Mother Nature’s Son – My Teen Years


The Beatles (Paul McCartney)


John Denver

Mother Nature’s Son
by John Lennon, and Paul McCartney

Born a poor young country boy, Mother Nature’s son
All day long I’m sitting singing songs for everyone

Sit beside a mountain stream, watch her waters rise
Listen to the pretty sound of music as she flies

Find me in my field of grass, Mother Nature’s son
Swaying daises, sing a lazy song beneath the sun

I’m Mother Nature’s son

In the late 1960s, when I was about to turn 12, my family moved to the small town of Norridgewock, Maine situated on the banks of the Kennebec River.

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Norridgewock, Maine

We lived on the outskirts of town in this home (seen as it now looks on Google maps street view)

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As you can see in this shot of the garden beside the house, the field ends in a patch of forest that was to become my refuge and escape.

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As I entered adolescence I became aware of my attraction to other guys but realized that it was something I had to keep hidden. I soon found refuge in 3 places: books, music and nature. The first book that really made an impact was Walden by Henry David Thoreau. I remember picking it up at the little town library. Which was just down the road from the small school I attended.

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Here are some quotes from the book that stood out. The quote in bold face was and is my favorite.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden & Civil Disobedience

“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. It is not important that he should mature as soon as an apple-tree or an oak. Shall he turn his spring into summer?”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

As I was granted more freedom I turned my attention to the woods Thoreau had written about. Soon I was literally blazing trails, complete with tree markings, throughout the woodlands behind our home. I remember my impulsive attempts to be one with nature as I stripped off my clothes and walked feeling free.

We cannot adequately appreciate this aspect of nature if we approach it with any taint of human pretense. It will elude us if we allow artifacts like clothing to intervene between ourselves and this Other. To apprehend it, we cannot be naked enough.
― Henry David Thoreau, Walking

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The major drawback to being nude and free was that I was exposed to the delight of black flies and mosquitoes! So one had to keep moving fast or put your clothes back on to avoid being a meal.

My favorite location was this beautiful small meadow where deer liked to graze.

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I’d pitch a small canvas pup tent at one end of the clearing.

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Frequently friends would join me. There were magical moments like the drumming of a Ruffed Grouse.

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Ruffed Grouse drumming

Or the beauty of lady slippers in bloom.

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My favorite memories were watching the beavers in the nearby beaver pond.

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I was fascinated at their dam building skills and loved to watch them nibble on the bark of a twig like we would eat an ear of corn. I even jumped in the pond to join them on occasion.

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My third discovery was the music of John Denver. Yes I know that was fairly uncool of me but his music beautifully stitched together the writings of Thoreau and the beauty of nature I discovered.

I remember climbing one of Maine’s magnificent mountains and hearing this song playing over and over in my head:


John Denver

Rocky Mountain High
By John Denver

He was born in the summer of his 27th year
Comin’ home to a place he’d never been before
He left yesterday behind him, you might say he was born again
You might say he found a key for every door

When he first came to the mountains his life was far away
On the road and hangin’ by a song
But the string’s already broken and he doesn’t really care
It keeps changin’ fast and it don’t last for long

But the Colorado rocky mountain high
I’ve seen it rainin’ fire in the sky
The shadow from the starlight is softer than a lullabye
Rocky mountain high

He climbed cathedral mountains, he saw silver clouds below
He saw everything as far as you can see
And they say that he got crazy once and he tried to touch the sun
And he lost a friend but kept his memory

Now he walks in quiet solitude the forest and the streams
Seeking grace in every step he takes
His sight has turned inside himself to try and understand
The serenity of a clear blue mountain lake

And the Colorado rocky mountain high
I’ve seen it rainin’ fire in the sky
You can talk to God and listen to the casual reply
Rocky mountain high

Now his life is full of wonder but his heart still knows some fear
Of a simple thing he cannot comprehend
Why they try to tear the mountains down to bring in a couple more
More people, more scars upon the land

And the Colorado rocky mountain high
I’ve seen it rainin’ fire in the sky
I know he’d be a poorer man if he never saw an eagle fly
Rocky mountain high

It’s Colorado rocky mountain high
I’ve seen it rainin’ fire in the sky
Friends around the campfire and everybody’s high
Rocky mountain high

One year I visited a friends house several times, It was like a trip back in time. No indoor plumbing, just an outhouse at the end of a shed. An old wood heated stove in the kitchen and in the attic, two big old feather beds. There was also an ancient television with a small screen. The family had an old WWII era Jeep that I learned to drive.

We were given permission by my friend’s dad to build a cabin in the woods. We got slabs from a saw mill, cut down trees to make a clearing, used the trunks of the trees we cut to frame the cabin, then bit by bit put the whole thing together with my friend’s father’s help. I recently got re-in-touch with my friend after 40 some years. He sent me this picture of the cabin that’s still standing!

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The most memorable overnights in the cabin were in the Winter. I remember how cozy and warm it was when the stove was putting out heat and we were bundled in our homemade beds.

