"We're nature people," the people in the campsite across from us said.
"So are we," I replied. "I mean, I'm guessing most people here are."
We are currently in a campground in central Florida. A river snakes through the 450-site campground, marked with signs every hundred yards begging people to beware of the serpents and not feed the alligators. Wildlife kills! it warns. Beware, beware, beware.
The Instagram-perfect mom in the wide-brimmed sun hat looked at me and scrunched her nose. "I dunno," she said. "I think most people think they are nature people but really they just like the idea of nature."
Is she a witch? A time traveler? Had this young woman with the perfectly blended sun-kissed makeup seen me on a hike with my kids just two hours prior to this conversation? Because I think maybe she did. And if she did, well, busted.
I love nature. I moved to the wild. I've thru-hiked. I was trained in wilderness survival. I've camped for weeks, pitching my own tent, making my meals and then packing up camp to move the next day. Then I taught my husband to join me. Now my children are learning. We're living out of an RV, for goodness' sake! I love nature! I do! I do! Really, I do! At least, I think I do.
OK, here's the thing. It's not my fault.
Snakes love me. You know that. They find me and follow me and stick their tongues out at me as if I were their second-grade school picture photographer. And snakes are, like, really great at camouflage, so it's not as if they gently slither into my periphery like the sun rising gently through my window, awakening me with its warmth and slowly growing glow. No! They're just suddenly there! And my heart leaps. If they could work on their gentle sunrise approach, we'd probably get along dandy.
It would also be nice if the alligators worked on that. We've been in Florida for a month now. It's been lovely and lush and lively. However, I've learned that that there are lively things living in that lushness — and there is a sign directly across from my campground screaming beware, beware with a big ol' picture of an alligator on it.
So was it really my fault that when I had taken a walk earlier in the day with my kids — through the dense bush that skirts along the river with the snakes and the gators — my directions to my kids had gone a little like the following?
"Ooh, look at that gorgeous tree over there! It looks as if a fairy village lives upon its bended limbs. I want to hug it. Hey! What are you doing? Get back on the trail! Stop hugging that tree! Mama says stop!"
And then: "Babies! Look at this still swamp! How the light makes perfect reflections of the trees in its shallow water. I bet we could look in and see our faces. Hey! I didn't mean to actually do it! Get away from the edge! Danger! Snake! Gator! Retreat!"
And of course: "Now this is a good climbing tree. I bet you could touch the clouds from the tippy top. Who said you could climb this tree? Get down! There could be red ants, venomous snails, radioactive frogs, grasshoppers of doom! There's no telling what's up there!"
Maybe Insta-mom had heard me squawking worried death scenarios like an overprotective sea lion. Shark! Iceberg! Asteroid!
The look she gave me reminded me of the time I was in a hostel while backpacking Europe after college. I'd been on my own for a month, figuring out how to live on $20 a day, including accommodations. A girl on the bunk bed across from me looked me up and down and said, "American." I hadn't spoken a word.
"How'd you know?"
"Ponytail, white sneakers — obvious." She said it with such disdain that I'd felt ashamed — not of being American but of somehow being a poser. Instant imposter syndrome.
Here it was again. I'm a nature imposter. I love it, but I'm scared of it. I want to be in it, but I'm not one with it.
I teach my children that the best way to be safe in nature is to respect her strength, which includes knowing her dangers. But perhaps I could lessen the anxiety a bit. Except when it comes to those grasshoppers of doom. Beware! Beware!
Katiedid Langrock is author of the book "Stop Farting in the Pyramids," available at http://www.creators.com/books/stop-farting-in-the-pyramids. Follow Katiedid Langrock on Instagram, at http://www.instagram.com/writeinthewild. To find out more about her and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.