Thursday, August 22, 2013

An Incidental Camper

Five years ago, I had the vision of sitting in the peacefulness of the woods, totally immersed in writing. The little trailer that I envisioned myself in was not materializing so I bought myself a tent.

I had not been camping since the girls were in elementary school and to be honest, would have said that my idea of camping was the Harbour Castle. I wasn't a fan.

Well, things can and do change and I was being called to go to the woods alone and write.

I packed my brand new tent, a chair, a container of chicken and some crackers and some water. Since, being a non-camper, I do not own a sleeping bag, I packed my queen size mattress topper and duvet. I packed paper and pens - not a single thing to read as I did not want to have an excuse to be distracted.  And an electric kettle. Roughing it does not include going coffee-less in my world.

Brian was confused.  "You're going camping? Alone??" he questioned. He knows that I am not a fan of either camping or being alone.  "What does one do when they're camping alone?" he queried. "I don't know," I replied, "I'll let you know when I get back."

I chose somewhere I had never been - Rondeau Provincial Park, a two hour drive.  I picked my site, got the tent out. It's a darn sight better than the old days of trying to find 'rootless' spots to hammer those flimsy little wire stakes into, but it still took me a half hour reading the instructions to figure out how to get it errected.

With the bedding, the inside looked like a low ceiling-ed hotel room. It was so inviting I climbed in and promptly went to sleep for three hours. 

I awoke more disoriented than refreshed. Not being in the mood to write, I took a long drive to scout out the area. Then I went for ice cream and watched the sunset. Still no burning desire to write.

The silliest thing I did was to not bring something to read. I think when we're deprived of something, we become more obsessed with it. I was desperate and the only thing available was the information pamphlet they gave me when I checked in.

"There are racoons." it said. "Secure all your food."  Well, no matter to me - I didn't have any. I had already eaten it all.

I also did not have a flash light or lantern. I am not a camper. I had candles. In a tent. Brilliant.

Also brilliant was the fact that the site I chose was beside a dozen seventeen year old boys playing 'Flip Cup' all night.  So much for the quiet, peaceful solitude I was envisioning. Small matter for that too, since the urge to write was illuding me. 

Sitting around the campfire all by yourself is lonely business. Especially for one not accustomed to being alone. Being in a tent with candles isn't the answer either. Perhaps not that smart to have them, but I am smart enough to know to not fall asleep with them on, so I laid in darkness.I had nothing to read anyway.

I really don't know if the image in my head comes from a dream or reality. It certainly felt real when it happened ... the shadow of BIG, MASSIVE, HUGE hands trying to get the zipper of my tent open. Raccoon hands.  I can still see them. I screamed ... getting even with the boys next door as I'm sure it made them jump ten feet ..."GET AWAY!!!!"  

Even at that moment, I wondered if I was hallucinating and just had Racoon Thoughts in my head from the intense reading material I had poured over. At any rate, I had startled myself enough that sleep wasn't going to come back the rest of the night.

At the crack of dawn I crawled out of my flimsy fabric home. My little white kettle had been brutally assaulted. Muddy raccoon hands had tried to dismantle the thing, looking for non-existent food.  Ahhh ...  confirmation perhaps that the hands trying to get the zipper open were not a nightmare.

A little mud was not going to stand between me and my morning coffee. I took my kettle for a walk, looking for an empty site that had power that I could borrow. I truly thought that there would be regular outlets, not big honkin' 220 plug ins.  I started searching out someone to befriend and beg electricity, but it was so early there were few friendly faces to be seen.  Then I thought of the washroom and hairdryers, and sure enough - there was an outlet. A lady watched as I boiled my kettle and made a nice hot cup of delicious instant coffee. "Brilliant!" she said. I nodded, pleased that I finally was. "Yes. And NECESSARY." I smiled.

Life was good. I had a coffee. The yahoos next door were finally sleeping - passed out is likely more accurate. I sat in my chair, that tiny trepidation of spending the night alone in a tent was gone and I felt like writing! 

Sure enough, the words started pouring through my pen and didn't lift it or my head. And then suddenly, what seemed like minutes later, it was time check out time.  Just when I had settled into it. Just when I had come to terms with my alone-ness, it was time go. 

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