July 19, 2006

Splash

Summer mornings at camp, I wake up in my small tent to the sound of birdsong. The acres and acres of preserved wetlands to our west are matched by acres and acres of farmland to our east, and the birdcalls from the marsh mix with the piercing call of a rooster, who crows again and again. Nights are almost always cool at camp, but the morning sunshine warms the tent. Sunlight pouring in through nylon walls gets everyone up pretty early, even the teenagers.

Breakfast is eaten in shifts as people stumble out of tents. A few people at a time will gather in my parents’ tiny cabin, where my mother sometimes makes blueberry pancakes over a propane flame, three pancakes at a time in a cast iron frying pan. No one talks much in the morning besides the usual greeting, “Good morning,” and “How did you sleep?”

Anything that happened during the night is recounted – thunderstorms, boats going by in the channel, the call of the great horned owl. Since I am a sound sleeper, I rarely can contribute to the conversation as I grab a bowl of cereal and some soy milk. The teenagers exchange inside jokes about all that went on in their tent as they devour pancakes or cereal. My kids are always still wearing whatever t-shirts they had on the day before, with their hair sticking in all directions. Blonde Sister’s girls, who have that silky hair that always looks perfect, manage to look neat and clean even when camping.

My father, who is obnoxiously cheerful in the morning, will try to get everyone to make plans for the day. "What island should we go to today?" He is largely ignored by the rest of the family, none of whom have inherited his cheerful morning attitude and who prefer to skulk about silently until they are fully awake.

Our dock, surrounded by cattails and shaded by oak trees, is a fairly private place for washing up in the morning. If you get a quiet moment before the dogs start jumping in and stirring up the muck, the water will be calm and clear. A quick swim or a splash of cool water on the face wakes up even the sleepiest camper.

washing face

Urban Sophisticate Sister washes her face at the end of the dock.

14 comments:

Yankee T said...

It sounds great. Summer vacation with my family would be just too bizarre for words.

Chip said...

I tried early on to get my wife to go camping but she refuses to have anything to do with tents or sleeping on the ground. So we go one step up, and go to a cabin with no plumbing/electricity, but with a wonderful, beautiful cool lake. Those early morning swims are so refreshing, aren't they.

BTW I'm very impressed with your mom, making pancakes over the propane. The most ambitious I get is to throw a bunch of eggs and bacon into an old frying pan and leave it on the fire for a while.

jo(e) said...

Chip: I think the cast iron frying pan is the key to making the pancakes. Plus, my mother has years of experience. Myself, the only thing I ever make over propane is Ramon noodle soup, which takes very little talent.

It's been sweltering here in Snowstorm City this week, which is what has been prompting me to look through photos of camp. We are off for another vacation in just two days -- hurray!

Leslee said...

Sounds perfect!

liz said...

So, aside from the fact that your entire family just seems like the nicest, hippest people in the world I can't help but notice that they are all also beautiful.

jo(e) said...

Liz: Yeah, they are. But I suppose I could be biased.

Marie said...

Great picture! Love the moving water! Yeah, your family really is perfect.

Songbird said...

I keep telling Pure Luck I want to go camping, but he says anyone who has a hard time sleeping in our exceedingly comfortable bed is not someone he wants to sleep with in a tent.

Linda (FM) said...

I've got to go camping up north sometime. Great horned owls. Cool evenings. Camping like that sounds luxurious.

BeachMama said...

Even washing up in sounds divine at your camp. And now I want some yummy pancakes cooked on an iron pan. I did do bacon and eggs on the bbq last Sunday because it was too hot to cook inside and it felt like camping :).

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

I love the way you write, the most ordinary tings sem somehow magcal under your pen or keyboard.

I haven't looked as good as Urban Sophisticate Sister since I was about 15.

jo(e) said...

Linda: Yes, camping in the northeast is really wonderful. COME VISIT!

Taittems: I don't think I've ever looked at good as Urban Sophisticate Sister. (She's 35 in this photo.)

halloweenlover said...

I'm with Liz, your family is just beautiful.

Now I want to go swim in a lake.

Mike in Arkansas said...

Your camp sounds nice. When I was growing up, my grandparents had a small cabin on a lake in western Nebraska. Reading your article brings back memories of summer mornings at the cabin.

We did summer vacation camping trips with our kids for years. The oldest daughter always loved it; the youngest daughter did, too, until she was in her teens. Then she just put up with it -- she was more interested in going to town to go shopping and really didn't care much for the camping.

Today, the oldest daughter, single at 33, still loves the outdoors, but can't afford often to get away for camping. The youngest is married with kids -- and while her husband is on leave next month, after visiting us, they're heading to the mountains with some of our gear for a camping trip, taking their kids to some of the places we took her when she was a kid.