Note: I’m playing around with a new look for the blog since my previous theme has been “retired”. Please excuse the construction until I get things figured out. Thanks! And with that, read on!
This weekend I went camping with a group of friends. Right off the bat, I have to say that camping (especially when you accompany it with hiking) isn’t ever something I would choose to do on my own. It’s all instigated by my hubby. My first camping trip was with him, and every camping trip I’ve been on since has been accompanied by him.
That being said, I always find myself enjoying the camping trips. There is definitely something to be said about being out in the “cheap showiness of nature” (as many put it), getting away from civilization to clear you mind, and getting back to basics.
What I always enjoy the most by far, though, is the company these camping trips keep. It is my sense of community, my coming together at a common table, my sense of a congregation. For a moment in time, people from all walks of life come together and share a common experience and share stories. It’s a beautiful thing.
When I first met my then-boyfriend, now-husband, he gave me the much-cherished gift of allowing me into a group of friends and family who made a tradition out of going camping at a friend’s property in the middle of a lush, verdant, isolated valley twice a year (in the spring and fall). I attended these camping trips for ten years, until, like all good things, it came to an end (the property ended up getting developed).
It was a bittersweet goodbye: I was thankful for the memories and the wonderful friends I had made over the years, but I was so very sad that I wouldn’t be able to come back to the beautiful region and see those people year after year anymore. We made a halfhearted vow that we’d figure out a way to resurrect it, but as of now, three years after the fact, it hasn’t happened.
During those camping trips, we had our rituals. Out of respect to the event, I won’t divulge all of them here. In addition to those rituals, there were things I looked forward to seeing every year, like an old long-distance friend that you rarely get to visit but fall quickly into routine with after reconnecting. They came to be symbols of calm for me—constants I could count on to be there each and every time I visit. Such a contrast to my ever-changing world when I’m not camping.
You can only imagine, then, what a trip down memory lane it was when similar symbols appeared during this most recent camping trip. It was neither in the same place nor with the same group of people (which I’ll get to later), but the similarities struck me just the same:
*Secluded, easy-to-miss road to turn off on that leads to campground next to horses
I didn’t realize until right at that moment exactly how much I missed the people and the place from the past. The strength of the emotional longing struck me so hard that tears came to my eyes and I had to take a minute to compose myself.
The second night of the camping weekend, I remember looking up and just marveling at the multitude of stars in the clear night sky above. It was yet another similarity, and I brought it up to my husband. He suggested something that sounds so simple, but with so much meaning: A night walk. Just a leisurely stroll, all flashlights off, guided only by starlight while we trudged down the dirt road a few feet to the pavement road. A walk where we’d point to a specific star in the sky, strike a pose, and stay frozen in that position on the side of the road until a car passed by. A walk where, sometimes, because we knew just how rarely a car drove on it, one of us from the group would lie down in the middle of the road. One where the rule was you had to have a drink in hand while walking.
…one where we only ever did it at the camping trips that I reminisced about; the camping trips of days gone by; the camping trips that will never happen again exactly the same way.
I hold those particular camping trips very close to my heart. They were the camping trips I very much came to be an adult in, the ones where, no matter what, I was accepted just as I am and I was expected to do the same to others. The ones where I entered a complete stranger and left feeling like I was a part of a family. Those camping trips—and the rituals that came with them—are ones so special that they can only be done in the circumstances I remember fondly, no other place. Which is why I had to take a moment of pause before answering my husband: “I’m sorry. I can’t. Some things are just sacred.” He needed no other explanation. He just took it at face value, gave an understanding nod, and went on with the rest of the night.
As for me, I sat back and enjoyed the rest of the camping trip, letting the whispers of the past comfort me and wondering what new traditions would be born from what we were doing in the present.
To Holding Things Sacred and Creating New Traditions,