Hot orange flakes tickle Midnight; she giggles in melodies of cricket’s legs. Her windswept sighs rush into the valley and echo against the man’s calloused fingers as he plucks at strings. Charred blocks glow and scream-howl stories about the day’s adventures. Roadrunners, riverbed, rustling of critters in the wildflowers, the man’s earnest search for Eden. She holds him close in her bowl of stars, waiting for him to see the light.
* * * *
There is nothing I love more than camping. Sitting around a fire at dusk, sipping wine and listening to my husband play the guitar. I don’t often have the opportunity for a concert for one. I love how it affords so many luxuries. “Luxuries?” you ask. Yes, luxuries. You can wake up at any time. You can go to bed at any time. No make-up, flatirons or showers. You can drink beer at any time. You can sit and read for hours. You can take a nap. You can hike all day. You have the luxury of spending 2 hours making dinner because, well, there isn’t any laundry to fold or dishes to do or e-mails to check or television shows to watch. It’s just you and nature and whatever the day wants to give you. That, in a world of tight schedules and soccer practices and dinner dates and meetings and work, work work-is a luxury.
You have the luxury of walking into the unknown. Expect the unexpected. You have to be open to the universe. You have to wait on God. However you want to say it- be prepared to not be prepared. Let it unfold before you- the crisp beginnings of a new adventure.
* * * *
I took a camping trip …close to 20 years ago. It stands out as a gem in my memory. A glistening, shiny jewel that puts me right smack in alignment with all that I love about camping (and traveling, really).
It was a holiday weekend. Memorial Day I believe. My boyfriend and I had decided to go camping that very day, on a whim. We were completely prepared to go, not find any camping, and return home defeated. That was a chance we were willing to take, and figured we’d at LEAST get to enjoy a drive up the winding cliffs above the Pacific, if nothing else.
We took our time, rounded the cliffs of Big Sur and landed in a cozy nook of the forest just in from the sea; there was a creek, a small camp store, gravel road and redwoods. Heaven. And we managed to attain the very last available site. Daylight was still on our side, so we pitched our tent and hopped back in the Volvo to catch the sunset up the road just south of Carmel. We didn’t return to our campground until well after dark.
The site was dark, and we could only make out the shape of our tent’s silhouette against the clear night sky…and the shape of ANOTHER tent as well. Nobody else seemed to be around, so we walked down to the registration desk, but they knew nothing. As we walked back up the dusty road, we could see that people were sitting at OUR picnic table.
He was very blonde, and she sported extremely short hair and wore small, rectangular glasses. Their tent was easily 1/4 the size of their tiny rental car. As you may have guessed, they were Germans on an idyllic American Camping Vacation.
We spoke with them about the campsite. Despite the language barrier, we were able to discern that it was all a mix-up, and yes, we could all share the same site. One table, one fire, and two tents.
It was one of the best camping experiences I have ever had. We were underage, and they had a bottle of Pinot Grigio. And they, being from an entirely different land, had never experienced S’mores. And so the fire wore on into the crisp, beach-kissed night, where we indulged in “delicacies” from each others homeland. The spoken word was a bit of a barrier, so charades became our preferred form of communication. My boyfriend and I came to understand that “Ushi” , the girl, had a name that meant “bear”. This was all “explained” to us through mean face-making and pretend claws she held up. This sort of exchange became normal and carried us into the blackest part of the night.
The next morning we awoke to our new friends leaving a trail of dust behind them as they scooted on down the road toward their next destination. Every time I pack up to go camping, I think, “Maybe we will meet another couple like Ushi and Thomas.” It hasn’t happened, but I am always pleasantly surprised by what DOES happen. Each time it’s a new experience, but a familiar one. There is nothing quite like searching the land for a place to stop, sleep and dream by an open fire.