With my head tilted uncomfortably against the back of the camp chair, and I stare at the sky above our little clearing in the woods. Even though there are no clouds to obscure the view, the stars don’t pop like I thought they might – we’re too close to San Antonio, and the moon is too bright. The combination leaves the campsite comfortably dark, but not oppressively so.
Until I’m in nature, I forget how bright the night is. In the city, night means darkness, shadowy corners, a hyper awareness to every sound.
Among the low trees of this Texas forest, cicadas, tree frogs and crickets chorus loudly around the campsite.
It’s been awhile since I’ve slept outside, although I’ve started opening the balcony door to my bedroom to avoid running the air conditioning. I’m afraid I won’t sleep well, that the shockingly loud noises of the woods will distract me, but sitting there soothes me, makes my soul quiet.
The wood we get to make a fire and cook dinner is wet, but I learn that perseverance is key. And dryer lint. And lighter fluid. This is not an exercise in suffering.
Thankfully, we brought chips to snack on and music to listen to. As we work on the fire and prepare the vegetables for roasting, conversation swings far and wide – the past, present, future. In between conversation that flows only the way two old friends who don’t see each other nearly enough, I learn about camping. How does this work? What do you do about this? What’s your favorite kind of that?
Night creeps over the camp, but it’s hard to tell for awhile because those city lights maintain a perpetual twilight to the south.
Finally, we eat something so delicious, mostly because we waiting so patiently for it to sizzle in it’s tin foil in the hard-earned embers. Marshmallows come after, with squares of delicious chocolate.
After midnight, exhausted, we crawl into our sleeping bags, still in the middle of all those sounds, but it’s quiet in the late hour. Warm and cozy, my mind is quiet for the first time in what feels like months, just soaking in the cool air on my nose, the warmth in the bed, the subtle sounds outside the tent.
Sleep, better than I usually sleep, comes easily, probably because we stayed up so late, partly because I feel surprisingly safe. And partly because my cat isn’t purring in my ear for a 3 a.m. scratch behind the ears.
It’s bright when I wake up, but filtered through the tent, I feel cozy and snug, like it would be okay to laze around in bed like I do at home on a Saturday morning.
Quick trip to the semi-modern bathroom, then light up the stove for eggs. It was warm in the tent, but the cool morning air sends a chill through me, and I’m thankful for the heat. We’re quiet in the morning as we wake up, a routine we got used to back in college as roommates. Oh, how I miss the easy flow of that time.
We undo everything we worked so hard to construct the night before – sweep the tent, pull stakes, fold, fold, fold, roll. Then, almost suddenly, everything is packed away in neat packages how we brought it all in. Haul it all back to the car, everything neatly in the trunk, day packs out and water bottles filled.
Ready for the next adventure – an 8 mile hike on rocky ground to see dinosaur footprints. It’s warmer by the time we start hiking, and I’m glad I shed my sweatshirt. Through the trees, the conversations continue – hiking, flowers, birds, trees, places we dream of, places we loved visiting, philosophy on travel and relationships and jobs and careers and the intense pressure from all sides to not miss out on a single moment of this glorious and precious life.
At the top of a ridge, we look down and see the footprints from so long ago. Across the way, clouds hover above the next treeline. We are on top of the world, but also nestled into this little pocket.
And there it is – this moment is incredibly unique, and we are one of a kind. Yet, we also are so insignificant. This moment is everything and nothing. And that’s the beauty of nature.