Thursday, June 22, 2006

Nature Therapy

Last Sunday we drove to a campground that sits adjacent to an exceptionally beautiful lake. The campsite we chose has a path leading down to a platform where people usually fish. Last time we camped there, three years ago, we watched a deer swim across the lake while a family of loons called angrily at it.

I'd missed the place, almost as much as I'd missed camping in general. Last year, because we had four weddings to go to and couldn't really ask for more time off, we didn't get to go camping even once. The year before that, we camped only one night.

I love camping for lots of reasons, most of them cliched and obvious. But I also savor the opportunity to set up a home (no matter how temporary) where there was before only grass and trees and a fire pit and a table and a pump full of earthy-tasting water. My nesting instinct is on steroids so powerful that I was almost able to enjoy being a hotel housekeeper for three years. So after we set up the tent (very nearly, we later discovered, in a pile of deer shit), I giddily put together our bed.

After laying out our sleeping bags on the queen-size air mattress (we're wusses, and totally okay with that), I flopped down on top of mine and gazed serenely up at the top of the tent for a few seconds before realizing that something smelled distinctly of urine. It turned out to be my sleeping bag, although I'm not sure exactly how or why. So I took the bed apart again, and put it back together using blankets and Eric's unzipped sleeping bag. That actually turned out to be better, I think, because I'm claustrophobic and when I don't sleep in a sleeping bag, I don't have panic attacks in the middle of the night. However, I do sometimes wake up with a completely frozen ass.

Late the first night it rained persistently, drumming hard on the top of the tent and making our sleep restless and cold. But we slept late the next morning, while the sun sparkled through the trees and slowly warmed the wet, chilled earth.

I brought two books along, thinking I would read a lot, and I brought a notebook, thinking I would write. But I didn't write a single word on paper, though I spent a lot of time carefully composing descriptions in my head. And I didn't even finish the book I was working on when I got there. Instead I sat with the book open in my lap, staring across the lake, watching the breeze blow up the edges of the lily pads. Or watching through the trees as the sun sank, slow and huge and orange.

Of course, it wasn't all about silent contemplation. The first night, a singer-songwriter from Duluth was camped two sites away. He sang and played his guitar for hours on end, and we took a cue from some other campers and walked over to watch him play for a while just before dark.

Also, like Jessie and Vinny, we enjoyed the strange sexual formations sometimes taken by the tree trunks:

On Tuesday, I arrived home itchy from mosquito bites, greasy and smelling so strongly of campfire that one shower wasn't enough to wash it away. My eyes were gritty and tired, but I had to go to work. I managed to take a shallow five-minute nap before dragging myself off the bed and into the car, where I discovered that I wasn't really tired at all, but actually completely and deeply rested.

And if I can indulge one of those aforementioned cliches, I would like to say that what I love most about camping is the sudden slowness of the world that cleanses my brain and my bones of all their knotted-up frenetic energy.


Blogger Jessie said...

You make me want to go camping!!! I think I like the idea of the queen size mattress best. A little luxury goes a long way. Anyway, if it rains really hard you won't get wet, you'll just float away.

I love the sex tree btw. :)- haha!

6/24/2006 8:21 PM  

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