Monday, October 26, 2009

As long as I'm living my baby you'll be

. .

School, if done right, is equal measures education and inspiration. Case in point, one of the courses I'm taking right now called Reading and Writing about Nature and the Environment. We're reading Thoreau and Emerson, Rachel Carson and Annie Dillard—some of the very best writing ever done on the subject. As I read, I can actually feel the authors tugging at my shirttail, pulling me outside. Even in class, I find myself drawn to the seat nearest the window. It seems almost cruel to be stuck indoors talking about the ocean and woods and sky while thick slabs of glass and concrete (and Louisiana) obstruct our access to it.

This weekend, the shackles were dropped. We crammed the back of the station wagon with all the essentials—tent and lantern, logs and blankets, marshmallows and wine—and didn't stop driving till we hit a mountaintop. Curiously, we also brought along a bag containing enough size 5 boys clothes to wardrobe an entire Cub Scout troop. This proved a bit gratuitous, as my six-year-old returned home on Sunday night still wearing the same outfit he put on Friday morning. I think. It was hard to tell under the thick layer of mountain he smuggled out on his body. Hygiene goes the way of vanity in the woods. It's natural, after all, to drop the pretense of polite society when far removed from it. Which, when you're six, is about as good as it gets.

My child has splashed in the waves of the Atlantic and the Pacific, ridden horses at a ranch and roller coasters at Disneyland, fished in a New York lake and returned six months later to build a snowman in the same spot. His happiness is not in short supply. But I don't think anything will ever top camping.

In the woods, he is utterly happy. Complete. Aside from fire, sticks, and marshmallows, he doesn't need one thing.

Not even . . . me.

When you're camping, you can count on raccoons, maybe even a bear, but I never expected to be ambushed by independence. Right before my eyes, my little boy grew up. Hours stretched to days and he didn't need me once. He was inches away, yet I found myself missing him. Or maybe just missing being needed by him.

The temperature dropped below 40º at night. You might think sleeping in a tent in conditions like that would be unpleasant. But bedtime was my favorite part—snuggling close under the blankets for body heat. For a few hours, my little boy needed me. Even if he didn't know it.

Anybody buys him a sleeping bag for Christmas is dead meat.


Jomama said...

Great post. I'm not as outdoorsy as you, but we do enjoy camping too. Getting a mite cold for that out here in Northern California...but then again, we're wimps.

We haven't had that independence thing strike yet, but with 2 of them, we are on constant referee duty. I think that will last a while.

Diane M said...

Awwwww I will turn to dust the minute nobody needs me! This is good stuff

Jennifer C said...

Hey Susan!

Great post. I know what you mean about the window in class, it seems like we should be sitting outside or at least pressed against the glass. I love to read your stuff!(Louisiana, ha!)

Dot said...

Love it!!! Soon the little guy will be rolling his eyes at you and calling you a dork (or whatever the current equivalent is) as he and his friends walk out the door. Eeeeek.