23 July 2015

Counting The Cost

I loved camping with my father.

Even when I was too young to comprehend that he really went camping to get away from the tensions of work or home, I sensed that the long drives to Death Valley and Amboy Crater were how my dad unwound. It was his way to find his center whenever he'd lost it. So even at ten or eleven I knew that camping was an escape for him.

But it was an adventure for me...

I loved just being with my father so I don't mean to downplay that aspect at all. When I was with him it was easy to find adventure most anywhere. But as a youngster, untorn by thoughts of divorce or abandonment, I took his presence more or less for granted...so adventure was built upon that.

Every trip, of course, had a moment where it turned a melancholy corner. It was the moment my outward point spirit was interrupted by the awareness that Dad had started to break camp. It could be any little thing like dumping out the left over water, rolling up the sleeping bags, or stirring up the campfire. The moment I caught wind of clean-up I knew the hours remaining were numbered and the adventure would soon be over.

I wasn't so young as to think we'd be out in the desert forever, it wasn't surprising in any way, but it sent an unintentional signal to my young heart. It said something like, "all that this campsite represents: the peace, the adventure, the way it centers your father..it’s an illusion. The real world is Back There and it will always overwhelm what you have here."

Breaking camp was, of course, a necessity. But what made it sad was the subtle signal that being in the wild cost my father and he was reluctant to pay. Some part of him probably wanted to stay and hunt for trilobites forever, but some other part wanted to get home and "get on with real life.” Part of him was twitching at all the myriad things at home that needed his attention while some other part couldn't get far enough away. Those two sides of him wrestled for dominance like they do in all of us and I could see it playing out. Not only while camping, but in the march of days upon weeks in his job and his home life. When we were camping it was in the way he prepared to leave, and how early he started, that I sensed the signal of how the war was going and my experience of how he felt about me was inextricably linked since I knew kids and camping were part of the ‘other’ life, the subtly less important one.

- Selah - 

I'm camping right now with my kids and it's always so very precious but tenuous. They are exploring a dense fir patch as I warm up the coffee. We'll need to head home today and I'm beginning to mentally list all the heading-home tasks before me. I feel that same part in my own soul  that wants to get back home, to get busy, and to continue tackling the world as it's
been given to me - for better or for worse - to go on to the next thing. That's the part that says real life consists of my job, my honey-do list, and my ten-thousand house projects. That part wants to roll up the sleeping bags now - because all of this, as good as it is, is an illusion.

But another part of me rejects that. It says the babbling river, the nuthatches and the way my children bound through the woods with delight - THIS is real life. While the other stuff is just the result of the fall and THAT part is the illusion, the price, the necessary evil. 

While this...this is real life.