Ah! The great outdoors. But are they really great? Or merely good? Overrated? Or not respected enough? Since the dawn of history, human beings have attempted to wrestle, wrangle and dominate nature. Although we are part of the natural world, you wouldn’t know it, based on the way we treat each other, our animalistic co-habitators and the environment that provides air to breathe and water to drink.

Don’t worry, I am no environmentalist. I recently bought a car. It wasn’t my fault, I had no choice. I just couldn’t deal with buses anymore. Denial is alive and well with we enlightened human beings: “It’s not my responsibility, I recycle my tin cans – isn’t that enough?”

Does global warming actually exist? Or is it a fictional nightmarish narrative based on faulty information from those individuals that insist on putting a damper on the fun of driving SUV’s and the excitement of electricity usage abuse? It’s not my fault I take hour-long showers. After all, cleanliness is next to godliness.

I am what you may call, a city dweller. I wonder at the complexity of what nature has to offer: I am a fan of hiking in the mountains (day trips), lakefront views (from inside a friend’s cottage) and long walks on the beach (a romantic at heart). WALKS along the beach, forget about actually going into the ocean – sharks are everywhere. Even in swimming pools. Don’t ask me how they get in, but it’s possible. Think about it. The great outdoors is an incredible place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

By now you know the thematic basis of these entries. The natural world contains evolutionary magic that surrounds and includes us, but it can also be very annoying.

Spider webs.

During the summertime, I greatly appreciate the sunlight and warm weather. We only get a few spare months a year and I largely enjoy it by going on extended walks or bike rides. Very environmentally conscious, always enjoyable. That is, until I walk or ride into a spider web. Often the spider webs are invisible and in places that make no logical sense. I could understand if I’m walking through a dense forest with menacing trees and lots of opportunities for spiders to spin webs from one place to another. But when you’re walking along an urban sidewalk, the web touches your skin – that awful feeling of silky creepiness that seems to wrap around and stick to you – it’s an insect simply going too far. Afraid that a spider is on the end of that web, waiting to crawl into my ear, I flail my arms around, trying to remove it. Coming back to my senses, I look around to see if anyone saw my crazy spider web dance. After all, it was invisible and the first thought that might pop into someone’s head: mental illness. And of course, you never get it all off. ANNOYING!

The cough and the cure.

Winter is the season of sickness. Yes, the human body is a marvel of natural science. On the evolutionary scale, we consider ourselves at the top. But what happens when our bodies fail us? A few weeks ago, I succumbed to a terrible cough. No flu, no cold – just an uncontrollable cough. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat. The cough had a mind of its own, causing fits of rage that vibrated my entire body. I chugged cough medicine, drank copious amounts of orange juice, ate chicken noodle soup every night. The only way I slept was to stay up into the wee hours of the morning, exhausting my body and mind. It was one of those coughs that felt like something was stuck in my throat, but nothing was actually there.

After almost two weeks, in the middle of the night, I took matters into my own hands. I had passed out on the couch, the cough waking me up. I jumped off the couch, gulped some salt water, placed my head between my knees and gurgled upside down for ten minutes. Maybe it was the blood rushing to my head, or maybe my animalistic instincts took over and I developed the power to heal myself. Slumping back down on the couch, I woke up the next morning and knew instantly the cough was gone. But it still took a few days to recover from the lack of sleep. ANNOYING!

Gandhi’s mosquito.

Gandhi once said: “If you don’t think one person can change the world, have you ever tried sleeping in a room with one mosquito?” Point taken. However, somehow a fly got into my bedroom. Not exactly a mosquito, but the reference is relevant. I didn’t think much of it until it was time to sleep. Have you ever tried sleeping in a room with one fly? When you turn the lights off, the fly instantly starts buzzing around. Turn the lights on, it freezes, its instinctual mode of self-preservation taking over. Have you ever tried killing a fly? Yes, I know, this is hostile and Gandhi would probably not approve, but what are you going to do? Try and lead it to the door in the hope it was just lost? And like the spider, I assumed its goal was trying to fly into my ear. I don’t know where this ear-phobia came from, but it’s a very real fear to me. Nope, the best you can do is wait it out through attrition, however, the average life span of a fly is 21 days. And that’s a scientific fact. ANNOYING!

The yappy dog that won’t stop yapping.

I like dogs, I really do. But the dog upstairs is one of those tiny yappy dogs that yaps all day long. Being someone that works from home, this is not the most ideal situation. The owner is somewhat mean looking and I am not one for confrontation. Returning home one day, the owner was out front, accompanying the dog for some air. The dog saw me, immediately started yapping, ran and lunged at my leg. As I ignored the hoping dog and approached my front door, the owner said, “She just wants you to say hello and pet her.” Did the dog tell her this? Because the yapping does not sound friendly.

The owner probably thinks her dog is perfect, and really, what owner doesn’t think their dog is perfect? For example, the dog my family had growing up was perfect. The real kind of perfect, not yappy-dog perfect. She didn’t bark, wasn’t aggressive. She was just hanging out, happy to be with us. Perfect. How do you tell a dog owner that their dog isn’t perfect, that in fact, when they leave for the day, the dog yaps until it probably passes out? I stepped inside, bent down to take off my shoes and noticed some liquid. On closer inspection, it was dog pee. So, yes, I guess she was right, the dog just wanted me to say hello. And stand still enough to use my leg as a washroom. ANNOYING!

Bears in my canoe.

I’m going to take some heat over this one as it takes on the ultimate in nature-enjoyment: Camping. I’ve been camping exactly twice in my life. The first time, we had to portage. For those that are civilized and live in cities, this means you carry your canoe from one body of water to another. On your head. In order to get to our campsite, portaging was necessary. After wondering why we couldn’t just drag the canoe, I hoisted it on to my head and started walking.

The superhero Mr. Canoehead came to mind. A character from the long-forgotten Canadian sketch show Four on the Floor, Mr. Canoehead was hit by lightning while portaging his aluminum canoe, which became permanently welded to his head. As a crime fighter, he captured criminals by turning around so that the canoe knocked them over. At least my canoe was wood.

Bugs bit me and my legs threatened to fail me. I finally made it to the second body of water, dropping the canoe into the lake. Yes, it was worth paddling on this second body of water, void of any outlawed motorboats. But then we reached the campsite and while we prepared for the evening, one of the fellow campers did something curious. They wrapped up all the food in plastic bags, placed it in the canoe, paddled out a ways from the coast, anchored it, jumped in the water and swam back. I inquired about this and the much more experienced camper replied, “It’s so the food doesn’t attract bears.” Bears? When I’m sleeping in the city, there is the threat of muggings and car accidents, but at least there is no threat of a bear wondering into my bedroom wanting my food and potentially, if he isn’t satisfied with what he finds, resort to eating my face. It was very serene at that campsite, until the threat of bears became not only possible but probable. I flinched at every noise, and if you’ve ever slept out in the woods, there are a lot of noises. ANNOYING!

Now, doesn’t that feel better?