Tuesday, April 19, 2011

It's Been Too Long...

I love camping... even the local, low-key, not quite roughin'it, but totally lovin' it variety that we gravitate toward. Coming to this county park is like going home for me. As there is no old family home, I like going places and following roads that bring me back to childhood memories, connection, and warm nostalgia. Like the creak on the staircase, the smell in an attic, the sight of careworn floors that bring some people fond recollections, and comforting familiarity, when they visit a grandparent, or their own childhood home, I am drawn to highway 67, Ramona, Julian, oak trees, frog ponds, feed stores, wild sage, A street, Weekend Villa Road, hopping boulders, valley views.

So. Yeah. When I feel homesick, when I can't get together with my mom, or my brothers, and I want to feel that connection to old times, and familiar sights, I get on the road. I visit hills, and turns in the highway, I pause at the place where the Hovers store was, I seek the red, mountain cabin where we found gold in the gulley, and I reconnect to the memory of a time and space where once there were our gardens. I go camping, where we camped when we were children. Where we slept in a drafty and bad smelling tent, and woke up to a campfire cooked breakfast, and a day to wander and play.

This was easily one of my more spontaneous endeavors. Our spring break was very quickly slipping away, and I could not be happier that I grabbed the chance to get away... even if for just twenty-four hours! Don't you love it when you take a chance, try your luck, and everything more or less comes easily and prettily together? Like, a campsite next to the creek, where the clear water was flowing gently to the pond?

Eli joined us. Alex found time to rearrange school assignments. William came too, and Max. Maria cleared her busy calendar as well... hahaha! Many hands make light work, and let's face it a lot of work goes into a quick getaway!

Would I change anything? Yes... next time I hope we can stay at least two nights, and maybe three. Especially in this space, where we saw raccoons, listened to frogs, and had boat races... always shaded, always comfortable.

How do five years pass between visits to a favorite place? Five years! Five years is a long time! I am so confused, and even kind of ashamed, because I feel like I neglected to include... never mind. I think there is sufficient evidence that we have squeezed in plenty of adventure and rugged-outdoorsy fun. And now I know... I want to camp more. I want to return to my favorite spots, even for a little bit of fun.

We took the path down to the pond. The same pond where my brothers and I used to catch blue gills... fish so small that once they are cleaned and cooked, each serving is smaller than a fish stick! On this visit we were met by lots of coots, and this pair of ducks. There were no ducklings, or tadpoles, and thankfully there were no yellow jackets either.

Apparently, birds and children like all natural cheese puffs!

Sorry, ducks. "All natural" sounds like a good thing, but I am not sure where in nature we find this variety of puffy deliciousness. We hope we did not leave you with a craving for crispy, airy snackables!

Have I ever mentioned Eli's musical skills? He plays the ocarina, and always carries one around his neck. He plays many pretty melodies and familiar tunes. We were treated to bird calls, as Eli artfully mimicked the nesting birds and boisterous coots. And on this trip, Eli came with his ukulele, which is a very nice instrument to hear played while driving along country roads.

I also enjoyed listening to nothing. It was so peaceful. I had a laugh at myself, when I heard running water, and my first thought was: "Ugh... who left the water running?!" The creek ran all night, and I simply had to re-adjust my thoughts, and remind myself that nature can keep the tap on if she wants to.

Our ceiling. We found ourselves appreciating the changing light, the shadows, the God-rays, the dappled shade, and later, the twinkling stars.

It really is possible to learn how to relax, and enjoy a gentler pace. We became experts in no time.

The fire was not only beautiful to look at, but also just right for cooking our dinner and for evening warmth. We had fun playing with the long camera exposure... seeing our former selves moving in the still image.

Light pouring from the torch.

Maria and a whisp of light circling in the night air.

And the next day... breakfast cooked over the fire, another session of Dungeons and Dragons, more fun down by the creek...

Do you have a must-cook camping meal?

I was wishing my brother Bill was with us. He used to take charge of building breakfast burritos... with eggs, beans, potatoes, salsa, tortillas! I made chorizo (soy variety) and eggs, which we ate with tortillas. Max had breakfast Part II... hot dogs!

