News & Updates
Coming Home: A Consideration of Camp Life
By Alex Robertson
A recurring theme in the life of many tree planters is a certain sort of vagrancy. The nature of the job requires one to continually reconsider what and where is home.
It starts with the actual season of work when we unite as a nomadic tribe, setting up and tearing down camp in places that seem to be, by way of their remoteness, the exclusive territory of our subculture. For a few months, we are infused with a sense of community that we will perhaps never quite experience in the modern, default world. Then, through a truly ridiculous amount of physical labour and cameraderie, we are transformed into superhuman creatures. Our personalities are sharpened and our behaviour is increasingly intensified as we become magnified versions of our former selves. In other words, we build character.
Then, like an oasis slowly materializing out of an endless scorching desert, the enormously satisfying day of our release back into the world comes strolling along. We brace ourselves. We make plans. Some of us decide to prolong the journey by embarking on an off-season full of constant travel. Some of us decide to hunker down and dedicate the coming fall and winter to quiet study, formal or otherwise. And some of us decide to just embrace our inner rock star and live a life of luxury for as long as possible.
Whatever we end up doing, we will most likely have to adjust, to a certain extent, back to some of the subtle conventions of the default world. This can be a frustrating and even disheartening process. We do our best. We attempt to behave ourselves at social gatherings. We sympathize with our city-dwelling friends who might complain of a hard day at work. We try to appreciate nature in the form of a city park. And although our reintegration may be sufficient or even successful, it somehow doesn't ever become quite complete. There is some sort of a BcBcrestless spark that refuses to go out.
To have experienced a lifestyle as challenging and rewarding as tree planting is to undergo a permanent shift in perspective. At times, this can make regular life seem somewhat mundane. Consequently, a vague understanding develops between planters. If we are lucky enough to run into each other during the off-season, there is often a comfortable familiarity that will arise. We become aware of our collective nostalgia from which we are momentarily released. We carry on like this for a while. Whether we end up achieving some semblance of routine, or whether we struggle with restlessness, the seasons continue to turn.
Eventually, the snow melts and the ground begins to thaw. A whole new mixed bag of emotions, anything from giddy anticipation to ominous dread envelopes our minds as we consider a return to the bush. For those of us that make that fateful decision, we start the countdown. During the final sprint, we scramble chaotically to leave our lives back in the default world in some modicum of order. But as soon as we make our departure, an immense weight is lifted from our shoulders. The often long and scenic drive to camp serves as a kind of decompression, easing us through the transition. We arrive and literally build our home with our long lost friends. We set up the foundation for community. With this comes one of the most valuable lessons of tree planting: to be home should not refer to a particular location, but rather an ability to create community amongst friends.
See you in camp.