Another group of friends lived about 5 miles away and together with another friend we had all kinds of adventures. There was the time me and some friends were having a great time skinny dipping. We got into a little contest that involved diving off a rock into the river. Silly me, I tried to do a back flip dive but the rock was slippery so I slipped and fell back first into the rock. I injured my back a bit but not too bad but it did leave quite a scar on my lower back.

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Knock a couple years off the ages of these guys and put the rock in the middle of the river and the scenes about right - Photo credit - Skinny Dip Men via
imgbuddy.com

Another time we decided to join the streaking fad so me and two other exhibitionist friends rode our bikes a few mile to the main 2 lane highway. We stripped down and sort of did individual runs down the road when cars appeared. We each took a turn much to the amusement or perhaps horror of the drivers. We then decided to go en mass – everything was jolly until some good ol’ boy decided to pull over. We all dove for the bushes. I, unfortunately, selected a section where there was an old barbed wire fece. Had I been less than an inch shorter I might have become a eunuch! As it was I scratched up my thighs really good. The guy who pulled over yelled something and drove a way. We retrieved our clothes, put them on, and headed back to our camping area. I later learned that a member of my dad’s church, (my dad was a preacher man), had seen us. He promised to keep it to himself and did as far as I know.

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Heading for the bushes, watch out for the barbed wire! - Naked Outdoors via Huffington Post and Facebook

I will never forget the times we went white water canoeing. There is nothing quite as exhilarating as taking a canoe through some serious rapids. Most trips went well but there was one trip where things went very wrong, We had a radio along and conicedently a couple of songs gave a clue something was about to happen. The first song was Waterloo by ABBA and the second was this one:

Yes, that’s Rock The Boat by the Hues Corporation. Now, I was in the front of the canoe where you had to watch for rocks and call out for the rear paddler to turn the canoe to the right or left. I was doing fine until we came to a rough stretch. I saw we were about to hit a rock so I leaned over to paddle or push us away when I was swept overboard. I found myself in the middle of a fast moving river with plenty of rocks that could knock you out if you collided with one. I figured out that the best thing to do was a modified backwards backstroke so your feet went first and you could see to push of rocks with your feet, I did have shoes on).

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This approximates the scene as I was about to be washed overboard. Photo via jdhalperin.files.wordpress.com

I eventually managed to get myself ashore after travelling a fair distance down the river. I should have stayed by the river where folks could find me but instead I hiked out through the woods and circled back to the main road. I was spotted by the driver of a car that was part of the search team that had come to find me! I sheepishly thanked them and was reunited with my friends and the damaged canoe,

My absolute favorite memories were those care free days of Summer. Inevitably we’d end up down by the river. Then it was off with the clothes and into the water. We had many good times skinny dipping in the river, sunning ourselves on the shore or laying in a cornfield that was planted on an island in the middle of the river. I can’t remember a more relaxing and exhilarating time. It was pure joy.

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Before I share one more story here are some more memorable quotes from Thoreau:

“Every path but your own is the path of fate. Keep on your own track, then.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

“I wanted to live deep and suck out the all the marrow of life (…).”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

“I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

“A lake is a landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It is Earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

“Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

“Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Nothing captures that exhilarating feeling of life in the country better than this thigh slapping song (of course I’d switch out wife and put hubby in instead):


John Denver

Thank God I’m A Country Boy
By John Martin Simmers

Well, life on the farm is kinda laid back
Ain’t much an old country boy like me can’t hack
It’s early to rise, early in the sack
Thank God, I’m A Country Boy

Well a simple kinda life never did me no harm
A raisin’ me a family and workin’ on a farm
My days are all filled with an easy country charm
Thank God I’m a country boy

When the work’s all done and the sun’s settin’ low
I pull out my fiddle and I rosin’ up the bow
The kids are asleep so I keep it kinda low
Thank God I’m a country boy

I’d play “Sally Goodin'” all day if I could
But the Lord and my wife wouldn’t take it very good
So I fiddle when I can, work when I should
Thank God, I’m a country boy

Well, I got me a fine wife, I got me old fiddle
When the sun’s comin’ up I got cakes on the griddle
Life ain’t nothin’ but a funny, funny riddle
Thank God I’m A country boy

Well I wouldn’t trade my life for diamonds or jewels
I never was one of them money hungry fools
I’d rather have my fiddle and my farmin’ tools
Thank God I’m a country boy

Yeah, city folk drivin’ in a black limousine
A lotta sad people thinkin’ that’s a mighty keen
Son, let me tell ya now exactly what I mean
I thank God I’m a country boy

Well, I got me a fine wife, I got me old fiddle
When the sun’s comin’ up I got cakes on the griddle
Life ain’t nothin’ but a funny, funny riddle
Thank God I’m a country boy

Well, my fiddle was my daddy’s til the day he died
And he took me by the hand and held me close to his side
He said…’Live a good life and play my fiddle with pride
And thank God you’re a country boy”

My daddy taught me young how to hunt and how to whittle
He taught me how to work and play a tune on the fiddle
Taught me how to love and how to give just a little
Thank God I’m a country boy

Well, I got me a fine wife, I got me old fiddle
When the sun’s comin’ up I got cakes on the griddle
Life ain’t nothing but a funny, funny riddle
Thank God I’m a country boy

One of the last and most memorable events of my pre-college years happened on a trip to the magnificent Baxter State Park. When we arrived we explored around a bit by the nearby lake/pond. I will never forget walking along a trail and coming face to face with one of these guys:

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Thankfully I wasn’t threatening and we both retreated back the way we had come.

