“B” is for “Backpack”
The most impactful backpacking trip I have been on was my first extended trip. A few years ago, I co-led a trip for our second year students to the Malheur National Forest, near Seneca, OR. I could reminisce about many things I experienced and learned on that trip; from freak blizzards to pancake flipping contests. One aspect of the trip, however, impressed me more than anything else, and that was my ability to live out of a 75 liter backpack.
Other than one resupply for food, I spent twenty-one days with just a fraction of my belongings.
On our trip we had two squeeze bottles of grape jelly, which I did not prefer to eat but that some of the students loved. We spent 21 days with these two bottles of pretentiously-purple jelly. They may as well have been the only jellies in the entire world, because after about ten days, front country life felt like a different reality.
The day we got off the trail we went to the grocery store. I remember walking down the aisle and being confronted with an entire section of jellies. There must have been eight varieties of grape jelly alone, and then several strawberry, raspberry, peach… so many jellies! I started laughing in shock, “Look at all the jellies!” I gasped. Part of me knew it was weird to be shocked, and part of me was profoundly surprised to so much of any one man-made thing in one spot. The two people I was with understood and we laughed, helplessly, over the ridiculous quantity of jelly while other shoppers edged around us uncomfortably. I knew that only “weirdos” laugh over something as common as the Jelly Section of a grocery store, but laughter was the only way to process the shock of front-country re-entry.
At this point, I could easily transition into a rant about how we have “too much” in the West, which is probably true. I am quite thankful, however, for the comforts and wealth we are blessed with. I am thankful to be warm, to drink coffee every day, to own a variety of cleaning products and to have clean water.
I would rather turn my attention to the profound confidence I gained the moment I realized that I had just lived for three weeks with one kind of jelly (that I didn’t even like), and that I did not really mind it. I had spent three weeks with just two pairs of underwear that I washed in stream water, and I had spent several nights in a shelter made of nylon, or sometimes only made of sticks and bark, and I had been comfortable and happy. I would not want to live that way always, but I had been changed by the opportunity to live with fewer resources and to discover my own ingenuity when needs arose. My experience with two bottles of grape squeeze jelly showed me the resources God provides in nature, and the ability He gave me to transform these resources into comforts and necessities–bark became shelter; sunshine became disinfectant.
Sometimes when I feel the temptation to look for security in “jellies” of modern Western life, an image of the little bottle of grape jelly comes to my mind. It gives me the sense to say, “Oh yes, I probably already have what I need…” and then I pay more attention to what God has already provided.
By: Hannah M. Landon