Sunday morning, middle of the holiday weekend, I found myself in a perfect camping morning--entirely by accident. Lots of people choose this weekend as their first camping outing of the summer. We couldn't go this year; there was too much else crowding the plate. But I managed to sneak in a wonderful, unexpected camping morning, anyway. You see, I was awakened first at about 5:30 am, then second at about 6:00, by my sons' alarm clock--which was somehow set to go off as "music, then alarm" while the boys were away at their mother's house. Of course, I was angry initially, having been unintentionally cheated out of a couple hours sleep time. I was wide awake, though. Not much to do about it, but to stay up and make the best of it. It was far too fine a morning to waste in anger or frustration.
Dead calm, about sixty-five degrees. Faintly misty dawn, devoid of mowers and passing cars. A pair of robins scouting breakfast, a fiery cardinal and a feisty blue-jay on reconnaissance. This was the domain of my backyard balcony deck, overlooking verdant spring suburbia. I poured yesterday's coffee atop a generous helping of french vanilla creamer, and disturbed the peace only long enough to let the microwave do its job. Grabbed a good, spine-creased and half-read paperback. Took drink and book and a pack of menthol lights, and found a comfy spot by the glass-top table. Chose a stowable but sturdy camp chair instead of the usual patio kind, and settled my sleepy self there unshowered and unshaved. That's when I realized I'd stumbled upon a perfect camping morning, right in my own back yard.
Why do we go camping, anyway? With the rising price of gas, I wonder if it's any cheaper to haul the camper around than it would be to book a hotel room. There is something very special about camping, though. For me it's always been about the absolute change of pace, place, and routine. Skip the shower. Get up earlier--or later. Savor a cup of bitter reheated coffee. Read a chapter or two, alone and phone-free. Take the time to actually notice a silent sparrow's passing flight. Let my wife sleep in. Have cereal instead of eggs. Listen for traffic and hear none! Listen to the radio, but ignore the news. Enjoy the feel of dewy grass on my bare feet, more enjoyable because the grass isn't mine and I don't have to mow it. Watch the sun come up over the trees to the east. And watch the kids stagger out of the camper, a little groggy and surprised to see me up ahead of them. Something different, but something simple and utterly ordinary. That's a perfect camping morning. I'll take one whenever--and wherever--I can get it.
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