Environmental illness made Jill Neimark “insanely reactive to everything – most clothing, my gas stove, a new mattress, the faint odour of fragrances on my partner, Paul, when he came in from work.” She sought health and solace in living outside:
Camping has not cured me, but it has helped to heal me. I’m still sick – vulnerable genetics, a few tick bites, and some bad environmental luck has made me forever fragile. … Yet I’m back in the game of life. Much of the world and its chemicals sit well with me now. I wear whatever I want, cook over gas and propane stoves, and don’t notice residues of fabric softener on [my partner] Paul’s clothes. I’ve camped winter and summer, and enjoyed them both. Where once I could barely walk to my bathroom, I now walk miles on nature trails and country roads. I become cold-adapted in winter, cooking in a hoodie and sandals, in temperatures that might have formerly made me shiver – and research backs me up there, too (cold thermogenesis, as it’s called, burns brown fat and raises antioxidant levels. It’s the reason Finns like to jump in the snow after a sauna).
This summer I spent time at an RV park in the northeast corner of Georgia, where I saw the glitter and dust of the Milky Way from horizon to horizon. And all the clichés held true: I was awestruck by my beautiful universe, and grateful to see it before me.
(Photo of “the night sky as seen from our camp at Machame Huts” at Kilimanjaro by Stig Nygaard)