I love doing field work. Yes, it has it’s hard moments. There’s sleeping in a tent that leaks. Or some rock poking into your back because you realize your over-priced ThermaRest is really a piece of crap. Or just wanting a shower. An actual, warm shower, where you don’t run out of water or get some unidentifiable debris stuck to you in the process of washing—defeating the purpose of actually trying to clean up.
But even so, field work gives you the joys of watching webs of spiders glistening in the dawn sunshine, covered in morning dew. Of seeing a white-tailed deer nibbling away on some tasty leaves unaware of your presence. Of the smell of reindeer lichen warming up in the midday sun.
And yet, other than a general sense that I enjoy doing field work, I only seem to remember the hard moments, the challenges. Like trying to eat lunch in a mosquito-infested bog, where lifting your bug screen for long enough to get a bite of sandwich meant that you would end up letting 20 mosquitoes in. Or when it was raining so hard that the rain would funnel down your legs and into your rubber boots—which became more like a canteen keeping water in your boots than keeping the water outside your boots.
One time, I was doing a transect to do plant surveys in northern Alberta. If you haven’t been up in the boreal forest, you should know that it’s a messy forest. There are lots of pokey bushes, some trees are tightly packed in together so your face is getting scratched up by branches, there is a lot of downed woody debris—including complete trees laying on their side or on some precarious angle. It’s not exactly a “walk in the woods” if you know what I mean. After many days of working long hours in physically demanding conditions, and poor sleep thanks to the leaky tent and the always present rock in the back, you tend to get a bit draggy. One moment I was upright, walking along my transect line. Another moment I was laying facedown on the forest floor with my arms pinned beneath me, clutching my clipboard. I face planted so fast I didn’t have time to react. To add insult to injury (and my face was plenty scratched up, let me just say), water was pouring up my legs, out of my rubber boots, because my feet were firmly caught on top of the log I had tripped over. I do remember lying there for a long time wondering how the heck I was going to get up, and thinking,
“Well, this is how it ends.
But at least my squelchy, water-laden, canteen boots are draining. ”
Yup, I love field work.