Ladies and gentlemen, I survived. Spent a full night sleeping beneath the spruce tree in mid-March, the coyotes barking in the distance, the evening temperature hovering in the mid-30’s. Not even below freezing.
A piece of cake, you think? An easy winter camping experience?
I think not. Please feel free to try this experience for yourselves. Let me know if you can sleep deeply throughout the night, dreaming beneath the almost-full moon, resting atop spruce roots.
Bedtime: 10 p.m. I carried out the quilt to cover the bottom of the tent, the thin Therm-a-rest mat and two sleeping bags. Plus one flashlight, one water bottle, one clock, one camera.
Settled in beneath the warm covers to listen to night-sounds. An odd unidentifiable soft cracking noise actually sounded like ice melting or shifting. Who knows what it might be? Suddenly I decided to take a flash photo to view the inside of the tent. Flash!
Immediately, outside the tent, from the spruce tree branches, burst the mourning doves, their wings squawking in protest. I scared them out of their night roost. Sorry, doves. Let’s try to get some sleep.
Try to get some sleep. Those are the key words. Try to get some sleep. I lay there…one hour…two hours…three hours…is it morning yet? When will morning come? Four hours… Truly, I’m sure I slept during that long night. But mostly I remember being awake.
Somewhere in the middle of that darkness, it started to feel cold. In a strange way. I was warm enough in the sleeping bags, with the head burrowed beneath the covers and a hat sheltering the ears. But wherever the hip touched the mattress, cold seeped upwards through that pressure point. The frost-filled earth sought to warm itself through my body, I’m sure. Thus the remainder of the night passed in fetal position, attempting to prevent the icy earth from taking over my body. The cold reverberated like a toothache, a dull ache.
I had asked the earth nicely for a Dream to share with you all. Unfortunately, I forgot to ask the earth for sleep. Sorry! No Dream to report…
The last couple hours reminded me of a vision quest. It’s been years since I completed my last vision quest out in the woods, but the feeling never leaves you. One of my most memorable quests involved spending four days and four nights in prayer and fasting back in the early 1990’s. Everything in me wanted to leave that circle and return to the house and get warm, fed and comfortable. However, something deeper refused to budge. When I practically crawled home at the end, a deep feeling of accomplishment and joy filled my soul.
For some reason, this simple overnight outdoor camping experience contained the same fierce desire to run inside the house and dive beneath the bed covers. Yet something else insisted upon follow-through. Upon completion. Upon seeing this through, no matter what the surface feelings or thoughts attempted to say.
About 5:50 a.m. I finally fell asleep. I’m pretty sure that happened. Then Barry walked by and I groggily called, “good morning!” He insisted upon taking a photo with the flash on (as dawn had not yet decided to grace our neck of the woods.) I am not sharing the full-face photos he took. They look like I’m some creature of the woods with red face, matted hair and squinty eyes. You can just imagine, if you like. Or camp out yourself and have someone take your photo at 6 a.m.!
A final quick afterward. It’s in the 50’s today! I enjoyed the most lovely cup of tea out on the deck this afternoon, surrounded by fluttering camping equipment. Drinking the hot jasmine tea felt so warming and delicious, but do you know what felt better? Drinking in the sun. After a long winter, it’s like we’re drinking sunshine every chance we get.
Cold…and then warmth. Guess that’s life, isn’t it?