Friday, September 30, 2011

Camping above all else

All week I’d been trying to unpack from our trip back East. This should have been easy: unzip suitcase, remove clothes, wash them and put them away. Yet, this simple act had been pushed aside. As had a trip to the post office to pick up what was probably a small truck full of mail. I could claim work as an excuse—there had been a bit of that. I could say my children had been busy— but then when are they not?

In reality, the weather had been too good, and I felt I had more important things to do. Things like cookouts with friends. And camping trips with my family.

This reasoning is, of course, perfectly logical to most Telluride residents. Summer is fleeting, and rain is anxious to fall again and again.

Still, I was feeling a bit guilty about this camping trip. Hadn’t I just come back from a vacation? Wasn’t this play followed by play? One trip right after another?

I checked the weather, my tactic for stalling when I can’t make up my mind. Clear tonight. Sunny tomorrow. Clouding up the following night. The time to go was now.

As soon as we arrived and started setting up the tent, it seemed crazy that I’d ever doubted the necessity of this trip. We played in the meadow with the girls for a while. Then Andy gathered up the fishing gear and took Siri down to the lake to fish, while I hiked around the same lake with Q on my back. Looking up at the jagged peaks as they settled into the amber light of late afternoon, I felt like I could breathe for the first time in a few days. The world was quiet and for the moment, it seemed like this spot in the mountains was ours.

Yes, we had just had a vacation and didn’t necessarily need another one. But as anyone with young children can testify, traveling with the little ones is not exactly vacation. Or not in the same way we might use that term if we were say surfing and drinking margaritas in Costa Rica.

And visiting family, what can we say—we love them, we can’t stand them, often in the same instant. We’d had a great time, but Andy had been in school for most of the summer, and we’d had very little space with just the four of us.

That night, we watched stars shoot across the night sky. Q slept in her car seat. Andy, Siri, and I linked arms and lay flat on our backs. Andy and I tried to pretend we knew what we were talking about as Siri fired off one question after another.

“Where does the sky end? When do astronauts stop floating? Why is their ice cream dry?”

Eventually, our pretense wore out, and we fell silent. We were exhausted. Traveling was exhausting. Raising children was exhausting. It felt so good to stop moving, look up at the night sky, and let our thoughts stretch out like the sky above us. After a few minutes, Siri asked if it was time to go to bed yet.

“Yes,” Andy and I said, leaping up, amazed that our 4-year old had actually requested this.

As we walked back to the tent, Siri looked up once more. “Mom, isn’t it weird that outer space is everywhere? Space is in Maine, space is in Hawaii, space is here. Weird huh?”

“Yes,” I said, and held her up to look at the sky once more before crawling into the tent to sleep. How good it was to have a 4-year old around to remind you that often the most amazing things are right in front of us.

Space was all around us. We just needed to take a moment, with those we love, to see it.

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