September 6, 2016

World : Camping

 I didn't grow up in a family who ventured into the outdoors.  We didn't take any trips at all, really, since my parents worked seven days a week. Despite being extremely religious my dad never closed our small business even for Christmas Day. It's to their credit, and those of my older brothers, that I never felt deprived, then or growing up.  Their work and values have made it to easy for me to now choose to be outside, to abandon the secure shelter my family labored so hard to create.

In high school every summer my best friend invited me to camp with her family near a lake. What I remember from those lovely hot days was that 1) the tent was put up for me, and 2) it felt a lot like being at home: tons of prepared foods and real showers. It wasn't until I was in my mid-twenties that I went on a real "camping" trip where I learned to put up my own tent and cook our own food.  Then I was hooked on this entirely new way of exploring New England, which I had loved through car windows on long drives and through my camera lens on long hikes. Here was a new way to live in it and know it.

And from New England launched the six week cross country road trip M and I took, camping along the New England coastline and through the South to the Southwest and into the California coastline.  I liked taking pictures of our tent along the way, in all the patches of ground that it temporarily inhabited. I fell in love with the ability to pack up your shelter and carry it with you to different scenes.  There have been so many scenes since that time, that it's hard to believe there was ever the first tent, the first camp.

When I was booking my flight to Boston for a wedding and a medical conference, I was inspired to take a trip to New Hampshire to climb in the famous Rumney area.  Mainly for the climbing, but as I planned I knew it would involve camping by myself, which I haven't done.  This appealed to me on a number of levels. Lately, having a lot of time to myself has spiraled me into a black hole of bad TV and mindless internet browsing. I thought it would be good for me to force myself into a situation where I was less connected to the world as colored by media and boredom, and closer to the core of my introversion--reading others' thoughts, writing my own, paying attention to my senses as they come into contact with nature without filter.

The first night was hard.  I was deeply lonely, especially after spending a weekend with old friends in Boston and fine dining and dancing at an upscale hotel for my friend's wedding. But an hour into a book, warm in my sleeping bag, noting night not by a clock but as light left and insects infused the ambient sound, I felt full. And every night after that, I looked forward to getting into my tent the same way I look forward to my bed after travels away.  I looked forward to getting into my tent, organizing the few small items I needed next to me, zipping up in my sleeping bag, writing thoughts from the day, then reading a mix of books, then listening to night, then falling asleep.

I also got to experience a uniquely natural place--D Acres Farm in Dorchester, New Hampshire, recommended to me by a friend. It's an organic farm homestead.  Everything made there is biodegradable. They make breakfast and dinner for campers, or for any passersby who wants a farm-to-table meal. I had an amazingly fresh, flavorful vegan meal of roasted purple potatoes, quinoa and carrot salad, a leafy tomato salad, zucchini soup, and one of the best desserts I've ever had--a moist rhubarb bread with sunflower seeds.  The sweet was slight and perfect, and the texture sublime.

I also had my first solar-powered shower. A staff member told me it'd be a much better experience than the conventional indoor shower. The first outdoor shower I've ever had was in the tropical backyard of a Key West Air BnB, which was supremely luxurious.  This outdoor shower was a little on the rougher side, all the more charming for its quirky mix of effort and leave-it-be.

I slept in a grassy field inhabited by bunnies and chickens. The small gardens felt sprawling and high and gorgeous. I've never grown anything myself in a garden, and my supermarket mind couldn't wrap itself around the logic of this greenery. I respected the wires and fences around them, assuming that they were fashioned in a way to help what was inside grow. Which I think is how I felt about my tent.

And I wondered how such a small space can provide such satisfaction. Part of it is just that--it's a real source of happiness to see that the thin fabric of a tent and the light fluff of a sleeping bag can insulate and warm. I love the feeling of being able to wear almost nothing inside of a sleeping bag and know that you're warm while sleeping outside. You relish in the simplicity of everything you need fitting inside this cove, whose indent on the grass will balloon back to flat ground hours after you leave it. The other part of it for me is to feel that I'm--we all are--similar. Small, compact, and expansive at the same time.


  1. I'm picturing you deep in a tent snuggle making that closed-eyes smile with a satisfied sigh, and I feel instantly calm even though I'm not calm right now. Thank you for sharing this!

    1. Sending you energy for calmness! You got this :)


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