The Gall of the Wild

If my family were the Kennedys, I would be the last one picked for touch football. It’s not that I am particularly clumsy or slow, too short or too old. It’s just that I am too rational. Why waste a perfectly good afternoon throwing around a dead, inflated mammal when you could be solving a crossword puzzle or listening to “Prairie Home Companion”?

And it’s not that I don’t like getting dirty. I love Nature. Read all about it in Walden and it sounds just fabulous. I just don’t understand New Hampshire and the “Outdoor Expectations.”

In winter it’s all about skiing, snowboarding, snowmobile riding, ice climbing, skating, and if you don’t do at least one outdoor sport that involves the need for silk underwear, the Governor will personally come to your home, take your license and demand you move to Massachusetts. So to keep from being evicted and losing my Old Man in the Mountain plates, I have picked the most practical winter activity: snowshoeing. Sure, it’s not really thrill-filled and it’s hard to look like a glamorous snow bunny when you have wood and sinew strapped to your feet and more layers than a wedding cake, but if you can handle looks of disdain from women with over-sized sunglasses and fake fur on their boots, then it’s not a terrible way to pass a winter afternoon. Plus there’s always the lodge, the fireplace, some hot chocolate and that magazine you snuck in your knapsack when everyone else was loading their skis on the car roof.

With the warmer weather the “outdoorsiness” just gets worse. Springtime means gardening, tennis and golf. Is it strange to anyone other than me that an event where you smack a ball into ponds, woods, beaches and the occasional window while wearing plaid pants and just one glove is called a sport? Wouldn’t it be a better use of one’s time to weld the golf clubs into surrealist-inspired sculptures and donate the pants and gloves to summer stock theater?

Summertime, however, is an indoor kid’s nightmare. We’d be just peachy if they would let us read our newspapers in peace while swinging on the hammock or sunning on the beach. We’d be outside, right? But apparently there are near-death experiences while waterskiing to be had. Roads that must be explored by bike instead of sensibly driven. There is poison ivy to catch and wasps to antagonize. Bats to beat and scream away from one’s hair and mosquito bites to scratch. It goes without saying that you are required to hike Mt. Washington at some point in your life and getting a bumper sticker that reads “This car climbed Mt. Washington” unfortunately does not count. Dare I suggest that “hiking” seems to be an excuse to buy too much from L.L. Bean and is exactly like walking except that the going is a little bit steeper?

This year I’m putting my foot down. No more jet ski riding until my teeth rattle. No more praying under my breath while my brother pulls me behind a boat at 55 mph on an inadequate inner tube attached by a string. I will tell my sisters that eating “al fresco” just makes the food get cold and lets the dog steal hamburgers off the grill when he thinks no one will catch him. I will start a movement … unfortunately indoor kids are little hard to organize. We’d rather read than rally. So maybe I’ll just grab a blanket, a couple of sweatshirts, some bug repellent and compromise by reading the latest Harry Potter by the light of the bonfire. Just don’t ask me to go get more wood. NH

Chelsey Philpot is a summer intern for the magazine, who is gracing us with her considerable talent until she heads for graduate school this fall.