As kids, we loved pitching tents. We never had a real one, but improvised with bed sheets, blankets and our coveted, ladybug-patterned sleeping bags. Something about summer screamed “pitch a tent!” so we did.
The year I turned thirty I planned a camping trip with a friend in Hawaii. Permit in hand, we would camp for two or three days, then move into a hotel for the rest of our stay. She borrowed her friend’s tent, but didn’t know how to set it up. After struggling for hours, we gave up. We went to a camping store where I bought a two-person tent for $99. It was an unplanned expense, but a necessary one. Lessons learned.
We spent one horrible night camping before cutting our losses and moving to a hotel. The tent was fine, but the campground was overrun later that evening with a crowd of young men, drinking and shouting into the wee hours of the morning. This was not the serene, camping-on-the-island-of-Kauai fantasy we were after. Though nothing bad happened, we spent a long, scary night in that tent. We realized how vulnerable we were.
I pitched that tent a few more times over the years, once at the Monterrey Bay Jazz Festival and again at Big Sur. One of the trips was the beginning of the end of a relationship. On another trip I discovered a black widow in the corner of my tent. The third and last time I planned a trip, the Bay Area suffered at 7.2 earthquake. The trip dwindled from 12 friends to 2. We went anyway, but looking back, it just felt weird. Forgive the following abhorrent cliché, but I am not a happy camper.
When the boys were young, I set up my old tent a few times in our back yard. When their interest waned, it was easy enough to put it away. Looking at these photos reminds me how good I have it at home: the perfect pillow, a firm mattress and a nice hot shower down the hall.
Fairy Garden Camping
Today I relived my let’s pitch-a-tent sensibilities with an inverted pumpkin flower. I draped the golden tent in a verdant corner of the fairy garden. Tucked inside are a pair of pink sleeping bags with a scattering of fragrant blooms nearby.
This is the fantasy I dreamed of when I pitched that first tent in Hawaii nearly 25 years ago. Lush, idyllic, and without a single shred of reality. Meanwhile, my reality is pretty darn good.