Cooking over open flames is gratifying. I love it. It gives me a familiar and comforting feeling. I enjoy all my happy memories of cooking outdoors.

Doesn't camping food taste better than any other?

It's strange to think that about one week from now, these two will be in St Louis, at Championships! Even here, I know Alex had his mind on the game, on the Mini-bots... the ones he designed already, and the ones he still wants to build.

I like to be reminded that play is practice for everything. And we need liberal time, without plans and schedules, when can be free to test our theories, and explore our environment. Creativity is nurtured by open fields of freedom, wide spaces for possibility and conjecture. We played, and got wet, and loosened the rules, and broadened our boundaries.

Maria made a farm, with muddy spaces for pigs, and oak leaves for troughs.

She built a pond for her goose.

Some of us searched the banks for found objects, and we made boats to race down the creek.

Our boats traveled down stream, and we brought them back up...

This play lead to experiments in making a furnace, bellows, melting metal, making better boats...

Cheers for spontaneous endeavors, and eager, curious children.
Cheers for the oaks trees I have known all my life.
Cheers for happy family memories... forty years ago, thirty year ago, five years ago, last week.

I promise me, and our children, not to wait so long before we return.


ArtyZen said...

I share your huge pleasure in camping in nature and know we should do more too - not the old places (because there are none here for us, it's all new) but exploring together and finding the places that are special for us.
Yours is a gorgeous place!
I could look at your children forever!

judy in ky said...

We used to go on houseboat weekends on Cumberland Lake. I was always the cook. It wasn't really like camping though, because we had a kitchen and everything on the houseboat. I remember making a lot of pancakes.

mtnchild said...

I sooo miss camping!! Most campgrounds here don't open until right before Memorial Day. There are spots in the forest we could camp in, but most likely it is still muddy and very cold at night - so we wait ... not very patiently, but we wait.

Miriam said...

When I was a kid our family holidays were camping holidays. We had a big old green canvas tent, and my dad the engineer would dig a trench system all around it to handle the inevitable rain and keep it from flowing under the floor. I used to love those rainy days, trapped with books and snacks and my family in the tent.

These days I feel too old and creaky to sleep on the ground any more. But maybe, one night this summer, Kim and I will set up the tent from our earthquake kit in the front yard and sleep out, to make sure the tent is still whole and to remind ourselves of our childhoods!

Natalie, the Chickenblogger said...

Never sacrifice comfort, if you don't have to! I say drag a mattress or good pads out to the tent... you might feel comfy enough to spend many summer nights under the stars!

And Yvette, I hope perfect camping conditions arrive in your neck of the woods very soon!

A houseboat! I know several families that insist we need to give this a try... and I agree. I bet your houseboat cooking tastes much like camping cooking: Delicious!

Alison said...

You do such a good job of documenting all these adventures and fun times. Your children are very lucky. I remember camping in our backyard--10 acres of woods. Still within walking distance of a bathroom and extra bug spray, if need be.

Amanda at 32˙North said...

Looks like good times! Thanks for the sweet comment you left me the other day :)

Cheyenne -Millie said...

That looks so fun! We especially like that little stream and Maria.... and that campfire!

test said...

Thank you, I just remember one summer we went camping in the Black Forest with my scout group and my mother came by to help us cook a great meal.
This looks really great, is there a Hilton near the camping ground?:>)

Emily Cole said...

I love camping too, and hope to do it more often this summer. Last summer we took a nice long road trip from NC to MN, and camped several times along the way. It was wonderful!

tea time and roses said...

Hello Natalie,

I hope you know just how much I enjoy your beautiful journal of you and the family.:o) What lovely photos! It has been way too long since I've taken a camping trip. Your photos beautifully remind me of what I've been missing!:o)

Happy Easter to you and your family!:o) Enjoy a beautiful weekend.



warren said...

Excellent! We are gearing up to go camping next weekend (assuming we don't float or blow away)

As a kid, camping is one of my best memories. I am sure your kids will think so too!