We spent five days last week camping at Jay Cooke State Park in Minnesota. Camping isn’t for everyone.
I grew up camping. Some of my best childhood memories are from camping, some of my best adult memories as well. I have funny memories and sad memories both. All the memories are surrounded by a feeling of being loved and loving.
One sad but poignant memory was the time I burned my marriage license after my divorce while camping with my children, parents, aunt and uncle and a few cousins. As we sat around the campfire, I took it out and threw it in, symbolically ending a chapter in my life as family cheered me on.
I have several funny memories. One time, several of us kids, my siblings and cousins, were swimming in the lake. My uncle was supposed to be watching us as he lay on the folding lounge chair on the beach. Instead, he fell asleep. And his false teeth fell out and onto the ground. All of us kids laughed and laughed at those teeth lying on the ground while he blissfully slept on.
Or the time when my young brother fed my sanitary pads to the ducks, thinking they were bread. Wasn’t funny at the time, when I was only 13, but sure was funny in later years.
Another time, when I was 11, we had a caravan camping trip to the state of Washington to visit relatives. My family, my aunt and uncle and their children and my grandma all headed out, camping along the way. We had a little folding commode with bags attached that we used in our camper at night. One day I was told to take care of the soiled bag. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do with it. My aunt told me I had to wash it out. Being the obedient child I was, I washed that bag out. My aunt, now in her late 80’s still feels bad about that. She was teasing me but I took my job very seriously and did what I was told.
Last week, we all took a long hike, a very long hike, I had to go to the bathroom really bad, we were a long way from any bathroom; I went in the woods for the first time in a long long time. The kids laughed about that. I could have used that folding portable potty.
We had a large tent we used when I was young. Once it fell down on us during a storm. That was scary but funny too. Six kids and two parents all caught under the tent canvas. When I was 11, my parents bought our first tent camper. 8 people in a small camper. Good thing six of us were kids. We used that camper until most of us were grown up and moved away.
The year after Jim and I married, we bought two tents because we were doing a caravan trip out west; Jim and me, my three kids, my parents, two brothers and their families, and my sister all went. None of us had cellphones back then and we had four vehicles between us. Three had walkie talkies to communicate as we drove. We didn’t have one. If we needed to stop at the bathroom, we held up a sign to another car in our caravan for a potty break. We had four males named James in our party on that trip which caused some confusion checking into our campgrounds.
Camping has stayed the same through the years in some ways but in others has changed a great deal. I was amazed last week at how many people felt safe leaving their chairs and even solar powered panels out while they were obviously gone from their campsites. Camping is still a relatively safe pursuit. You don’t hear much about people getting hurt camping unless a bear wonders into their campsite or something rare like that.
The type of tents and campers has certainly changed from when I was a child. Tents can be both larger and smaller than the ones we used. My daughter has one that sleeps ten. It’s enormous. She also has my parents’ second tent camper. They bought it after my parents stopped using it because of the wonderful memories she has of going camping with my parents in it.
Campers can be simply a teardrop with only enough room to sleep or bigger than a hotel room. We bought a 13 year old hybrid camper this winter. It has two fold out beds, a fold down couch, and a fold down table, fridge, freezer, stove, oven, microwave, sinks, and most important to me, a full bathroom. No more portable folding commode with plastic bags! (Are you noticing the trend here? Having a camper with a bathroom was mandatory as far as I was concerned.)
I noticed one sad change from when I was a kid though. People are still friendly but they don’t chat with other campers like when we were young. There is a caution now with strangers. Kids will smile at you but aren’t likely to engage you in conversation. My sister Carrie was our star at making friends at the campgrounds. She would have new friends before the tent was even up. They would play at our campsite and we would play at theirs. I didn’t see any of that last week. Friendly caution prevailed instead.
For me, the vehicle we use to camp in is not as important as the people I am camping with. That, I think, is the draw of camping. Spending quality and quantity time with people you love. When you are camping, you don’t have other distractions like you do at home. Life is simple. Instead, you can hike, swim, play games, sit around the campfire talking, work together preparing meals and cleaning up after them, sightseeing, and so much more. You aren’t running off to here and there, distracted by your to-do list. You are just living.
We loved our time chatting with grandkids and the new memories we all made last week. I also enjoy the focused and plentiful time outdoors, even if it’s just sitting in a chair watching nature. I marvel at the beauty of nature. That is where I find God’s majesty in a concentrated way. I see it in the trees, the clouds and sky, the rocks, the waters, the hills and mountains, and the weather. I’m surrounded by His creation, basking in it, and sharing it with loved ones. It is the best of all worlds for me. Simplicity in the midst of majesty. Love it.