Tuesday, November 10, 2009

When Lacking in Pictures, Write 1000 Words

No, I didn’t forget my camera on our three-day camping trip, but it did run out of batteries on Hour 2 of Day 1. So here’s what I captured on (digital) film:

Nate and Calvin rising above the dense undergrowth of a Pacific Northwest forest.

And here’s what I didn’t:

Arriving at our state campground yurt with just enough daylight left to make a fire and start dinner. I switched on the electricity to hear the little heater give a lurch and then settle into an encouraging hum. Outside, already with sticks in hand and muddy from the knees down, Toby likened the soft light coming through the yurt windows to that of a jack-o-lantern.

Roasting marshmallows under a canopy of trees spanning a Milky Way of stars. It was cold, but we wore gloves and coats. The wood was damp, but Charlie brought enough gasoline to light a swimming pool on fire.

Waking to the sound of rain hitting the canvas roof. I passed plates of French toast and bacon (for the carnivores) from the little covered front porch where I‘d set up the stove into the warm yurt, where the boys sprawled out on sleeping bags, playing Monopoly.

No one caring about the rain. We walked the dog to the beach, where I very sorely missed my camera: three boys in red and blue raincoats following the crook of the creek to the gray sea, hoods up, little bodies braced against the squall. After I’d told them no swimming (only Oregonian kids would think of trying) they began an impromptu game of soccer, marking goal posts in the sand and dismembering a knotted coil of sea kelp for a ball. It turned into tackle football, so I joined in. So did their father. So did the dog, Sam. Sam won.

Surprising a sleeping seal in a secluded cove. It was supposed to be the best tide pool beach for miles, so we hiked down the cliff-side along a wet, slippery path, but the wind was blowing so hard by now, and the ocean such an angry foam-white, the water in the pools churned as though mid-cycle in a washing machine, and we gave up finding a starfish or a sea urchin. We did find a seal, who lumbered angrily into the ocean upon a face-to-face with Sam. We don’t know who first discovered whom, nor who was more surprised. Sam may have wet himself, though. Walking back up the trail, now soaked to the bone, I paused with Toby to stare out at the crashing ocean. The wind pressed at our backs, the spray of rain and salt in our faces. “We’re directly in the middle of a storm,” I told him (as if he hadn’t noticed). “Don't you feel alive?”

“I feel about to die,” he answered darkly. Such pessimism for one so young.

Eating (fairly bad) Chinese food in the small, harbor-side town closest to our campground. The boys made cabins and teepees out of sugar packets, dared each other to try Wasabi sauce, and sipped hot tea just to warm their hands. I’ll admit it was nice to be dry.

Waking up to blue sky the morning we had to pack and leave. We made the most of it, though, starting one last bonfire in the fire-pit, mixing up the last of the hot cocoa mix, and letting the boys run free through the campground while we tried to remember which sleeping bag fit in which stuff sack, and how we’d ever fit all this stuff into the car in the first place. Calvin came back to camp brimming with excitement; he’d found a newt on a rotting, mossy log. Toby came back a few minutes later, announcing that they’d found a lizard and named him Newt.

Because I like to keep it real, I’ll be straight with you all. We had our moments. Meaning, our not-so-great moments. The kids had some particular bad spells of getting on our last nerve. We parents, to be fair, didn’t exactly start out the trip well rested and relaxed. Also? Sam didn’t take so well to sleeping outside. He whimpered at the door from 8pm to 11pm our first night, and if you’re like us, and have just recently graduated to the status of ’family with kids who sleep through the night on vacation’, you know that’s just not cool. So yeah…moments. But driving home, it occurred to me just how far I’m willing to go, how much I’ll pack, how much individual time, energy, and money I’ll sacrifice just to spend 48 hours in a 200-(circular)-foot space with my husband and kids.

And close the door.

And play Monopoly.

(This post was inspired by Wordful Wednesday at Seven Clown Circus.)
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