Sunday, August 30, 2009
Girl vs. Wilderness
This weekend, I did something I have not done since I was a teenager: I went camping. Back in June, our best friends reserved several spots at Lake Sylvia, a state park about 2 1/2 hours northwest of here. When it first came up, I declined the invitation. For the most part, I don't have my own camping equipment and I didn't want to be the only single person there. But last month when a couple backed out and a spot became available, I agreed to take it. I keep saying I want to try more outdoorsy stuff, and I didn't want my friends to have to eat what they had paid for the spot.
So last Sunday afternoon I went over to my friend's house to pick up his tent. He also sent me home with two solar powered flash lights, two air mattresses, a camp table, a cooler, two OJ container ice blocks and a 6-pack of beer. He tried to send me home with a head lamp, walking sticks, a hatchet, his hat and his portable GPS unit, but I was a little overwhelmed and decided I didn't need those things. In hindsight, the head lamp actually would have made it easier to unzip the tent at night. And, I begrudgingly admit the GPS unit would have come in handy this morning, but luckily, I seem to have this innate ability to get exactly where I need to be despite having no clue where in the heck I am. It really is a gift.
Friday afternoon, I met my friend and 4 others at her house to follow them up there. I had been having reservations about going and almost bailed at the last minute. Camping is something I never got to enjoy with James. We agreed that we would start getting "stuff" after the wedding, which of course, never happened. This is an annual camping trip and this is the first year we would have gone. This ended up being something I did as part of my new life and I have not yet gotten to the point where I can do these new Heather things without sadness and a lot of tears.
A couple of odd things happened on the way out. As I was leaving my house, I was already frustrated because I was running late. When I backed out of the garage, the commercials were just ending and the song "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)" came on the radio. This was James' favorite karaoke song and one I have not heard in quite some time. Then, we were caravanning to the freeway and I got stopped at a light. I do not know how to get to the freeway from my friends' house. I just wanted to cry and turn around and go home when I spotted a car crossing the intersection. It was the same kind of car James had when we met and the man driving it looked so much like him, I almost followed him. The final odd thing was when we got off I-5 and turned on to US-12, a car got between my friend and I. I had been thinking about how overwhelmed I have been feeling lately and I noticed the bumper sticker on the car in front of me said "Got hope?" (No, not really, but thanks for asking). These things made me feel I was on the right track. As we got closer to the campground, I heard James' words in my head: "if you don't have any fun, you have no one to blame but yourself."
It started to rain right as we got there. Another couple of our friends were already there, and by the time everyone got there, we had a group of 13 people spread over 5 campsites. It poured all Friday evening and night, finally stopping around 8:00 Saturday morning. I wonder if my friend knows his tent is NOT meant for that type of rain? At least only the foot end of my bedding was wet-others were not so lucky!
After the rain stopped, a couple of us decided to walk the 4.5 mile trail around the lake. That was a good workout! Saturday afternoon, us girls watched "Twilight" on a portable DVD player while the guys fished and cooked the meat for our potluck. We had so much to eat that we pretty much went into food comas after that and just chilled by the fire until bed, which was thankfully a lot drier. About 4:00 am, I stumbled out of my tent to go to the bathroom, and I discovered a huge branch had fallen from the tree behind my and the neighbors' tents. If it had fallen the other way, it would have landed on us. How I slept through that falling is beyond me! Another sign that I do have angels watching over me!
This morning we got up, packed up and came home and I cried a good part of the drive. I realized a couple of things: I don't really know how to be happy on my own because I never have been truly happy on my own (of course, this stems from my childhood, blah, blah, blah). And, I realized that as much as I love our friends, it is hard for me to do things like this with them because while they miss James, they are no longer actively grieving him-they have moved on, and I have not. Being with them reminds me so much of him because he is the reason I know them in the first place and I want the assurances they miss him too, even though I know they do. I do feel blessed though that they have embraced me tighter instead of shutting me out now that I am no longer part of a couple like the friends of so many young widows do. And it turned out I was not the only single person there. There were two others which worked out well for us as we snagged the biggest campsite.
I am glad I went. Overall, I did have a good time. It was so peaceful to be out in the woods and it felt good to get away for a couple of days. Although, I do wonder how many showers it is going to take before my hair no longer smells like smoke. I also wonder if I went into a male dominated place smelling like campfire how many guys would hit on me. This is the NW after all, and 98% of men whose online profiles I have read say they like to camp. Even my friend who lent me everything was so excited about me going camping he eventually stopped listening to what I said I did and didn't need. This became apparent when he asked if I needed a hatchet and I said dryly that I might need it to hack everyone up while they were sleeping and his response was "Great! Let's find you the hatchet." The only thing I hacked up with a hatchet-not his-was my finger. After that, my friends' neighbor realized I am not actually allowed to play with sharp objects, even if I am using them as a hammer and took the hatchet away. Knowing myself as well as I do, I did have the sense to pack Band-Aids. I just thought it would take longer than 1/2 hour before I needed one.
Now I need to start collecting my own gear for next year, when hopefully, I am not a single camper.