By Paula Diaz
I could feel my whole body tremble as I tried to balance on the slack line. The ground felt like it was a million feet away and I could already see an ambulance and visit to the emergency room in my future. “Just hold on to me and you’ll be fine,” senior Griffin Appel assured me with the voice of a confident teacher as I continued to wobble on the line. While gripping to Griffin’s left arm, I was finally able to move my left foot in front of my right. But at that second I immediately lost control, jumped to the ground, and found instant comfort on the solid ground. My time as an honorary member of Asbury Outdoors was officially over, and truly short lived.
Nature, which has always seemed like a great acquaintance, has never quite been my best friend. But while watching some of the members of Asbury Outdoors interact with one other I wondered if I could ever fix my relationship problems with nature and enjoy it as much as everyone around me. Shoes, or more specifically, Chacos littered the moist and muddy ground and laughter rang among the tight knit group. The conversation of the members changed quickly from topic to topic covering the weather, the latest gossip, and more importantly witty responses to each other’s com- ments making them seem like a big dysfunctional family. For the first time in a long time, I felt way out of my comfort zone.
What exactly is it about nature that beckons the members of Asbury Outdoors away from cam- pus and reality? Besides the hammock sharing experiences and Chaco tans that appeared to be a part of every member’s lives their reason of constantly being outside goes further than the outdoor accessories they all have. “There’s something about being in the presence of something that God created, going outside to me is such an adventure,” junior Kelsey Boyle said in a voice that made me want to put on my tennis shoes and savor nature in the same way she described it. “The blessing of being outside and how I can bless others through that…and teach them biblically how it’s important is why nature is so important to me and why I love being outside,” senior Alex McIntosh added while holding on to the slack line I had so gracefully just fallen from.
But the experience isn’t one that is shared alone. Asbury Outdoors is, in every sense, a family. As I continued to spend time with Kelsey and other members of Asbury Outdoors I could see just how close they were and how their relationships went further than that of a friendship and more to that of brothers and sisters. Everyone was continually joking around with one another and at one point the girls even wrestled around with one of the other members just to get gossip out of them.
“We’re dysfunctional like a family, we’re all real with each other. As a group there are a lot of outdoors people, who would eat dirt if they could,” Boyle said while giggling at her own choice of words, “but as a whole we all have the same mindset of valuing outdoor activities above all other things…you don’t have to impress anyone or be someone you’re not”. This all seemed completely evident as I continued to spend time with the group. “Division mainly occurs when we’re on trips and decision making is a must,” Boyle continued, “when we put what we learn to practice someone definitely always steps up and at times it divides the group. But [the members] know better and always solve the conflict”.
And while nature definitely seems to call its members outside constantly and create a family of them, as shown during my time with several of the Asbury Outdoor members, it also tends to pull them away from reality. “We’re a very spur of the moment group,” Boyle added while describing their family-like relationships. This was definitely shown through several forgotten interviews and lack of responses from some of the members, in particular from those in higher positions where only a couple of apologies were uttered.
“I’m so sorry I missed the meeting! I got held up with other stuff,” and “sorry about standing you up today, we were meeting for class and it went until about 4:30” became replies that filled my inbox two or three hours after the scheduled interview time had passed. Frustrated, would be an understatement, however as I listened to stories of their time together I quickly forgot my anger.
“One time we went on a canoe trip up the Kentucky River and got to a fill way- or huge rock face- and climbed to the top. Some of the people there were avid rock climbers and were climbing on everything, not attached to anything. And those who weren’t avid climbers were freaking out. We even got to paddle back in the dark. It was so much fun because of the differences in experience in canoeing. Additionally getting to know everyone so much more, especially those who are never really in the outdoors made the experience better,” senior Hannah Whitis recalled as she told me of her favorite time with Asbury Outdoors.
Nature, now after my time with Asbury Outdoors, actually seems graspable. Just as the mem- bers of the group love the adventures nature brings, I too, am in need of an adventure every once in a while, and maybe, just maybe, my short-lived adventure with them could possibly be the start of something new.