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Snapshots from the Rail

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Scroll down for notes from the WayOut experience. If we don't study ourselves, we get studied. Often, with a lot of misunderstanding and misrepresentation. We're side launching a community ethnographic endeavor-- out of the ivory tower and into the grassroots. The snapshots below are excerpts from written and audio field notes. Join the research. Not as subjects, but as intellectuals. Post your reactions, insights, analysis and similar experiences. 

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“This helped me with my PTSD”

I shared with a group of campers that I was excited to try winter camping later in the year. As we all huddled by the fire in the sunlight trying to get warm on a fall day, one camper shook her head at me, while another camper said, “Nah. Why you wanna do that?”  Mike quietly listened, hearing echoes of some of the reservations he had when I first brought up my desires to him. 

When I mentioned to the group that I didn’t want to just camp in the cold, I wanted to actually camp in the snow so I can do some winter activities, they all just gave up on me. “Snowshoeing! You crazy.”  

As I tried to persuade the group about the merits of winter camping an older man, who was standing quietly by not quite a part of the campfire circle but apparently listening, interjected, “I’ve done it [winter camping]. It’s actually pretty nice.” Relieved that someone else out of the 7 people there was on my side, I felt vindicated. Everyone looked to him to explain himself and he shared with us that he was ex military and he enjoyed the quietness of the outdoors. It turns out in our little huddle three of the men were ex military. The man who asked me in disbelief earlier why I would want to winter camp had in fact done winter camping but couldn’t understand why someone would choose to do it.  He shared where he was stationed the first time he had to camp outdoors in the snow. “No kidding.” I was stationed there, said another of these men. The conversation gradually became triangulated between the three men, one sharing earlier in the conversation that camping “helped him with his PTSD.” The quiet man who vindicated me, was no longer quiet. He opened up as he connected to others who shared his experiences and love for the outdoors. The rest of us sat and listened to the camaraderie and stories of these three men who once served in the armed forces and for whom camping among Black people offered them some connection and comfort as they healed from those experiences.

"I’m worried about listing it on AirBnB."
“He’s not white, y’all. He’s Black!”
 

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Wednesday, 10 August 2022