(#11) Camping

So I went camping this past weekend.

Turns out, I don’t think I’ve been camping before quite like this.

I mean, yeah sure, I went camping at Salmon Falls in Buxton, Maine back in the day when I was straight and hanging out with the other counselors I worked with at the Jewish Day Camp, drinking Zima around the fire and wearing overalls. Or the time I went camping in Provincetown at a populated gay camp site and a skunk decided to sit underneath the lawn chair I was sitting in. Or when I stayed in a cabin in the Maine woods with a former girlfriend. All valid camping experiences.

None like this. Turns out I forgot that with nature comes critters and with camping outside comes darkness. Turns out I’m a bit freaked out by both.

V. took me to this really gorgeous campsite about two and a half hours away from Portland. While there were people occupying the sites, it was by no means crowded. We had a neighbor near us the first night, which I appreciated.

We took a walk to the edge of the lake, which was more like a large clear swamp, and as I was walking these creatures were jumping out of the dirt right near the shore. Turns out they are baby frogs. Baby frogs. Tiny. I mean, so SMALL. And blending in with the dirt. I was shocked. And then my shock turned into fear – what if they touch my toes, what if they jump up my shorts’ legs, what if they touch my skin? I tried to play it cool, but as V. was wading in the water and trying to entice me, I was like BUT I have to get through the frogs?! And I just couldn’t find a way to do that.

So we drank white wine out of coffee mugs later in lawn chairs near that same spot and watched the sun set over a steep mountain of trees that were left over from a forest fire. Geese were swimming on the lake and blue dragon flies were flickering their wings around us. It was genuinely beautiful and I was excited about the opportunity to be out there, out of civilization as we knew it. Out of the corner of my left eye I see a brown body moving. Turns out it’s a buck.

We have dinner back at our site and it’s dark and I’m starting to feel a little nervous. I’m not good in the dark, I like light and seeing what’s before me but I’m trying to remain open and just be present. I’m trying to bring my breath down. While we are eating, I see another deer off in the trees just in front of us. I feel my heart beat quicken and V. and I watch it as it moves and watches us. It’s dark now and I catch her eyes and we are staring at each other. Next thing I know she is closer, at a tree near our picnic table. We are saying hi and greeting her and also not trying to be too friendly as we are not going to feed her like many probably do.

At some point, I decide I’m going to bed. This is probably right after S’mores and I can’t take the anticipation of watching this deer circle our campsite. I get into the tent and V. finishes cleaning up the site and comes in to join me. We are lying down trying to sleep when we hear something brush against the side of the tent. There is stomping and heavy breathing and I can almost feel her snout inverting the nylon wall near me. I am freaking out. V. is trying to sleep. I’m trying to practice savasana and am still freaking out. Every time I heard something I would sit upright in the tent and say Did you hear that! waking up V. just as he was dozing off. It was not pretty.

Turns out I don’t like that kind of wildlife interaction. And it turns out V. has never had that kind of experience with deer. We came up with a variety of different theories about why she did what she did – the main one being our tent was in her path and because she has a baby, she saw us as an aggressor and therefore a problem. V. did tell me she had already experienced the deer last year when he was here before. Somehow that information was lost on me.

The next night we moved our tent to the site over and while she did return, and yes, sniff our tent, her energy was a lot less aggressive. She returned a third night and did the same thing. She was curious and it appears we may have been afraid of each other.

Our tent
Our tent

The experience actually taught me a lot – one, I think I have been operating out a fear place when it comes to new and uncomfortable things. This also maybe the influence of yoga on my life as of late, but instead of greeting the deer with curiosity and excitement, I was just scared and freaked out. Instead of thinking those froggies were cute, I just saw them as an obstacle to getting in the water. I think that says something about how I perceive and engage with life. While I did receive validation from a couple of different people that that encounter was pretty intense and uncommon, and that I probably handled it well given my own experience is limited, I did receive that message.

The trip was beautiful, though. We sat by water holes and sunned, drank beer, talked, ate good food. The simplest acts like washing my hands felt luxurious and it was nice to be able to experience day turn into night living outdoors, even if I was scared of the darkness.

Not one lick of make-up. Just bug stuff and sunscreen.
Not one lick of make-up. Just bug stuff and sunscreen.

On the third night we were there it was a SuperMoon in Aquarius. The next morning I wrote this in my journal:

“4th day camping or third night. Stayed up a little later last night and had two smores. The deer came early showing us her presence in the field. She later made her way closer and even later when I was in the tent, the deer sniffed V’s sneakers which were drying on the rock in our site. On the way to the bathroom (there was an outhouse in the area) we saw a big frog or toad that hopped out and then when we were done it hopped with us a little on our way back. I also saw a wood rat (a few). An inchworm was also on our picnic table at one point. V. says everything was out because of the moon. Maybe it was. The moon was the 3rd SuperMoon of 3. It was gigantic and so bright and had moved in the sky since we got here.

It really is beautiful here. I just wish I weren’t frightened of every little thing. Yesterday when we found that swimming spot and I was lying on the rocks/shore waiting for V. to park the car a flock of geese swam up pretty close. I didn’t realize it at first but I grabbed my backpack and walked up the stone stairs to wait for them to pass. Once I saw they saw the space occupied by humans they began swimming off. I was relieved.”

I’m back at home. We got back yesterday and I was in desperate need of a shower and some salve for my numerous mosquito bites. I got pretty tan. But I’m grateful for the experience. For the slow pace, for the pure enjoyment of doing basic tasks, for being in my body in a whole new way that made me feel sexy and alive despite wearing no makeup and having no shower, for hearing the sound of my old boots on the dirt road, for the sun at different times of the day and for quality time getting to know someone I love in a new way. It was all good.

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