Sunday, May 18, 2008

To Find Oneself, One Must Travel – A Camping Trip in the Spring

"Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.”
(Frank Lloyd Wright)

Did you know that cardinals eat bacon? I swear they do! Got a picture to prove it!

Did you know that raccoons are so friendly as to come visit within 5-6 feet from humans and a burning fire? My dad always told me that fires scare creatures. Apparently not raccoons. Either that or the smell of food is worth the risk to them.

Did you know that oak trees have some of the most beautiful blooms in the late spring? I guess they’re always so tall and majestic, we don’t get a chance to live at “eye-level” with them, and we forget they are actually blooming trees …

I found out all these and so much more this weekend, on my recent camping trip to Kerr Lake. The lake is claimed by both VA and NC as a huge body of water lying just off of I-85 on the border of those states. The park is huge, perfect for the water sports folks, but also perfect for the more laid back campers who would like to just commune with nature for a day or two.

I have been at war with my spirit, my mind and body all year, trying to find the right track, and trying to refill my batteries. No matter what relaxation technique I have tried, it’s not getting me there. And just as Lloyd Wright says and as I have known my entire life, “nature never fails me”. Nature gives me time and space to do nothing but to listen to myself.

Awake, at night, in a tent in the middle of the woods, with waves splashing the lake shores, and owls carrying on their frightful and menacing conversations, crickets calling each other by name (thanks, A.), and lizards and frogs jumping through dead leaves just within a earshot of my tent, under a black sky full of stars and a semi-full moon you have nothing to distract you or carry you away. You’re alone, and exposed. Nothing between you and the elements but a flimsy piece of cloth. And there, “naked” and exposed, and quiet, with no distractions, you have only yourself to answer to. And you figure out a plan. Only there, I could find my peace. Only there, I could empty out my murky brain filled with disappointment and loaded with pain, clean it out, sanitize it and fill it back up with nothing but fresh air. It was like spring cleaning for my whole being.

I try to take very little of the civilized world with me when I camp, and luckily, my camping buddy did the same. He didn’t even bring a fire starter fluid. He wanted to build a fire the good ol’ way, and as you can see in the pictures, we didn’t lack fire at all.

Mohandas Gandhi says that “to forget how to dig the earth and to tend to the soil is to forget ourselves”. So is to forget how to make a fire, I believe. The most basic skill of survival in the wild. And thank you, A., for forgetting the lantern! It was in the stars, or should I say "in the moon", as it was plenty bright!

The only drawback to the whole nature experiment, is, you guessed it: humans! Humans who seem to compete with each other over who pollutes the nature more: bigger trucks, bigger campers, bigger boats and noisier too… That’s the letdown of a State Park camp ground: you get to share it with humans. And not only that: they also bring radios, and cells which go off when you least want them to. Even hair dryers.

But I could very well block off their presence, and just enjoy our stories around the fire, and the woods, and the swishy wind through the young oak leaves, and the woodpeckers, cardinals and squirrels. I could have watched them all and listened to the wind and the waves for 10 more days. I was too thirsty for it all, and the random “human made” noises were not to interfere with my healing, and they didn’t.

Even the food helped. Mainly, we fed on basic things: meats, potatoes, corn and beans, and we somehow got everything perfectly cooked by throwing everything in the fire. Not too much work, not a stove, not too much cooking, nor trash. Paper plates were added to the fire, for cleanup. So were paper cups.

I hope the Earth can say we didn’t disturb it much. I would hate it if we did. Maybe a couple of dead ants, but those happen.

I drifted away from the lake more peaceful and quieter. I even drove slower, and I came home to a nap. My skull seems to be an empty pot again, fresh and clean, ready to be filled up by whatever the springs of life have in store for me for the rest of the year. The batteries are full; and the bucket is cleansed.

One last thought came to mind while I was thinking about the getaway on my ride home: this is my parting thought for you: from William Blake:

“ To see a word in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
An eternity in an hour”.

Click here for pictures, and enjoy.

1 comment:

sleeping bags said...

Great post! I did not know that about the oaks until last spring. I got a new macro lens for my camera, and now I am learning all kinds of little things I did not know before.