Get Your Hands Dirty


“Keep close to Natures’s heart… And break clear away, once in awhile. Climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” – John Muir

When I was 8 years old I went to sleep away camp for a week at a place called Deer Hollow Ranch.  It was the first time I spent time on my own, away from home and all the things I had grown so accustomed to.  Like being the youngest kid and having this false sense of entitlement.  If anyone knew me as a young kid – I was kind of a dick.  Some people probably have the same opinion of me now, but that’s a different story… So anyways there I am at Deer Hollow amped on spending time in nature and doing whatever I want.  Little did I know that summer camp also had job boards and responsibility.

IMG_2958They had this job wheel and you would spin it and see what you got assigned to… Karma had a way of putting me in my place real quick.  My friends went and spun, they got sweeping, or mopping or cleaning around the cabin… me… well I got toilet duty.  Pun intended.  Have you ever seen the bathrooms at summer camp used by over 100 boys?  Some things you’re better off not knowing, but not me.  I needed this, to be put in my place.  However I of course threw a fit and tried to rebel but the fact remained that I was a camper and I had to listen to the counselors.  So after a few minutes of a temper tantrum I sucked it up and did my job.  It was awful.  But I remember having this moment where it dawned on me – I can’t control everything and the sooner I learned that, the better off I would be.

 I wish I would say the rest of the week was a breeze but c’mon, we were 8 years old.  We ended up getting in trouble for throwing rocks and our punishment was to then carry rocks around with us all day and night… needless to say we didn’t go back to Deer Hollow, but we all continued with other sleep away summer camps for many years.

The results of these experiences at a young age provided me with this sense of letting go of control.  When you’re a kid you don’t really need to let go of anything, life is so simple.  But as we grew up, the summer camp sessions ended, but my desire for escapism (or hitting the reset button) did not.  This past weekend I was lucky enough to spend in Angeles National Forest where cell phones didn’t work and the city lights were dimmed by the surrounding milieu of mountains. We had a fire, tents, booze, s’mores, and conversation.IMG_2907 There was no running water, no bathrooms, we had one knife that was used to cook everything or open cans or whittle sticks for marshmallows.  Our hands got dirty, but we couldn’t care less.

It was so freeing to be in the woods and while I have posted about the use of conversation taking precedent over cell phones before, that idea again follows suite, but so does the idea of our strength and survival.  Not in the Bear Grylls parameter, but in the way that we are much stronger and smarter than we often give ourselves credit for.  Our internal sense of right and wrong, of do this or do that, problem solving, critical thinking, they all come out tenfold when in the grasps of nature and sovereignty.  We control ourselves and that is all.  You figure things out without relying on the internet or going to a store… you fix tents, you carve sticks, you wipe your hands on your jeans and the dirt from your eyes.  You breath fresh air and while you may appear dirtier to the naked eye, in fact you are much much cleaner.  You have let go of the tension that resides when we sit for hours in a day starring at a computer screen… typing on a keyboard or talking on a phone.  Instead we sit on logs, we talk to each other, we stare at the sunrises and sunsets, and we listen to the fire crackle as it burns memories into our moments.  We hold nothing but conversation and cold beer.  This is what is feels like to reset.  To recharge.  To realize that by letting go of everything we are used to, we actually gain so much more.

IMG_2257A lot of people say they don’t like camping, or nature isn’t for them… and all I ask if that you try it once a while.  You never know… you may find that it is exactly what you have needed.  Just like cleaning toilets…

About Scott Bender

Actor. Traveler. Fan of Snacks.
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