Growing up as an only child, my closest friend was nature, and together we played in the weedy lots between sun-bleached mobile homes and faded pick-ups.
My other friends were brittle paperbacks and reruns of Cosmos and Cousteau. These companions were my first guides to a world beyond singlewide trailers, and single moms.
At eight, I went to live with my great grandmother in the desert. At eleven, I was placed into a foster family. And at fifteen, I climbed out of their window, never to return.
At twenty-two, I started guiding rivers, and I’ve been happily mucking around in boats ever since: North America, Africa, Asia, Rio Colorado, Omo, Talaga Waja.
I’ve taught Balinese rice farmers to be raft guides and Maasai tribesmen to play baseball. I’ve worked for Jane Goodall in east Africa, shoveled manure, dug ditches, washed dishes, and made a fool of myself countless times.
When I was thirty, my mother stepped out onto her front porch and killed herself. And at forty-five, I still haven’t met my father. My friends have always been family.
As a trauma critical care nurse, I’ve witnessed the last moment of many lives, and in that role, I’ve been honored to help comfort many families.
If you add it up, more of my life has been spent watching a campfire than a television.
And hands down, I’d rather wake up in a sleeping bag than a bed.