I recently learned that July has been designated "Park and Recreation Month." I do not begrudge those hearty souls who simply adore inhaling the scent of the soil while lying awake in a perfectly pitched tent, listening to the nocturnal sounds of life in the woods, of starting a campfire to cook breakfast with a glorious sunrise serving as backdrop to the sound of bacon frying and who regard possible contact with a patch of poison ivy as a minor nuisance. However, I may not be properly numbered amongst those hearty outdoor types.
My maternal grandparents divorced when my mother was a child. My maternal grandfather started a second family, relocating said family from Brooklyn to the (then) countryside of Michigan when my mother’s half-siblings were small. As a result, three of my maternal cousins were born and reared in Michigan, and are well-schooled in all matters outdoors. My cousin, Janelle, could put Grizzly Adams to shame with her ability to read animal tracks in the woods (for observation and photography purposes), differentiate poisonous berries from the kind one may safely use to bake a scrumptious pie and regards hiking as a “:fun” activity. (Personally, I find myself fighting the urge to place a flag at the top of the subway steps after I’ve, with a great deal of huffing and puffing, managed to climb same!)
While discussing a wonderful vacation being taken at Yellowstone National Park by a friend of a friend, my cousin, Janelle, decided to seize the opportunity to wax poetic regarding the subject of camping. She even suggested that I travel to Michigan to camp at Isle Royale National Park. I issued polite declinations, attempting to spare Janelle the saga of my time spent in a local park with my (now deceased) dog when he was young, but upon Janelle’s relentless insistence, I was coerced to divulge the details to her. “Yes, I was in the park with my dog when a ball went sailing by us into the nearby shrubbery. He was young then, so he went to chase the ball, thereby coercing me to follow him into the shrubbery. I was initially attacked by mosquitoes…” “Muriel,” Janelle interrupted, “I think that’s a myth. I’ve never seen mosquitoes swarm all over one person…” “Janelle, those little insects came at me with a salt and pepper shaker clipped to their respective wings, and four other mosquitoes came flying at me from another direction, hefting a bottle of hot sauce.”
Our conversation continued for a few more minutes, with Janelle ending the call to attend a rock climbing gym class (it is very difficult to believe that we share any ancestry at all). For readers who share my cousin’s love of the great outdoors, the NYPL has a literal plethora of materials designed to educate and enhance one’s outdoor experiences. Please find enumerated below a list of items contained in the NYPL’s circulating collection on various outdoor activities, as well as links to relevant and information-rich websites. Best wishes for a good time in the woods (I’ll wave from within the mosquito net I’ve had erected in my apartment. One can’t be too careful…)