. (I scream the same way whether I’m about to be attacked by a great white shark or a piece of seaweed touches my leg.)
Have I enjoyed any of it? No. I was usually terrified. Would I do any of it again? Nope. I don’t have to, I don’t want to, and you can’t make me. None of it was my idea in the first place, and clearly, I didn’t think things through. I just wanted to do things with my kids and hang out with friends.
Today, when I’m invited camping, I make a list of what I need: 1) New friends.
I’m simply not an outdoor person. I prefer museums, old churches, and art galleries. I like restaurants and movies, bookstores and ice cream parlors. Partial to villages and open air markets, I also prefer small towns to big cities and big cities over jungles. I’ve flown in a typhoon and been lost in a hurricane. When I was nine we lived in Hawaii. Hurricane Nina hit and I got turned around and couldn’t find my way home from school. The hills where we lived looked like a jungle. I hate the jungle. I find wilderness overrated. I read Wild, by Cheryl Strayed, and thought, this woman is a complete and total lunatic. She slogged across a thousand miles of the Pacific Coast Trail, grieving the death of her mother. She could have skipped the trip, for godsakes, and merely written the book.
With great disdain, my sister once asked me if I was born in a box. I said, yes, and I rather fancy it in here, so leave me alone. I’m an indoor girl, and I like it that way. I favor places where my chances of getting stung, bitten, kicked, gored, attacked, pecked to death, or eaten alive are at a minimum. Where it’s warm and dry and safe. Where the playing field is level… like a dance floor. I love the beach (unless it’s raining or windy), and I prefer lying in the sun on soft white sand where I can see the horizon and anything coming my way. Though, for obvious reasons, I no longer slather myself in cocoa butter and offer myself to the sun gods. My skin is so white you’ll need sunglasses if you see me coming.