We often try so hard to create lasting experiences that we lose track of the people and adventures that are already around us. One doesn’t have to go 1500 plus miles in order to feel alive or have a drink on a rooftop bar just for the sake of doing it. I can go 10 miles or 5000 and have similar experiences and feelings of euphoria whether I’m sleeping on a cold wet ground or a king sized bed in a stylized city. Camping isn’t something I’d ever imagine I’d be good at, let alone enjoy, but when my roommate Maya and her sister Kathy invited me to tag along I thought, “why not?”. Now this is technically my first camping trip but that is only because I don’t fully count “slumming it” on a field in the middle of Tennessee for a music festival camping.
Lesson 30: If a friend asks you to go camping, always say yes. You never know experiences you could have.
It went from Maya and Kathy, to me as an addition and then next thing I knew my friends Douandy and Eric were coming along. Mind you this is the middle of spring in the Midwest, so although it was 75 degrees the day before, that didn’t mean it couldn’t be 45 and rainy a day later. Today was no exception.
The sign entering seemed slightly alarming seeing as to how we were smuggling in a dog and alcohol even though the signs said otherwise. Considering it was a Wednesday there was no one around and I eerily compared the place to a really bad Jason in 3D horror movie. (Pretty sure I’m the only one that found that laughable). We set up our camp sites, started a fire, and made a cohesive agreement to call our alcohol “soda” after learning they patrol and enforce the rules rather frequently.
Being the control freak cook that I am I attempted, and succeeded, at preparing a pretty baller meal that consisted of bbq turkey sliders and grilled corn on the cob as we threw in other snacks that we brought. It was absolutely delicious. Once we filled ourselves with food we continued to fill ourselves with “soda” as we looked up scary stories to tell around the camp fire. Yes, we’re all fully functioning adults. Several hours and a raccoon siting later, we went to bed, buried in our layers attempting not to get excited for the 70 degree weather the next day.
The morning sun can make tents pretty warm so it was no surprise that we were up and ready to adventure at such an early hour. Kathy brought a durable boat that we inflated and took to the dock that afternoon. With our hula hoops, bubbles and boat in hand we hurriedly went to the lake for a quick round about before lunch. Again, yes, we’re fully functioning adults.
Once fighting the current and realizing that if this whole writing thing fails I could take up rowing, we went back to the tents to snack before truly getting lost throughout the mass of land we found ourselves in.
After winding down, we began by going back to the lake. Eric got in the boat as the four of us sat on the dock and listened to the music and the movements of all that surrounded us. I sat and watched the trees as they danced, we giggled at Eric’s rendition of Marilyn Monroe’s “Happy Birthday”, and I, in this moment, was content.
The first to move was Douandy, as the natural drifter he disappeared into to the welcoming forest preserve as I watched him fade away from my view. Wanting to nap, yet having so much energy, I put my ear to the dock and listened to the water sway underneath me as if going to the beat of the song we were listening to.
Deciding I was far too curious to just sit on the dock, I got up and went into the forest preserve myself. The light hit this place so beautifully as if inviting people to take a tour. The trails were narrow, the plants glistened during the afternoon sunrise and I was experiencing this all alone and open heartedly.
After walking the path I noticed Douandy perched on a tree as if trying to blend in but doing a poor job and as time passed, behind us were the rest of the crew. We ventured deeper into the the forest revealing a field that looked as though it’d never been touched. Immediately we came to a consensus that this is were we’d relax for the duration of our day.
We brought blankets and snacks and trudged through the knee length, thick grass until we found the perfect spot to set up shop and stare into the sky. We passed around crackers, asked a bunch of would you rathers, and busted out Cards Against Humanities for as long as we could stand it. It’s moments like these that make you realize what’s important in life. That if all you had were the company of another human being and an imagination, the joy, elation, and conversation can be utterly endless.
Like most things, however, this day couldn’t last. After getting bitten a few times by bugs and realizing that we were in fact sitting on smaller creatures houses, we decided that going back to our campsite was for the best. However before this, we went to the dock to look at the sunset and for once I was surprised by how clearly the pictures were reflecting what my eyes saw. In the words of Lana Del Rey, “life imitates art” hadn’t been truer.
This forced me to take a magnitude of photos before the colors in the sky finally blended into darkness. Once back, we continued the laughs and games but I was physically and mentally exhausted. Slowly we all dropped out and retreated back to our rightful tents to gather under the handful of blankets it took to keep us warm.
This camping trip, although short, forced me to accept that everything in this world is just as beautiful as you allow it to be. To be able to see the beauty in the damaged as much as you see it in things that are not. To allow the light to catch the glimmer rather than think that it burns your skin. To truly appreciate those around you and accept what you cannot change as a positive and not a negative. Not every tree is meant to be the same shade of green just as every moon does not declare the same shadow. I hope others allow similar experiences to help them appreciate what we’re all so grateful to have: a breath, a heartbeat, and people who love us.