First of all, I think it plays into some maternal instincts. Organize the gear, prepare the food, pitch the tent, fluff the sleeping bags. And realizing, there is so much you can easily live without. It’s fun to nest, and when you do it in nature, without a gizmo for every gazmo, you actually get creative. Using flat beach rocks to create a path to the tent, or little pine cones to write a love note, or a stick…the simplest but most useful of tools, sharpened and honed, just waiting to skewer a puffy marshmallow, or poke a friend. Or stab at a fish, for dinner. Ha ha, that would be stretching the truth, dinner comes from a can.
But I also think camping draws out a deeper desire that we all have. To feel useful, to feel like the things we are doing have meaning. That every action, though far-fetched as it may seem, directly contributes to our “survival.” Like enclosing the food, and stringing it up, away from the tent, so the bears don’t come ’round. After all, a bear encounter…that’s something that can quickly turn a weekend outing into the real deal: a life or death situation.
It awakens the senses, to feel like you are living for survival.
Isn’t that what we are doing every day, though? Living to survive? Or has it become “making a living to survive”? I think they are two completely different things.
In the last days of my husband’s illness, of his life, he would get me up early to watch the sunrise. He talked about the wave of bird song that he could hear rolling down the street, as if it were a marching band, approaching with the sun. Do you hear it? It’s like a small wave, just a couple of twitters, then it builds and builds ’til you find yourself surrounded, in the middle of a chaotic party, everyone singing, chirping, chanting about the birth of another brilliant day. And then it passes by and fades away.
Many of us live luxurious lives, surrounded by stuff and homes, new technological toys popping in daily to fill any voids. And when I was younger, tearing through relationships, seeking a career, a calling, a partner, and “meaning” in my life, thinking about death and loss, too was a luxury. Something off on the horizon. And I would get depressed about being in debt, being lost in life, being on the wrong path, wondering what my purpose was. That depression, too – it was a luxury.
I wake up every day. Sometimes I catch the sunrise, and sometimes I can’t even catch a shower before work. I am by no means out of the emotional woods. I am teetering on the edge. But I will not allow myself the luxury of falling into a depression.
I watched my husband take his last breath. In that moment, my heart screamed out in panic. Stop Time! Please, someone…anyone…make this beautiful sunrise last all day. Take my house, my job, my belongings. Pack it all up, throw it all out, get that unimportant shit out of my way!
The luxury of this life, it is in this moment. His last breath. Every breath. None of us know how long we will survive. The luxury of this life is in this moment. This morning. Waking up. Every day.
And that is what got me thinking about camping….I am already on this emotional path, and I have this crazy desire to take it all the way. To continue stripping down, to the essentials, just me, my bare-bottomed self, and perhaps one tool, my trusted swiss-army knife. Living to survive. The most luxurious gift, as I whittle my way toward meaning again.