I started camping with my parents when I was very young. We lived in Seattle and my folks would take my sister and me out to the woods where we slept in an Army surplus tent with a wooden pole in the middle. It was made of green canvas. At night, my mother burned a candle for light in the tent. Just an open flame in a dish with the candlestick glued to the dish with candle wax. My mother fascinated me. She knew how to do all kinds of things.
It rains a lot in the Pacific Northwest. When it rained, we were stuck in the tent. We played games. Eventually, I read. My Dad does not appear in most of these memories. Perhaps he was doing the chores while Mom minded the kids. Perhaps he walked out to the nearest bar. Probably both. He was always industrious and kind in my presence. When they rarely fought, they both gave as good as they got. They were rational operators.
While camping, my mother cooked almost all the food from scratch. At least in the earlier days, when we were poor. She made chili, I recall. All on a two-burner kerosene stove.
As the years passed, we added more children to the story until we were a family of eight. I am the eldest of six and that explains a lot about my personality and why I became a leader at various points in my life. Leader of a small business. Leader of a Civic Association. (which is a precursor to a homeowner’s association). Adult Girl Scout Leader. Leader of a teacher’s association local. Leader of the Queer RIG at University of Oregon (UO). Leader of First Fridays (a support group for graduate students at UO). Leader of the Eugene chapter of Jobs with Justice. Leader of an Indivisible group, We Are For America (WAFA). Is that all? I can’t recall.
But I digress. I know how to camp. Camping is easy. I’ve camped all over the West and the Southwest.
But now it’s different. It’s so much harder. Is it merely because I/we are old? We ARE old. I’m 70 and Mike will catch up to me in October. He likes to say that while he’s in his 60s, he’s married to an older woman who is in her 70s. This is true, of course.
So being old means have less energy, needing to rest more. It means disabilities and workarounds. I think I have had a tendency towards aphasia all my life, mixing up the names of two students for the entire school year being one example. But now it’s popping up more frequently – I use the word “tent” for all manner of other nouns. Makes it hard for Mike to figure out what I’m on about . . . put that leftover food in the tent . . . (?!?) But the upside is I know SO much more stuff than I did when I was young . . . I know how to cut the gristle off meat efficiently. I know how to make a spreadsheet for many different uses and how to make a data display that is effective. Not much use for data displays out here, but the spreadsheets on the menus and resupply for ingredients in week two are handy.
So being old and slow are part of the cause of the difficulty I am facing. But there’s more. When I went camping in earlier incarnations for vacation, I had nothing else to do but camp and soon enough I’d be home again to my hot shower, my dishwasher, and my washer and dryer. My enormous supply of clean towels.
Now, this is it. If I didn’t bring it, I won’t be obtaining it until Tuesday, unless it is critical. There’s no Door Dash here for if I’m too tired to cook. There’s no Instacart if the bananas go bad too quickly. Actually, they may deliver here . . . but it’s not the brief. We are simplifying our lives, getting healthier, challenging ourselves, building dendrites, and saving money. In our Fredericksburg home the bills grew larger every month while our income remained fixed. I have a small teacher’s retirement, Mike has some Social Security money, and he still works . . . as a contractor don’t cha know. Contingent labor is another name for it. With inflation since 1969, he figures he is making minimum wage. But . . . he works from home and that permits him to work from any location, even a campground.
Which leads to the other greatest difficulty. Mike is still holding down a job while we are taking on all the challenges of living outside. The rain yesterday shut down our work and cooking – the lack of sunshine shut down our solar collection operation which we need for him to work.
I think my biggest concern is Javy. He cannot at all – ever – run free. First of all, it’s against campground rules, but also – it would be too dangerous. At least he has flea and tick medication that is so far working. At tick inspection he comes up clean every time. As we get more organized and build up habit strength on our new processes, we will have more time to take care of our little doggie better but right now he isn’t getting groomed enough. He must be coaxed to eat and he is just less joyful than he was. Last night he seemed fine but when he got into the tent, he peed all over Mike’s sleeping bag. Now that sends a message. He had just been walked and relieved himself! So, I know he’s stressed out by the change. He loves a routine, and we are far from having any routine now. Well, we HAVE a routine but we can’t accomplish it. We are getting there but my poor doggie. But at least Javy is with the one he loves . . . Mike!
But oddly enough, this is still what we want to do. Even with the ticks. OMG I’m winning the tick contest now. I had one last night, he had none, and the night before I had two and he had none. So I’m winning by one. I’ll have to look up the score card before I post again.
~ Dr. P-J