Free Write Friday: Camping

We move by the light of the skies. Time untethered to seconds, minutes, hours. 

Shadows cast onto nylon tents, faded grays and greens meant to blend into earthy surroundings. Toothpicks of trees stretch heavenward, branches and bark punctuating a pale sky. Bikes laid flat on their sides, like fallen dominoes, line the campsite. Brightly colored helmets are scattered asunder. 

They grab their bikes and pump legs up the hill to the playground nestled in the trees. They twirl and slide, climb and spin, dust rising underfoot. Teeth bared, faces upturned with glee, taut with playful exertion.

They return to home base, tumble in the dust, twist in the hammock, balance on the yellow slack line situated between two sturdy tree trunks. Footprints of sneakers and toddler Crocs pepper the campsite. Dirty feet, caked with dust, the reminder of an earth long forgotten by more bourgeois days spent indoors: at school, at work, at homes walled off from such grime. Here, we can’t get our feet clean, no matter a 3 minute token shower, no matter a towel wiping down, no matter a dip in the cold ringing canal, uneven stones and oyster shells underfoot. Still the dark mark of filth between toes marks us. 

Down at the water they zig-zag across the rocky beach, search for colorful stones, treasures of abandoned sea creature skeletons, slimy seaweed. Our backs align straight in the kayak as we glide through the seafoam green toward the hazy hills beyond. A little one dips an appendage or two in the water, leaning from the front unexpectedly as I struggle to stay balanced and centered on the stand up paddle board. 

A burn ban has a dampening effect; we gather around the citronella candle as the skylight fades, skin graying to ashen. Headlamps alight, artificial and glaring. Canvas camp chairs unfold around the would-be campfire. It’s too dark and we succumb to the arc of the heavenly bodies, one seceding as the other takes reign in the sky. 

Camping is a children’s glory: timetable discarded, dirt embraced, leisure activities and food prevail unencumbered. They chase each other through the brambles, swing gleeful in the hammock, unearth large stones to discover tiny crabs frittering sideways, eager to find a new hiding place. Grime accumulates under their fingernails like dust clinging to the mantle at home. It marks them unconcerned, free from the shackles of the modern urban childhood of after school activities and rationed screen time. 

We wake to birds rustling, charcoal light reversing gray to green to sky. I arise despite myself, soak in the soreness of my bones. The light, the earthen air call me to get up, get out, move myself into the surroundings I was meant to inhabit.

We move by the light of the skies. Time untethered to seconds, minutes, hours. 

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The Summer Day

I’m camping with family today so taking a hiatus from Narrative Medicine Monday. Instead, enjoy this classic poem by Mary Oliver. May you be “idle and blessed” this summer day.

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Free Write Friday: Speed Boat

My three-year-old calls it a speed boat, and it is. Wind whipping our faces, hair swirling behind, strands winding around each other haphazardly. It’s their first time on an inner tube. A long braided rope tethers the inflated donut to the sleek new vessel. The sunny long weekend, barbecue in our bellies, exuberant friends all contribute to the exhilaration. 

Even so, I’m surprised at my six-year-old’s enthusiasm, eagerly egging on the captain to go faster, faster, weave serpentine over the murky waters of the strait. She learned to swim, and swim well this year. But the bouncing motion, unpredictable and jolting, makes me cringe, watching her from afar. Any moment she could bounce high, bounce right off, face stinging into the green waters, choking on the unexpected douse. Gripping tight to the inner tube though, her smile is so wide, so unabashed, so gleeful. I can’t help but exult with her. 

My skin sun-kissed by salted air and pummeled by the wind, I feel taut, relaxed, satisfied. An early summer glow to the late afternoon, washing away months of rainy Pacific Northwest grey, particularly gnawing and extended this year. I rest into the warming sun, the exuberant children, the rush of air past my ears, pressing into my chest as we speed along, parallel to the rocky shore. 

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