Well, if Profgrrrrl can airport blog when she is on vacation, I figure I can tent blog. I brought my laptop on this camping trip because the memory card on my digital camera isn’t very big. We’ve just returned from a swim on an island, and I am transferring photos to my computer – the modern equivalent to putting in a new roll of film. My tent has no internet connection, but I figure I can write this now and post it when I get home, and it will still count.
It's easy to lose track of the days when you are camping for more than a week. We've had sunny weather all week so the days are a blur of canoeing, swimming, and sailing. As I pull off my damp bathing suit, I notice the contrast between my brown limbs and the white protected skin of my body. I can just barely sit up, my head brushing the sides of the tent as I prop the laptop onto a blanket. The afternoon sun, filtered by the pine trees, casts shadows against the light blue walls of the tent. My husband went back to Snowstorm City to work for a few days, which means I am alone as I settle against the blankets for a nap.
After swimming in the cold deep water of the river, the sun-warmed air inside the tent feels great against my bare skin. Pine needles seem especially fragrant on a summer afternoon, as if the sunshine somehow releases the aroma. My tent is off by itself, but I can hear noises in the background: the clink of horseshoes against the metal stake as my father plays a game with his grandsons over in the grove of oak trees, the thud of bocce balls as the some of the youngest grandchildren play a game in the field near the pine trees, the faraway voices of my sisters who are sitting in the chairs over near the firepit.
I am lying on an old red sleeping bag, opened and spread out to fill the whole tent. I bought this sleeping bag the first year of my marriage, and I can remember lying on this same sleeping bag, in this same spot, on a sunny spring day twenty years ago. I was pregnant with my first child, and my husband and I had driven to camp to enjoy a last quiet weekend together before we became parents. The weather was so warm that I stripped off all my clothes, hoping the sunlight and air would help toughen up my nipples for breastfeeding. I can remember thinking that my child’s first glimpse of spring sunshine came muted through layers of my flesh.
Some weeks after that, of course, I came here with my newborn daughter, and I've got photos of her sleeping on that same red sleeping bag, in the shade of the white pines. That infant has grown into the young woman who comes to the tent now and asks for my car keys. On a cool morning, she and her cousins still drag the red sleeping bags out into the sun so that they can sun themselves, talking and eating the whole time.
My parents' land is a peninsula, surrounded by marsh on three sides, and so I am surrounded by birdsong as I drowse in my tent. The birds are loud at dawn, but in late afternoon, the songs are mellow, the notes muted. The combination of sun and cold water always makes me sleepy, ready for a late afternoon nap, or at least a quiet time of writing in my journal, here in the shade of the pine trees. Camp means all kinds of activities – at any moment, a group of family members are doing something – but it also means time for rest, for reflection, for quiet moments of meditation.