June 22, 2017
I like the early hours of morning best, when the sun has just risen, gently urging the land awake as it steadily makes its way across the pale blue sky. Every tree, every bush, every body of water both great and small, seem more subdued, as though each is still wiping the sleep from its eyes. Even the air itself is still and calm.
The only sound in camp this morning is the cranky calling of unidentified birds from high up in the towering pines. Perhaps they are scolding the sun for awakening them from sweet dreams. If any human in the surrounding camp sites is up, they are moving undetectably through their morning preparations, regarding the birth of the new day with the reverence it deserves.
Camping has been - for lack of a better word - an experience. My body is covered with bites (so much for bug spray!) and my hair is way beyond what one could call a bad hair day. I have had to overcome my innate squeamishness to shower in a public shower that costs $1.25 for five minutes of surprisingly hot water and to wash my dishes on a picnic table under trees that leave a fine dusting of yellow pollen on everything below them. The curtains I had spent so much time making to pretty-up our old used pop-up tent trailer detached from what I had thought was a clever solution to hanging them on the track, meaning I'll be going back to the drawing board when I get home. The handle broke off the door and we discovered big gaps between the canvas walls and the metal frame, problems that will need to be fixed before our next outing. Yes, our first camping trip in many years and the inaugural trip with our new-old tent trailer has certainly been an experience.
I have loved every minute of it.
Okay, maybe I haven't loved the bug bites, but there have been plenty of positives to outweigh the negatives. My video-game addicted son has spent the last three days surrounded by nature and real life, not a sorry pixelated facsimile. He has hiked and fished and held lengthy conversations with his parents. He's discovered the simple pleasure of making s'mores around a campfire. The public shower has been an adventure for him, prompting him to voluntarily shower when I would have had to coerce him at home. Even though he resisted reading a book, declaring that he doesn't like books in the summer (what??), I see by his bookmark that he is three-quarters of the way through the book I handed him yesterday.
Surrounded by beauty and miles from electronics and the pressures and demands of our jobs, we have reconnected as a family. Everything we do, we do together. (Well, not the shower part; that would be weird.) Hiking up steep, dusty trails, we encourage each other to keep going and congratulate each other on our success, all the while marveling at the spectacular scenery we would have missed had we not exerted the effort and pushed past our comfort zone. At night we gather around the table in our little home-away-from-home to play a game of Qwirkle (which I always lose) and sing out "Six point bonus!" when the first person lays down their last tile. When darkness has settled in for the night and we have trudged to and from the bathroom to brush our teeth, together, we lay in our bunks with our flashlights and books and read until the exhaustion of the day catches up to us.
The sun has now risen high enough to peak through the tree branches outside my window. Today will be our last day here in the woods. Tomorrow will be a repeat of Monday but in reverse, and will end with us back home in the suburbs amidst the clutter and noise and chaos of real life. Electronics will pull my son away. The pressure of jobs and commitments and responsibilities will march in like a dictator taking control of our lives once again.
But that is tomorrow.
Today the sun is gently waking up the land that calls to me to come explore. It demands nothing of me but that I enjoy and respect and experience that sense of wonder that comes from witnessing the breathtaking beauty of nature. I will immerse myself in that beauty and hope that I can carry a piece of it back with me, a piece that will remind me, when the pressures of the world start closing in, what life is really all about.