Monday, June 11, 2007

it all begins and ends with the fire pit

Friday, 8 June 2007:

I may have mentioned this before, but there is a little something I have discovered in the blog world called the Mondo Beyondo. Sit down, make a list of all the things you've ever wanted to do in your entire life... Write that book, get that MFA, start that family (ah, yes, the beginning of my own anyway). I sat down and began mine, promising to announce it a little more formally once it is done; this was months ago. I'm finding that the Mondo Beyondo is a living, breathing thing and cannot exist just once. And on that list is to camp every summer; this is probably the easiest one, but if it hadn't gone on my list, I don't know if I would have actually settled in and harassed Angie into helping me make my first reservation at a state park. I'm good at talking about things, but not the actual doing.

So, my mondo beyondo, as of today:

- go camping once a year, at least
- get a book of poetry published (one day) and my poems into lit mags
- get into an MFA program and finish
- get into a Ph.D (in English Lit) program and finish
- travel somewhere wonderful once a year (at least) with K
- travel to Ireland, England, France, Alaska, New Zealand, Africa, South America, (just getting warmed up here)
- continue on this lovely journey of starting a family (two months, one day to wedding--eep!)
- knit a fisherman cable sweater
- to start an investment plan and be more financially responsible
- to gradually make this house more of our own, each day, more of a home
- to start an organic garden
- build my writing community of friends (this was on my list months ago and thanks to Eireann, it is happening)
- make a quilt for our bed
- learn to speak French (enough to survive if dropped into Provence, you know, on accident)
- be a more patient and generous person
- get involved in some kind of volunteer or activist effort
- buy more locally every day
- be a good wife, a good friend, a good companion to K

The last time I went camping was a decade ago when I went with my mother, sister, and uncle into the great beyond of Yosemite, a place incredibly gorgeous. That old quirk of mine, the one where feeling slick with sweat and needing to shower and shave on a regular basis, made me irritable, as did my own attitude as a hormonal teenager, but I do look back on sitting at that picnic table with fondness, the crusty bread and brie, walking through the fields, reading Ishmael as the sun went down.

The last time K went camping, it was with Lane and Angie and Chad (and a few others from the grad program, and I missed it as I was on a family trip, most likely to Michigan) on a beach on the Mississippi. We smile when we mention that time because it takes a certain balance of sun and beer and water.

This trip, so much to remember:

- The first thing that comes to mind is the game we invented: count-the-ticks. I'm not entirely losing as I found five (socks, hairbrush, leg, sleeping bag). K also found five, and Lane won with six (or more?). Angie found one, but she thinks it came from Bear; this doesn't count. Lucky girl. We spent a tired afternoon picking ticks out as if we were monkeys with fleas; Zephyr snoozed as I dragged him into my lap, so exhausted from sun and wandering that he didn't mind the gravel beneath him as we tugged.
- Sleeping in a tent is not as miserable a thing as I thought it would be, especially if you find a way to make a nest out of doggie bed, sleeping bag, and winter emergency blanket. We slept with Zephyr and Penelope flopping around, sprawling across our legs and heads, snuggling up against us. In fact, I enjoyed two nights of sleep as well as a long nap in this tent; and though I loved my second nap of the weekend in bed, sleeping in a tent is just fine with this talented sleeper.

- Meals should take as long to eat as they do to cook. Both should take a long time. The first I learned from Europe, the second I learned from here, in some ways. Or perhaps, it's that meals should be just as involved as anything else. Not having a stove or a microwave, having to figure out the shape of eggs and brats (so Midwestern) within a cast iron skillet on a camping stove. Or how a pudgie pie skillet (something new to me) can make a delicious pizza over a campfire.
- We took three hikes. Our first was the most true: to "Tapioca Rock" as we called it. And beyond, to the edge of Pepin, where Penelope wiggled into the water, we met more dogs, and then it was the upward movement. This is where K became a superhero for me: he took both the dogs, who were pushing and pulling and thoroughly incapable of going at a regular pace, and I was having enough difficulty moving up, up those daunting steps (and often steps without stairs, often just roots and slippery rocks and mud and me, scrambling as best I could, my heart thumping in a great big way, my breath just as uneven as a panic attack). I will need to work out more this summer, because now, on my mondo beyondo, is to make it up that hill without impressively embarrassing myself. Angie became my superhero when she came back down to me (hey, not so far) to grab that backpack full of water, allowing me a bit less weight as I huffed it up those last few steps.

- The second of our two hikes was after we had lunch and (I took) a nap. Instead of sweating form upward exertion, we sweated from the afternoon sun, huge swaths of tall grass, the lakelet bringing all kinds of unique sights: the vulture, the deer leg. (Of course, the fish bones, the deer vertebrae, those at the bottom of the tapioca hike were also remarkable.)
- Lane and Chad became my heroes by being fabulous camper-cooks. Chad even made a true omlette, full of ham and cheese, turned over like a little sandwich (and I began to crave true crepes--seriously, all this authentic cuisine so important). We were well fed, thanks to a series of a half dozen coolers and their capable skills.

