For most of the day today, I've been feeling as if life is divided by "camping" and "not camping;" more specifically, camping last night and not there anymore. We had been talking about a little camping trip for a while, now. It's like we were bracing ourselves against a dip and a dunk in glacier pools. Katy and I have been "all your life" campers, not ones to shy away from very many types of roughing it. Of course, I appreciate and enjoy the so-called creature comforts such as hot baths and clean sheets and all I need in order to whip up a quick and satisfying supper in less that 17 minutes. I am also quite keen on pitching a tent, unplugging and sleeping under towering, swaying tree tops, largely, these days, in behalf of all the woodsmoke-filled memories occupying jealously protected areas of my heart and mind.
I've camped in deserts, high mountains, flatlands, on the beach, against rocky outcroppings, along side creeks and rivers and ravines, in trenches and even unexpectedly in strangers living rooms. I've been shelterd under ice and snow ceilings, canvas, nylon, newspaper, stalactites, polyester, roped-together pine bows and nothing but moon and stars. (How do you pluralize the word, "lean-to?") I've foraged Euell Gibbons-style for sustenance and gone prepared with a bag of fast food fries and sauce, have cooked over open fires, small stoves, under rocks and in earth pits.
In addition to having shared my campsite with peers, elders, pros and novices, alike, friends, family, pets, bees and other insects, snakes, wanderers, and various rodent types, I have been surprised in the middle of an eerily black and quiet night by a moose sniffing around my sleeping bag.
And yet, here we were, for at least two days, nervously anticipating and gearing up for a one-night camping trip with our whirling-dervish toddler, as though we weren't the seasoned experts I know us both to be.
He bested us.
We had entered the tent a few hours after nightfall, with the naive hope that he was worn out from a busy afternoon at a beach birthday party and a couple of nature walks around the campground enough to maybe go to sleep after a few moments in the dark. Can you guess we underestimated the power of a first camping experience? That power that somehow gets injected into your very being. This was happening to our boy.
We had walked in the sparse moonlight, with and without the aid of flashlights, and he was just delighted with the whole experience; excited, chatty and happy to climb over or squeeze through, jump off and scramble around. The only time he actually settled down for any length of time was when we waited for his mother outside the restroom and he found some rocks. Rocks. Again. This funny little boy and his adventures with rocks.
I have no idea what time it was when he finally wound down and fell asleep because I fell asleep while he was still crawling over me and over his mother and kissing us over and over and crawling back again how many times! (This was like reliving Katy's first camping trip when she was about a year old. My sister and her 4 year old were with us in one tent, where Katy made the same kind of rounds delightedly crawling over us back and forth, seemingly unable to contain herself.)
Shortly after emerging from the tent, we took one more walk-about, broke camp and came home for breakfast and naps all around. We've been experiencing a sort of surreal re-entry period today; certainly, Desmond's energy and activity having a lot to do with that. But I think it might be more about what a great experience it was for him, because let's face it, CAMPING! and we can't help but feel at least a bit of it empathically. (In a very good way.)