Camping Notes: Nostalgia in the Wilderness


I hope, as you’re staring at this post on this cheerful Saturday (before the rain descends any minute now) that you’ll pause and relish the bright shiny new Patheos. I got home last night and was completely amazed to find it all completely different–lustrous, glistering, fresh as the dawn. I’ve heard that it’s supposed to be sensational on mobile devices, and that the ads won’t be quite as, what’s a nice word…intrusive as some might have felt for a fleeting moment that they were before.

We had a very nice week up by Lake George, perched on a hill in the woods overlooking the vast expanse of blue. You might be alarmed to know, but I am the one that likes the camping. It’s the only moment my true competencies as a person come into full bloom. I find modern life with all its time saving devices, technology that follows you around and preaches at you, expectations about mental capacity and fitness to be kind of a drag. America likes to think of itself as the best place to be on earth, but it’s a psychologically difficult culture to endure. And I haven’t ceased feeling this way since I came here for good back in the nineties. (Gosh I was I was PG Wodehouse and I was referring to the escapades of Uncle Galahad. The 1990s were no where near as literarily scintillating as the 1890s.)

Anyway, camping is the only venue in which all my skills come together in any satisfying way. I know how to wash dishes without running water and cook over a camp stove that has to be lit with actual fire. I know how to wash socks and linens in a tub. I know how to chop things perched on the side of a picnic table with ‘stuff’ falling out of the sky, or the roof. I am not phased by nature. This is why I refuse to take paper goods (or at least very many of them) into the wilderness. I always drag along glass plates and a stack of real towels and then boil lots and lots and lots of water so I can wash dishes the real way. It’s pure self indulgent nostalgia.


Funnily enough, modern missionaries, or so I’ve heard, demand conveniences like running water, lights that flick on an off by a switch, and less primitive water filtration devices than were available back in the bad old days. But what is gained by all this time saving? Anxiety, that’s what. More time to sit around twiddling your fingers and considering your own shallow existence. Onwee, as Mr. Wodehouse would say. Or more time to do more work so that it piles up before you in ever increasing measures until you finally understand that you’re not meant to do all of it, which breeds its own kind of despair.

Anyway, I had a nice week. And so did the children. And Matt did too although he complained a lot before hand. Once we got there and had swore over the tents for a while, and the fire was wending its smoky way up to the heavens, he agreed it was probably good we had come.

For my part, I loved having no way to be online. Anytime I clicked on the internet the battery on my phone gave up from the exertion and so I didn’t try, preferring to have a way to call civilization should help be required. I was forced to read actual books. I took an enormous number of them, for fear of being bored, and read two straight through and then whole chapters out of all the other ones. It was pretty fantastic. I will write about them as the days go by, never fear.

But I also sat around and watched all the other campers and judged them in my heart. Particularly the French Canadian ones who rode up on four bicycles–parents and two children–all extremely fit and cheerful looking. They were biking, even the children, all the way from Montreal to New York City. They had only a tiny amount of items with them–a shoe and a fork probably–and endless measures of energy to ride up and down the hill on their bicycles and swim laps in the lake. I finally gave up trying to moderate my feelings and just hated them, gazing at them over the top of my Christmas beer and trying to remember the last time I was even on a bicycle. They probably have really big problems, I told myself. Wished very much I could see what those problems were. Then yelled at the children to tidy up the big piles of detritus that constituted our camping place and to stop eating chocolate and go for a walk. Decided not to look at the calorie count on the back of my beer. Fortunately they went away before we did and I was able to settle back into my chair and feel much better about everything.

And then we came back to our big beautiful house and I wandered around wishing I knew how to remove all the electricity and dig a well in the garden. But that would never do, I suppose, and the children would hate being yelled at constantly to go out and draw water, especially in the snow. In the evening we went to the Taco Garage (not the children) to celebrate sixteen years of being married, which isn’t that long when you consider the whole scope of human history. We are but babes. But we were older than all the well tattooed bright young things serving up margaritas and fried avocado and organic free range chorizo tacos. As a nod to this modern way I Instagramed the fried avocado. It was delicious.


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