The next morning we set off for an 8 – 10 mile hike to Wassataquoik Lake. This was a strenuous hike but it was worth it. It is one of the most beautiful places on earth.

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There was a canoe left for those camping because the campsite was on an island. It was a beautiful place. The water was crystal clear and you could see straight through to the bottom until it got too deep. I responded to a dare and stripped off for a dip. That was a mistake. I yelled some inane string of words, (I believe they were Pie, Cheese and Crackers), whilst my genitals tried to climb up into my body! It was freezing cold!

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We spent a pleasant night on the island just us, nature and the stars. It was truly magical.

I was heavily involved in music during my teens, including playing the trumpet, piano and my favorite, the guitar. I learned many different songs from Stairway to Heaven to Signs by the Five Man Electrical Band but my favorite was John Denver because, like Thoreau, his words and music spoke to me.

In my various travels, (including a year in Indonesian Borneo), during the later half of the 1970s one song was requested above all others. Yes, it was Country Roads. So I’ll end this trip down memory lane with this classic tune:


John Denver with Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert

Country Roads
by John Denver, Bill Danoff, Taffy Nivert

Almost heaven, West Virginia
Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenanndoah River
Life is old there, older than the trees
Younger than the mountains, growing like a breeze

Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong
West Virginia, mountain momma
Take me home, Country Roads

All my mem’ries gather ’round her
Miner’s lady, stranger to blue water
Dark and dusty painted on the sky
Misty tastes of moonshine, teardrop in my eyes

Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong
West Virginia, mountain momma
Take me home, country roads

I hear her voice in the mornin’ hours she calls me
The radio reminds me of my home far away
And drivin’ down the road I get a feelin’
That I should have been home
Yesterday, yesterday

Country Roads, take me home
To the place I belong
West Virginia, mountain momma
Take me home, country roads

Country Roads (country roads)
Take me home (take me home)
To the place (to the place) I belong
West Virginia, mountain momma
Take me home, country roads

Take me home, down country roads
Take me home, down country roads
Take me home, down country roads

Note: All photos other than the Google map and street view captures are internet finds believed to be in the public domain. If one of the photos is yours and you’d like credit let me know. If you’d like it removed let me know and I will reluctantly remove it.

This post portrays the positive aspects of my teen years. You probably noticed that all these adventures took place away from my home. I escaped to nature because of the emotional abuse I suffered at home which I talk about here. 👗 I also had a gender non-conforming side to my childhood and teen years which I discussed here.

Posted from Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA, Earth, Solar System

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9 Responses to Mother Nature’s Son – My Teen Years

  1. The fact that you took such a positive and liberating escape route from abuse is immensely inspiring. I have found nature a solace in times of oppression, though I never had the DIY skills to build a cabin. Cal often talks about us eventually saving enough to build a tiny house out of town, though sadly our jobs tie us to the city right now (as does the need to stay close to transport links for our medical needs and suchlike). One day, though…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, this page gets more views than just about anything I have posted so it must strike a chord with folks — well that and nude in nature photos! I am so glad I grew up with nature nearby. So many turned to booze or other substances to escape while I found escape and inspiration in nature. I do like living here in the city but here nature isn’t that far away. I can see aspen trees turning golden on the rocky mountains and watch prairie dogs in my backyard!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. ttrotski says:

    Wow. There is so much to our experiences and attitudes that I feel there is a kindred spirit, both genius and satyr, connecting us. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Mother Nature’s Son Post Updated | JerBear's Queer World News, Views & More From The City Different – Santa Fe, NM

  4. I truly believe there is a quasi-spiritual quality and component to being naked. Especially in nature and with other. The frolicking while skinny dipping pic is super awesome. You’re a great writer JerBear. We need to talk soon. 😉

    Like

    • Thanks for the compliment! I agree with you about the spiritual component. Years ago I was asked to contribute something for an interfaith meeting at a Metropolitan Community Church. I used the story of my youth including the naturist and nature components. I think I may have shocked a few people. 🙂

      Like

  5. Pingback: Beat Your Drum Your Way! | JerBear's Queer World News, Views & More From The City Different – Santa Fe, NM

  6. Pingback: Be Wild and Free! | JerBear's Queer World News, Views & More From The City Different – Santa Fe, NM

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