Me! As a city boy (as in New York City), I liked my nature with tall buildings around it, as in Central Park. Okay, so our sojourn of a few years here and there in the nearby suburbs got me used to public parks without towering silhouettes surrounding them. But civilization in the form of single-family houses was never far away. Sometimes a poorly thrown hardball could even endanger nearby picture windows.
As a residential student at a boarding school in central New Jersey—okay, if you must ask, it was Peddie School—I spent four years and two summers in a town of barely four thousand. This was about as country as I would ever get, at least until recently. There were farms round about, but the school itself was smack-dab in the middle of the town, where large single-family houses and tall, leafy shade trees were the rule.
Once, though, my favorite master, prep-school speak for teacher, took several of us boys up to his “camp,” as it’s called, a cabin on some acres of woodland in rural New Hampshire. Al W., a pied-piper of a still-youngish man, taught us English. A published poet himself, he let us feast on the English and American romantics. Maybe because of his property in New Hampshire, he especially favored Robert Frost. Anyway, on this particular Thanksgiving weekend, he was reading us scary Edgar Alan Poe bedtime stories by candle light. We sixteen-year-olds relished the chance to drink Drambuie out of snifters with the faux-sophistication of adults. Mr. W., from our perspective, was a perverter of youth in the best sense of the word. Later, I would see him in Robin Williams’ character in The Dead Poets’ Society. Well and good. The only problem came when I had to go to the bathroom—that is to say, the latrine about 100 feet away—in the middle of the night. No way! There was a dark forest out there, my flashlight to the contrary notwithstanding, and who knew what kind of critters might be lying in wait for this city boy? Despite the all-but-intolerable pain in my bladder, I stayed in the safety of the cabin till first light. Later, in my 70s, I managed to walk across the campus of our international school in the jungles of Indonesian Borneo at night—a place where there really were lots of seriously bad critters. But that was a prayerful activity at best. And now, at 80, I still appreciate the nearby convenience of our indoor bathroom in beautiful Boulder, Colorado (est. 2019 pop., 107,353).