Thursday, August 13, 2015

circle of warmth and light

We wake up early. 

My husband starts a fire while I start the coffee. Pull the breakfast makings from the cooler. Enjoy a quiet moment of sunrise before the kids slowly emerge from their tents, heralded by the buzz of the zipper being opened. 

I warm milk for them as they awaken, stirring in some hot chocolate powder. They gather around the fire to draw in its warmth and look ahead to the day full of nothing, the day full of everything.

We've camped at Bonnechere Provincial Park for five summers now. My children are growing up here and are spreading their wings; they can walk to the beach on their own. They giggle with glee as they run to the camp store for ice cream without a grown up. They seem incredulous that I let them eat chips and eat ice cream every single day.

 They're allowed to stay up late, to see the stars that blanket the sky so incredibly. 
Every evening Margot asks, "Are we going to have a bonfire tonight?" I reply, "Yes, honey, we have a fire every night". 

"But do we get to stay have a bonfire in the dark?" 

And the answer, when camping, is always yes.  Yes to full days at the beach. Yes to ice cream every day. Yes to late bedtimes. Yes to not tidying up their beds in the morning. 

No wonder they love it. No wonder I love it.

I spent the trip reading Elizabeth Gilbert's "The Signature of All Things" (so good), knitting on my hand spun Ten Stitch Twist blanket, and trying to drink in every moment, trying to kiss every new freckle and caress each sun-kissed shoulder. 

An afternoon paddle with my sister up a winding river led us to a sandbank where we drank margaritas and read uninterrupted while the sun settled low in the sky. 

The simplicity of warming water over a fire to wash minimal dishes, of hanging the tea towel in a tree to dry, of living under the sky and sleeping under a nylon roof, and of eating simple, nourishing foods always leads me down the same path: how can I bring the simplicity and joy of camping into our everyday life? 

How can I nurture the engagement with life that camping allows, with simple chores, with living minimally, and with leaning in to each child to hear about the wonders they beheld that day and focusing on nothing more than that? 

Every moment while camping feels like a meditation, attached to a mindfulness and a mindlessness that I don't even realise is missing from my everyday life until I leave it to come here to the outside. A quieting of my mind and the many things I always feel I have to do, a calming of the busyness that fills every day. 

Too soon, five days pass and we start to pack up again. I hug my husband as we begin, reminding him of the annual pitfall of tension building as we try to get this job done efficiently while the stress we left behind creeps back in. We know from experience that this part of the camping trip often leads us into the pitfall of snapping at each other and the children.

We agree to be mindful of our breath so that we can commit the same calm focus to this task as to any other we've performed this week.

We agree to be mindful of how stress colours outside the lines of our lives: the care of children and livestock, the interminable chores of maintaining an old house and farm buildings, the late nights and early mornings.

We agree that, when stress threatens to swamp our canoe, we will revisit these days under the stars, where all we need and all we love fits within the circle of warmth and light cast by our small fire.