Thursday, July 24, 2014

Camping Without Stuff

I made the mistake of thinking I could host a party Friday night and get off early Saturday morning for camping, without packing the car or even getting out the gear the day before. Which is how we walked out the door with:

-printed directions left in the printer
-no silverware, plates, etc.
-no lighter for the camp stove
-and no sleeping bags.

We weren't far when we remembered the directions and drove back to get them. We went by a grocery store for plasticware and a few more food items. But it wasn't until we were 2/3 of the way there that Nic suddenly said, "We forgot sleeping bags."

We pulled off at the next exit and checked, just in case, with me crossing my fingers.

You have to understand a little of our camping history here. We both love camping. We went several times during our whirlwind year of dating and being engaged. After marriage, though, scheduling got harder and our only previous attempt at camping was ended when we arrived to find a freak storm had blown in.

So when we discovered the loss of sleeping bags--and no blankets or anything remotely workable in their place--we were first heartbroken, then determined. We'd waited weeks for a weekend we were both free. We were not going to be defeated.

Adding an extra hour to our trip, Costco saved us. Thank God for Costco. Cheap, adequate sleeping bags in abundance.

When we arrived at the campground and finally set up, we'd missed our window for an afternoon hike. It was raining. We discovered the loss of matches when we tried to make dinner and had to run to the camp store. We went four times in an hour, insuring the owner thought we were crazy. The last trip was probably the most necessary: who goes camping without bringing a card game?

We were still determined. We set up our stuff and the rain became a sprinkle we could live with.

Despite a broken lantern, despite rowdy neighbors, in spite of it all, we had a blast. Camping is the only vacation you can mess up and be fine.

Over dinner we played games. We chatted with our neighbors. We observed a bump in the ground that moved around, making grass and underbrush shiver as it burrowed away. We walked around the nearby lake and watched the falling droplets making round wrinkles in it.

When it got dark, we huddled down in our new sleeping bags and I told Nic a story. It's the story of a man who loved, lost, and continued his fight for justice even when his youthful actions reaped uncomfortable consequences. It's the backstory, in fact, of one of my characters. I told him the whole prequel novel and then some, and he listened intently the entire hour and a half, enthralled.

Turns out all you need for entertainment is your brain.

The next day I enjoyed not having to do anything besides get dressed and brush my hair. I loved being allowed to be dirty. I loved the freedom of not caring.

I loved the spontaneity of deciding, "What will we do today?" and picking a hike at random. We walked through the trees with nothing in the world to do but enjoy their tall trunks and green, spider-ridden leaves. We climbed boulders to get a closer look at odd fungus. We heard nothing but the everything of nature.

There is nothing better than that.

So we enjoyed our camping, despite arriving late, everything going wrong, and a half-dozen things being forgotten. We enjoyed it because camping is an escape, and if anything, those problems were part of the escape. It made it an adventure.

Being out in the wild, you face the unknown. In little ways, normally. Strange bugs and animals. Some dust in the food. A hike to get water. That's why people like camping; there's this tiny sense of danger and survival. Camping is very tame, but it reminds us of things that are not. While it terrifies us, that realization is also freeing. Truth always is.

Forgetting our stuff was one more reminder that the world is not tame. Things aren't under our control. You can't do anything perfectly. In the face of that, happiness is a choice. You cannot expect the unexpected; you can only relinquish control and enjoy the ride, including the bumpy parts. You decide your attitude.

I always want to come away from camping with renewed admiration for nature. But I also want to come away with a fresh perspective on the wildness of life. We talk about The Laws of Nature as if they are ruly, but they are the laws of the lawless. Life isn't in our control. Realizing that allows me to rest, truly and fully, on the providence of God and the strength of my will.

A part of me wishes I were still out there in the woods.

Word count: 828.