Peace In A Tin Can

Peace In A Tin Can

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

I'm Not A Real Camper

Yesterday I reached a personal goal of 500 pageviews on my blog.  Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to the people who have taken the time to check out what Peace In A Tin Can is all about.

Serious writers and bloggers may think 500 views in one month is no big deal, but since I am new to blogging it is a very big deal for me.  In my excitement, I sent a text message to a few friends sharing my reached goal, and was surprised to hear such encouraging and positive comments back from them.  I floated through my afternoon with a warm, fuzzy feeling in my heart, proud of myself for moving on from a lost job that I loved to something positive.  Writing has been a dream of mine since I read "A Little Princess" by Frances Hodgson Burnett when I was 8 years old.  I was so drawn into the story that I promised myself one day I would write a story that filled someone's head with dreams and pushed them into doing something they never thought they could do.  I still have that dream, but sadly no story to tell yet, so I am dipping my toes in the literary waters by blogging.

The friends who responded to my text were all young people who have worked for me in the past at the Lake.  Because we worked long hours in the summer season, I got to know these young adults, and I'm pretty sure I earned their respect.  Many of these kids have become close family friends and heros to my kids.  Coming from them, kind words mean so much, since they are all studying for college finals right now and preparing to enter the real world, yet still share in my excitement.  Still riding on that high, I called an old friend, one I rarely see but keep in touch with.  She is a camper as well, and since I had sent her links to my blog I was anxious to hear her reaction.

Her reaction was not what I expected, and left me speechless.  The first thing she asked was what is my blog about.  I guess I can safely assume she is not one of the 500 pageviews.  I told her it's about camping in Michigan, with some personal reflections thrown in for good measure.  Her next comment broke my heart a little bit.  She said,

"But you're not even a real camper."

Huh?  Apparently she thinks that because I camp in the tin can, I am not a real camper.  She went on to say things like microwaves and air conditioning have no place in the woods, a comfortable bed is not camping, and so on.

It occurs to me that my friend has paid no attention whatsoever to the things I've been doing the past several years.  I love tent camping.  Shorter trips require nothing more for me than a tent, a sleeping bag, some food and water, and a campfire.  I often seek solitude in the woods and gravitate toward a more rustic experience.  BUT, I also enjoy longer trips in the Airstream.  It should be noted here that my unrestored Airstream is not luxurious.  I do not have air conditioning, the tin can isn't even insulated.  There are holes in the floor.  I added the microwave last year because sometimes it rains and I can't cook over an open fire.  The tin can is basic and simple, a bed inside and a sink where I can wash my face and hands.  My husband graciously had the plumbing re-done, so as of this year I can use the bathroom and shower.  When I camp for two weeks, at some point I need a shower!

Whether I camp in a tent or in the tin can, I am outside all day regardless of the weather.  I ride my bike on single track trails, I hike, I chop wood, I cook over the fire.  I do not sit in my camper and watch TV, I go outside to roam my beloved woods and streams, I wade into lakes and kayak down rivers.  I only go in my camper late at night, after my fire has burned down, to sleep.  I consider that camping.

Truth be told, I consider every person in a campground to be real campers, even the retired folks in the fancy RV's.  They choose to be outside, they embrace the nature around them, they are walking and moving and spending quality time outside.  That's camping.

My friend's comments were hurtful and petty.  I have always considered her to be my oldest and dearest friend and now I'm wondering if that's true.  I don't think she really knows anything about me, who I am and what I do, what matters to me.  I will hesitate to share good news with her again.

Maybe I'm not a real camper.  I like to decorate my campsite with pretty things from home, I can't go camping without my laptop because then I couldn't write.  I prefer sleeping in a tin can, off the ground, snake-free.  I make my bed every day in the tin can, which means I straighten out my sleeping bag and zip it up, because I like a clean and organized area.  As shameful as this is, I bought an antenna for the tin can and go in the camper every day at 5:00pm to watch a fuzzy broadcast of the local news and weather.  I am obsessed with weather.  I actually plan my hikes so I can be at the camper at 5:00pm. But by 5:20, I'm back outside.

I'm not a real camper.  I should be embarrassed that I shower in the tin can in a 3ft. wide space that includes the toilet.  I have to turn the water on and off while I shower, because I only have about 2 minutes of hot water.  Not comfortable, but you won't hear me complaining.  I don't pee outside.  I have a little heater.  Goodness, I even have real dishes…AND a coffee pot that brews automatically at 6:00am every morning.  I am a fake, a fraud, an offense to real campers everywhere.  I deal with it.

So maybe my old friend gave me an hour or two of self-doubt yesterday.  Old habits die hard and it takes little criticism for me to start feeling bad about myself.  Fortunately, my friend Debbie contacted me later with words of support and encouragement, and I moved past the hurt and focused again on looking forward.

I can always count on Debbie.  She is the 5-Star Luxury Resort kinda gal who fought my efforts to get her into my woods for years.  Then a couple of years ago, Debbie was going through a rough time and just needed to get away for a while, so out of pure desperation she joined me for 2 nights on my Fall camping trip.  The 2 nights turned into 4, and Debbie was hooked.  She now accompanies me occasionally, and I am always happy when she joins me.  Of course, Debbie's not a real camper either, she brings wine.

Along with Debbie, and the friends I texted yesterday - Alex and Charles - I have daily support from my husband and children, who believe in me even when I don't.  And I have 500 readers.  That's enough for me.  How lucky am I to have so much support?  I think I can live without the endorsement of all the real campers.

Today, I hope my readers will go outside.  I will think no less of you if getting outside means driving with the car windows down, or just walking to the mailbox.  We all do what we can to enjoy the outdoors, and I am proud of you for trying.  Keep on keeping on, eh?  Have a spectacular day!