Growing up we lived too far away from any urban areas for me to work retail, drench potatoes in grease, or pump gas, even part-time. The commute would have taken up half my work day. So my first job involved me packing up my car with as much camping gear as it would hold, buying a few week’s worth of food, and driving to the corner of nowhere in the forest. My first job was planting trees.
I also worked in another aspect of silviculture: brushing and woodcutting, or brushing. This is where you have a higher-powered weed whacker with a blade on the end and you go out and look for newly planted trees. The seedlings are “newly planted” 1-2 years ago so the landscape is the proverbial haystack. With your saw blade you then cut down everything within a 1 metre radius from the tree. You remove any vegetation, other trees, and grasses in competition for light and nutrients to give that little sucker a fighting chance at growth.
It was a summer, but it didn’t seem like it.
There were a lot of bugs. We were with the same group of people every day. Sometimes we got lost on the piece of land we were working on. And there was rain.
We camped in the bottom of a dark valley almost 4 hours away from civilization. We had a creek that flowed right by our campsite that made it seem picturesque; the same creek also flooded and washed out a few tents.
It rained. It rained hard. And it rained pretty much every day.
Given that we were camping we had no laundry facilities. But we also worked 6 days a week and needed dry clothing. The solution was the dry tent. This was a walk-in canvas tent with a spider web assortment of clothes lines and one heavy-duty wood stove in the center. The stove burned pretty much day and night.
After a few weeks the tent began to smell. Even after laundry days in town the clothes never really seemed clean again. They had a distinct odour — partially body odour, dirt, wet grass clippings and some gasoline. It was a potpourri of earthy musk. Each day you could multiply that by 25 and stick these clothes to bake in our steamy hot room for a few hours. It got to be almost unbearable to go near the dry tent.
It is raining here a lot now too. Running in the rain is not as easy or enjoyable as the warm temperatures and sunshine a few weeks ago. But I am running. Although I do have water-resistant running gear, I still get home with my clothes leaving puddles behind me.
Sometimes when I am peeling off my layers, I catch a whiff of a scent. Mostly it smells like wet clothes. But in the memory of my smells, I remember. I am glad that my clothes are in the wash within minutes and I am in a hot shower. Things smell better. But just to be sure, I add extra soap.