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Luskin: Nature Deficit Disorder

More than half the world’s population already lives in urban areas, which may help explain why we humans are spending so much time sitting indoors.

Cold rains and patches of ice across the frozen landscape have kept even me cooped up and feeling blue. And following the current fashion to diagnose every human discomfort, I’m convinced I’m suffering from nature-deficit disorder, originally coined to describe the widening gap between childhood and nature.

It follows that if nature-deficit is the ailment, playing outdoors is the cure. For school kids, outdoor education is becoming more common across the curriculum. Those of us long past school age have to look elsewhere to learn how to be outdoors. And for many women in Vermont, this means Doe Camp.

Doe Camp is run by Vermont Outdoors Women, whose mission is “to encourage and enhance the participation of women of all ages and abilities in outdoor activities through hands-on education.” With help from The Vermont Outdoor Guide Association, Doe Camp is a weekend retreat where women can learn all kinds of outdoor skills.

Doe Camp takes place several times a year in different seasons. I went to Doe Camp last winter, where I met women from up and down the eastern seaboard as well as from Vermont. There were teenaged women, women over sixty, and women of all ages in between.
These women all challenged themselves in different ways, from sleeping in a tent for the first-time ever to learning Advanced Snowshoeing Techniques.

There were classes on fire starting, winter survival, planning a winter backpacking trip and forest management, among others. I chose workshops far outside my comfort zone. In Becoming a Deer Hunter, I met both experienced hunters and complete novices like myself, just learning what it is we need to know.

Our instructor, a Vermont Guide, outlined many of the practical aspects of hunting, from game laws to ways to stay warm.
She also addressed some of the ethical and spiritual issues of hunting. In a class on Critter Calling for Hunters and Photographers, I learned that deer burp, grunt and bleat and turkeys fear owls and hate crows. It’s precisely this knowledge of animal behavior that will help me better understand what’s going on when I’m back out in the woods.

Until then, I’m treating my nature-deficit disorder by reading great nature writing. It may not be quite the same as being outdoors, but with a good writer, I think it’s the next best thing.

Deborah Lee Luskin is a writer, speaker and educator.
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