Peace In A Tin Can

Peace In A Tin Can

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Have A Beer

OMG!!!!  Hillary Clinton had a beer!  Why is everyone so worked up about this?  Seriously, who cares?  Whether you agree with our Secretary of State's political position, whatever you think about her ability to lead, you do not have the right to judge her because she went out after hours and had a beer.

We all live in a society of very judgmental people.  I'm tired of all the women who gently suggest to me that a stylist could "do something" with my hair.  I'm frustrated with the fifth grade girls at my daughter's school who are just plain mean, and are teaching my daughter to be just plain mean.  All around me are people who are far more concerned about how I live my life than worrying about their own.

This is why I periodically go into the woods to be alone.  I get asked, all the time, why I choose to leave my family and live in the tin can for a short time.  The question accompanies a judgement of being a bad mother, a freak, a loner, an irresponsible and selfish woman who cares only for what she wants.  I have given up trying to justify my actions.  Frankly, as long as my husband and kids understand and support my choices, I don't care what anyone thinks they know about me.  But there is an answer to that question of why I do it, and it's most likely not the answer you think.

A few years ago, I loaded up the tin can and set off for Ludington State Park on my second annual Fall trip.  When I arrived at the campground, I was surprised to find that not only were all 358 sites occupied, the park rangers were turning campers away by the dozens.  I had anticipated a quiet campground in October, but the weather was unseasonably warm and the salmon were running.  Because I always reserve my campsite, I was admitted amid the angry glares of families turning their RV's around to leave.  When I pulled around to my site, I knew it was going to be dicey backing in, but my husband has taught me well and I knew if I took it slow, I would get Twinkie parked.  I pulled forward, backed up, pulled forward, jumped out of the truck to see how close I was to that big tree on my left, backed up,over and over until I almost had the tin can in, but found my truck in a very tight embrace with a large bush.  This little lovefest was keeping me from backing the rest of the way in.  So I pulled out and started all over.  I checked my rearview mirror and was startled to see a tiny, very old man standing there.  Hitting the brakes, I rolled my window down and the man said "You're not doing it right".  Normally, I get offended at men who try to tell me how to back in, because it happens all the time and even though I am pretty damn good at backing in, men see a single woman driving a camper and immediately need to jump up and rescue her.  Unfortunately, this time the little old man was right.  I was doing something wrong because I could not get Twinkie backed in.

The little old man gave me a few directions and minutes later I was in.  I was grateful for his help, but he just waved me off and shuffled back to his site, three spots behind me.  But I had arrived and I was excited!  I unhooked the camper, plugged in, opened my awning, and set up my home of the heart.

I was staying for two weeks, and the tiny old man was there for the duration with his wife.  His name is Hump, and he is a delightful creature who enjoys living outside, cooking over a fire, fishing from a canoe, and caring for his wife.  Hump and I developed a friendship.  His campfire stories about growing up and raising a family were funny, yet always had a clear lesson to be learned from his 80+ years of experience.

Each morning, Hump would stick his head in my campsite while I built a fire and say, "Mornin' girlie.  You survived the night."  I am not sure if Hump just can't remember my name, or maybe he doesn't like my name, but he always calls me "girlie".  In any other circumstances I would be offended, but when Hump says it, it's endearing.  He will sit in my camp chair and enjoy his first cup of coffee, watching me build a fire and barking out instructions.  Then he asks me about my life, tells me about his, and sometimes we just fall into a comfortable silence, sipping coffee outdoors and watching the birds.

One night, I took a cup of coffee over to Hump's site to sit by their fire.  Hump is convinced that my late night coffee is the reason why I don't sleep, and I let him think that because it is too hard to explain my insomnia to most people.  We were enjoying the bonfire, having lively conversation, and his wife brought me a cookie she had made that afternoon.  After taking the first bite, I was in heaven!  It was, without a doubt, the best cookie I had ever tasted, and I said so.  Hump's wife proudly told me she makes cookies all from scratch with good ole' God-provided ingredients, and I told her the effort was worth it.  We sat there, me happily munching away, Hump quietly watching the fire, and he looked at me and said "You're alright, girlie."

This is why I go camping.  I love being outside, I love bonfires and deer in the woods and birds in the trees, salmon in the river and kayaking and the waves of Lake Michigan.  But more than anything, I love the people I meet when I go camping.

Contrary to popular opinion, I do not go camping alone to get away from my family.  My husband and kids just don't love it like I do, and while they occasionally join me, it's not something they want to do often.  So sometimes I get lonely.  But campers are the best people in the world.  They don't care about my crazy hair, my political views, or why I am alone.  It doesn't matter to them that I don't wear makeup or what I do for a living.  They simply see every camper as another person who loves what they love, and it's all that matters.

When I am home, I am judged for not being like the other mom's at school.  People write me off because of how I look and the things I do.  But in a campground, no one cares.  I can be at home and filled with self-doubt and constantly thinking about my actions and how others will perceive them, but then I go camping, and a complete stranger, a man who works hard, helps others, and has a lifetime of experience to share, thinks I'm alright.  That's why I go camping.

Sometimes, when I meet people in a campground, they'll invite me to their fire for a beer.  If Hillary Clinton were in that campground, they'd invite her too.  No one would take her picture holding a bottle and spread it all over the internet.  No one would ask her how things are in the Middle East.  They'd ask Hillary what she saw that day hiking in the woods, if she wanted to try fishing tomorrow because they'd love to teach her how, and if she was looking forward to sleeping under the stars.  We'd all sit and have a beer.  The only thing we would care about is listening to the wind, sharing a laugh, and ending our day on a good note.  That's the way life should be.  That's alright.