"We like camping better!" --Raymond Alexander Kukkee

view of the north shore Critter Pond, KOA Canandaigua NY [c] 2009 jcb

How do you relax? "We like camping better!"

There comes a point when you know that Camping Season has arrived at last. Today, a week before Memorial Day Weekend, that moment happened. We've had three consecutive Perfect Camping Nights (no rain, no wind, low sixty or better). What's more, those balmy nights all happened leading into a weekend. This would indeed have been a Perfect Camping Weekend -- a rarity in Upstate New York.

We're not camping this weekend. We rarely get out before the first holiday of summer; and we hardly expect the weather to cooperate anyway. Still, the smell of maple logs burning lingers in the morning air. The sound of last night's peepers has transformed to the chirp of the summer birds in the trees around my balcony deck. I spent the first minutes of the morning in a sun-dappled shade with a cup of coffee and a good book.

A couple of weeks back, Rex Trulove, a senior editor for Helium.com, asked our group for our thoughts on "how do you relax?" Here's how it went between us:

[Rex wrote] I think I know what Jim's answer will be to this one, but it shouldn't really be hard for anyone.

To totally unwind and relax, what is your special escape? Everyone has a special one, reading, gardening, traveling, or whatever.

pond in the woodsFor me, it is camping. I go to a primitive site (no out houses, showers, or other amenities) and park my rear end for a few days. I walk around, I talk to the animals, I explore, I sit in front of the campfire and stare into the flames, and all without the TV, DVD, VCR, Computer, or any other electronic gadget. The closest I get to electronic is the car, which is mostly used to get us there and home.

I don't even carry a watch. I can usually tell by within a half hour, what time it is by looking at the sun.

I have a lot of hobbies, but my escape is camping. I calm down and everything starts to make sense again. Unfortunately, in 2007 I went camping 13 times, and since moving here, I've gone camping 3 times in three years (counting the upcoming trip).

We had some interesting replies from the gang at Helium. Angie mentioned horseback riding and boating. Kat talked about reading, rosary beads, and the beach. Rachel loses herself in editorial work, mentoring, and playing the guitar.The whole group agreed that "the beach" should figure in the answer, somewhere.

I chimed in, eventually:

"Of course, you know how much I love camping. I've also written, here at Helium, about a perfect Sunday morning at home -- the solitude of dawn, when the rest of the household is still asleep. While those Sunday mornings can be productive times, they are often best spent deep in the pages of a good book, too.

campsite at Holiday Hill Aug 09
"Camping allows me to put all the pieces together: a quiet weekend morning, my family sleeping peacefully, a battery-powered radio playing a bit of country music at background volume, a hot cup of coffee, and time to read a few dozen pages uninterrupted. If I reach a point where the book might be set aside, that's also the perfect time to write. A couple of my favorite articles were penned in just that way.

"The only part I haven't been able to bring to the mix is a beach. The sound of waves and gulls is one of the most soothing noises a person can enjoy. I'll have to work on finding a campground with something bigger than a fishing pond.

"The best part of these morning camping moments of solitude is that they always end pleasantly. The kids wake up and want to go for a hike, or toss the Frisbee. My wife hustles up some "cheesy eggs" and toast. The sun bursts over the treeline, and the rest of the campground comes to life. The day will pass quickly, and we'll be tired by evening. Our eyelids will get very heavy by the flickering light of our campfire. And soon enough, we'll pack up and head back to our hectic reality."

Rex wrapped it up this way:

Jim, I knew what your response would be, because we are so much alike.

Most everyone knows I get up around 4 am every morning. Fewer know that it is mostly from camping. That is usually an hour or so before it starts getting light. That gives me time to build a nice hot fire, make some coffee, and get comfy so that when the life starts returning to the forest and steam is rising up from the water, I'm parked in a chair, witnessing it all. The sun is usually shining brightly before everyone else gets up, so it is my special magical time, just for me, and the nature around me.

More than once, the wife has gotten up when the first rays of the sun were licking at the tent, to find me sitting happily, sipping my cup of coffee, and with a stringer already full of fish. She thinks I'm half crazy. I've been working for years to convince her that I'm not half way.

Crazy? Not a bit. As my good friend Raymond always notes: "We like camping better!"

copyright 2010 - reprints on request


How do you relax? A chair and a book by the beach? An IPod and a long drive? A horseback ride through a mountain meadow? What works for you?


  1. While I find your definition of relaxing enormously inviting, Jim,(inviting enough that I may actually like to try it some day, if I could convince Tommy) I find my soul at peace, my mind at ease and my whole being calm and relaxed while I pull weeds in the garden. It's a completely mindless task that allows me to work out solutions to troubling problems without my even trying. I also get a bit inspired when all I have to hear is buzzing bees, the breeze through the tall grass and the twittering birds who seem to be asking me what I'm doing so close to their home. They forget their home is attached to mine. I hang several birdhouses on my front porch, you see. I suppose we both like nature and that is the ultimate in relaxing, isn't it?

  2. I hadn't thought of weeding as relaxing, Glory; but you're right! I'm a fan of birds and bees, too -- tho the bees tend to make me nervous. You're abso'y right. Nature provides the best relaxation, whatever way you like it.

  3. Jeannette Dailey10:49 PM

    Hi Jim, The most relaxing activity for me is sitting in my chair at the beach. I am reading a steamy romance novel with my feet buried in the warm sand. I occasionally look up to watch the waves break at the shoreline and the sailboats on the horizon sail lazily by.

  4. Sublime, Jeanette!

    (Tho for me, it would be an engrossing Thriller novel) ~Jim