- I am glad for the shower, glad for each morning, glad for hot water, glad for fresh towels, glad for clean bathrooms. This park was actually very pleasant; I imagined harsh concrete floors, moldy plastic curtains, peeks into mosquito and spider laden forest.
- This, I don't really want to have buried in a list, but I want to say it now, as it becomes more and more a part of memory: you know a good friend by how (s)he behaves, reacts, supports when you are at your most vulnerable. It truly was quite embarrassing at how difficult it was for me to go up that hill (mountain!) and while it's OK to need to pause in Tahoe with your then-boyfriend (now-fiance), it is another thing to struggle in front of friends. It is also embarrassing to fight tears as you are leaving your first grown up workplace (of two years, just long enough to start to settle), but to do so with one of your newest and dearest friends is there to witness--it is empowering and hard. (Apparently, I am a brave little toaster... I need to figure out where this reference is from, which makes me kind of sad for my generation, I think.)

- I love that in so many of these pictures with K in them, he is laughing. I think he had a good time, and he was truly adorable and kind. The first night we settled into the tent and listened to the wind outside he said to me in that voice of his that means he is very goofy, "The wind is saying 'shhhhhhh, where's the Fiji?'"
- Staring up through the screen, up at the sky began to fade, the trees doing a kind of swaying dance. The second night, the wind raised a bit, and I hoped for a storm (that afternoon, a little rain as I napped, and this: watching K in his blueberry jacket, drinking Pepsi and tucking the dogs into the tent).

- Things we saw: fish bones, deer vertebrae, house sparrow, heart shaped pebbles, birch bark, moss and ferns, water washed logs and stones, wildflowers, red berries, a vulture, stone steps, wooden borders, a log shelter, a downed tree that looks as if it were peeled back, spiderwebs and cobwebs, daddy long legs, birds nest, deer leg, heart shaped leaves, trees leaning up (you can see in the last pictures how impressive that hill is), lamplight, sizzling brats, puppies with energy peaked and eventually energy fading, Zephyr's muzzle in the water dish, Bear in commando, Penelope pushing her snout against wet palms, lichen, mushrooms, deer tracks, intricate root systems, green and so much green.
- And now, before I leave you with this series of pictures: looking forward to this again. Camping again, trying this adventure on for size on a grander scale. Enjoying it with people I love, people who we are so lucky to have in our lives. People who agree to wear tuxes and dresses for us in two months. People willing to sit through a reception that involves a DJ and a dance floor, though no dancing is expected. Only laughter and more love.

Saturday, 9 June 2007:

Sunday, 10 June 2007:

K's version of pay it forward--we used the leftover charcoal from the previous campers, so this is what is left of our wood (that is, what Lane didn't take back to Winona in his truck).


eireann said...

nice trip.

the climbing thing will get better. keep on.

thanks for all the support. xo

Anonymous said...

While in AR, I attempted to climb a mountain. It was literally 60 degrees of nothing but rock. I made it 75% of the way, before stopping, telling fiance to go on without me, and looking at the pics he took from the top. I feel ya, sister. AND, I read (in an actual source), that no matter what shape you are in, unless you train for vertical, it will be difficult. This includes stairs. So ha!!! You're probably not in as bad as shape as it felt like this weekend climbing that Tapioca Rock.

And here: Brave Little Toaster is a 1987 children's movie (though rather obscure) that I absolutely love. They have it on Netflix, if you are a flixer.


Anonymous said...

Your pictures were great, I feel like I was there with you. The ticks, the water, the tree stumps, the scary looking meat! The picture of your dog following by the exploded braut startled my brain because somehow it looked like a burned animal. Creepy. I'm not a vegetarian...yet!

Tammy said...

Thanks for sharing your fabulous trip and good luck with that mondo list. :)

KeLL said...

I love this post. I thought I'd never see you camping! I'm really proud of you for climbing the mountain.

PS: You look cute in a hat!

Amelia said...

Wow! Thanks for sharing about Mondo Beyondo...I have to try making one of those!

Great pictures all of them.


the heartful blogger said...

Okay, that's've inspired me to pack my bags and just get going...

EllyJane said...

what great pics.
i can't wait to go camping (with our dogs, too).

Crafty Green Poet said...

There are some wonderful photos in there! Thanks for sharing!

Cheryl said...

Thanks for sharing your story, and for reminding me how much fun it is to go camping. Love those fire photos!

Landi said...

You are an amazing story teller and an even better photographer. I really enjoyed reading this thanks for sharing.

Cheryl Finley: said...

Wonderful photography and great storytelling -- beautiful nature... it's a breath of fresh air. Thank you!

gautami tripathy said...

Great post! Beautiful pictures! Thanks for sharing.

L.A. said...

What a terrific adventure... so rejuvenating and beautiful.