Rain rattled the tent last night and pinged on an overturned cook pot. The past few times we camped it stormed the first night and I felt panicky as I lay down to sleep, breathing deep to calm myself then feeling like I couldn’t get enough air, even though we were outside where there is all the air in the world. Generally I’m so tired and the outdoor sounds are so primal and repetitive – rain rattling, frogs croaking, thunder rumbling – that drowsiness trumps anxiety and I fall asleep before a true panic attack sets in.
This morning everything is damp. The thin nylon of my sticky sleeping bag clings to my skin; strands of hair cling to my neck. My camp sandals – a pair of Crocs and a pair of Rainbows – are cold and clammy. Outside the world drips. The poison ivy leaves that surround our campsite glisten with rain and their mocking oils. The charred wood in the fire pit shines a glossy black.
I used the backpacking stove by myself this morning. It was already assembled, but still. I used my notes from last night to boil water for oatmeal and coffee while B___ finally got a chance to sleep in. He lounged in the tent while I shooed a daddy long legs off the stove, pumped the fuel, lit the burner, listened to the hiss of a Whisperlite stove in the stillness of the campground morning.
It’s weird wearing glasses on a camping trip. They seem like an indoor thing not an outdoor one. They make me feel vulnerable to the elements – they get raindrops on them and get caught on my sweatshirt as I pull it over my head. When I take them off I hurt. My eyes work hard to focus and they blur and feel like I need to rub them to make them see the world crisply, but rubbing them does not help. My head begins to ache inside, behind my eyes, and at my temples, and so I put the glasses back on again.
The kids caught fireflies in the field across from our campsite last night. I sat under the trees in a nylon camp chair and watched them in the distance, reaching up with hands poised to cup around a lightning bug, like they were preparing to catch a kickball coming down from the sky. Or leaning down, knees bent, crouched and sneaking up on fireflies in the grass. The fireflies lit and darkened all around the grassy edges under the trees where the evening deepened sooner. Our children’s laughter drifted across the field to me till we heard thunder and called bed time.
In the quiet morning, my pen scratching paper while the campground sleeps, the sun not high enough yet to pierce the fog, all of us alive and the world gently dripping, the panic of the first night has gone.