Friday, July 13, 2012

life at camp

as i've said, i haven't done any camping since i was knee high to something or other.  one thing i'd forgotten, that there is so much dirt in nature.  there were showers at camp but why bother rinsing off because the moment you walked back to camp you are again coated in the fine red dirt of the sierra nevada mountains.  i'm not one to wear hats but i took to wearing a cap because it was easier than trying to comb the hair.  everyone wore hats and at dinner when we took off our lids each of us possessed a magnificent 'do pressed a la hathead.  it was quite a sight to behold.

nick and i shared a military pup tent -- it was provided by the boy scouts, nick is a cub scout and this was a scouting trip -- of the kind you see in a tv show like m.a.s.h.  i brought all sorts of camping gear including sleeping bags and air mattresses.  yet sleep that first night eluded me.  i tossed and turned like a cat in a bag.  the nights grew cold.  during the day the temperatures hovered in the mid 90s f. range but at night the temperature plummeted which left one if he happens to be sleeping on a his bare air mattress and using his unzipped sleeping bag as a blanket shivering like a hound put to pasture.  i mean it was cold!  i tossed so much that when i finally did catch some zzzzzz i somehow rolled out of my cot and out of the tent.  i hit the ground hard and had a few moments of what the fuck?!  i felt for the floor and found dirt and pine needles.  my only hope is that the other campers didn't hear that thud. 

by the second night i had adjusted to life at camp and slept like a babe.  my preferred time is nighttime but at camp life became a diurnal existence and when the sun dropped like a coin in a fountain it was nighty-night.  nick adjusted just fine from the get-go.  i heard him sawing logs like a lumberjack on crack.  essentially the camp was run by older scouts who acted like counselors and the whole deal reminded me so much of the summer movies from the late'70s early '80s like the bill murray vehicle meatballs [1979] but not so wild or manic.  for the kids it was a wonderful time filled with activities that included archery, bb gun target shooting, bmx riding, nature hikes, canoeing and so on.  what was manic was the schedule as everything, from wake-up to meals to activities, were on a strict timeline.  i brought the sunday paper and a couple of books [i've been reading much buddhist writing and had brought along dharma punx by noah levine along with a collection of essays by assorted buddhist on the culture of u.s. materialism] but hadn't even more than 20 minutes to read.

as for the canoeing one could only do it if you passed a swim check.  okay, no problem i thought.  nick and i are both strong swimmers.  the camp had a small lake that was fed by snow melt.  upon our arrival we were told that that lake was cold.  it would take a measure of fortitude to make the swim check.  we were given a tour of the camp and its various programs and activities.  the tour lasted about two hours.  thru out the tour it was repeated, almost like gallows humor, that the lake is cold.  okay, i thought, okay.  i've been in cold water in the past and i've lived to tell the tale.  when it was time to get to the lake there was a camp counselor in the water telling us the rules of the swim check and what was expected of us.  i checked to see if she was wearing a wet suit or some time of protective clothing.  all i could see was that the counselor was in a bathing suit.  how cold can that water be? 

when it was our turn nick wanted to check the water by putting his hand in.  it was cold but not so much i thought.  then i gave the count of three and we jumped in.  holy mother of god!!!!  it was -- you guessed it -- fucking freezing.  nick immediately stiffened up and asked to stop.  i said okay and was ready to climb the ladder back on to the dock when another counselor said that if i completed the swim check i could take nick out on a canoe.  mind you i've been in the water for a few minutes already.  i said okay and began to swim.  now the distance i had to swim was no more than 50 yards i guess.  not very lengthy and the requirement to pass the test was to swim four laps, three in freestyle, and the last lap doing the backstroke.  the first lap was not too difficult.  i thought my body would acclimate to the cold.  it didn't.  my muscles began tightening up and my lungs felt like it was breathing in shards of glass.  i finished the second lap and i had a decision, either be rescued by a teenager or stop on my own.  i figured stopping on my own was less humiliating then a 40-something man be rescued by a teenager.  on my little chit that was placed on the board by the lake denoting swimmers' aptitude was the word beginner

nick continued to amaze me.  he has a scientist's mind.  one of his favorite activities was the unofficial one of looking at and cataloging insects and wild life.  for one activity the cub scouts were given flint and a rod to strike to make fire.  most of the scouts couldn't do it.  it took a good deal of finger strength as well as technique to make sparks.  nick understood the principle of making fire and had the technique.  he didn't make the kindling blaze but when we got back to camp one of the other parents observed how nick was teaching a couple of boys how to strike the flint.  she turned to me and said, you have a thinker. 

i hope i don't sound like i'm bragging but her words brought tears to my eyes.  we have children and to our amazement our children turn into their very own individuals.  nick's strengths are mathematics and the scientific method.  quite unlike is poet father whose head is words and images.  nick also has a large, kind heart so that when he found a baby chick near our tent he worried that the chick would be stepped on by fellow campers and he wanted to let everyone know about the chick.  nick doesn't know yet that not everyone cares about a baby chick.  it was a relief to both of us when he asked that i take a picture of the chick and when i tried the bird flew up and away.  the chick was a fledgling.  i told nick not to worry.  the forest is its home and he is learning to fly. 

anna asked me what was my favorite thing about this camping trip.  i told it was this:  on our second night nick and i climbed into our cots.  i turned off the flashlight and in the perfect darkness nick spoke of the adventures of the day.  he said, i love you.  i said , i love you too.  it was the tone of his voice that was my favorite thing.  it was the voice of contentment, adventure and love. 


Post a Comment

<< Home