MESSING ABOUT: Survival is an interesting concept

MESSING ABOUT IN THE MAINE WOODS

by Ron Maxwell

Survival is an interesting concept for me. I have always enjoyed the idea of being able to solve problems in the field. It means my pockets are always full of lighters and knives and more pocket emergency kits than any one person has a right to own. Each of my family’s cars has extra water, food, flashlights, emergency blankets and other supplies. The house has supplies squirreled away in corners for emergencies. Survival has always been on my mind even though I have not yet been in a position to need the information.

But ‘survival’ has always had a clawing, tearing sort of feel: something forced on one from the outside. Survival has always seemed to be a ‘bug eating, puddle drinking, dirt pit sleeping’ sort of experience. I’d rather be careful, thanks. I have always thought ‘thriving’ instead of ‘surviving’. I was on a hiking trip and soaked my shirt with the days exertion. It was simple to thrive in camp afterward with the clean, dry, night-clothes I had packed, while rinsing and drying my day things by the fire. For me, survival will always be what would happen when my plans and my prepared equipment both fail. I haven’t done it yet, but when I do need to, I have some backup skills ready. Skills that began by watching You-Tube, but were practiced and perfected in the field.

I have lighted fires on the ice, while skating on a cold afternoon – using a bow drill and tinder set I made myself. I have slept on an automotive sunscreen under an emergency blanket when a night turned too cold. I have used the knife I carry in my pocket to make a burner and cookset from the cans the dinner ingredients came in. A burner and cookset fueled with a common automotive fuel additive I bought at the same convenience store where I bought the dinner ingredients. I have made my own string from cedar bark to tie together a debris shelter for sleeping. I have the ability to survive if I need, but my purpose in being in the outdoors will always be to thrive.

See how the process doesn’t happen just in the outdoors? There is a joy in preparing yourself mentally or taking in someone else’s experience when you can’t get outside. There is an excitement to testing out your new equipment with the kids in the backyard, where you can see the potential of all your gear. And nothing beats actually getting out on the trail and waking up surrounded by nature enjoying the comfort of a situation you put together. And that is how we thrive in the Maine Outdoors.

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