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  • W. Blake Kooi

Canoe Camping the Manistee River

Camping along the Manistee River helps you reflect. It connects you to what is authentic and good--like putting wild basil in your Dinty Moore stew to add a little more flavor, or soaking fresh peppermint in moonshine to share around a campfire while swapping stories with friends, or sitting on a toilet seat in the morning overlooking the beauty of fall. It is amazing how removed we are from nature. We are terrified of bugs and are obsessed about not getting dirty. We forget that we are a part of nature and not separate from it. Many of us think of ourselves as a disease on this planet and that the planet is going to fight back with a vengence--waiting and willing to take us all out. If we only could understand nature a little more we would feel a little more safe and secure with the fact that nature provides. On my trip along the Manistee river, with casual seeking, I found wild basil, peppermint, evening primrose, autumn olive, wild grapes, asters, and rose hips. I even picked some green juniper berries to throw in my backpack so that it smelled less like a middle aged man.

Nature doesn't just connect you to what is authentic and good. It is a contrast to what is false and dark. In reflection it helps point out your shadow side. Carl Jung pointed out that each of us have a shadow side and supported his hypothesis by reviewing myths and religions across time and culture. Human beings have always known that we have a shadow side--a part of us that is hidden. Oftentimes, this shadow side is disfunctional and acts like a spoiled child just below our psychic awareness. Carl Jung believed that we need to identify this shadow side and learn how to train it in order to integrate it into our person in a healthy way. Otherwise, this shadow side comes out as disfunction--disordered behavior. Unfortuneately, camping along the Manistee River only helps you reflect and identify this shadow side. It takes intentional incremental change to bring order back to your life.

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