1a. "There's no release if there's no catch."
Once, when I was a kid, my dad came home from work on a Friday afternoon and said C'mon, let's go. He took me camping, and I remember vegetarian fishing: dangling a fishing line into river rapids with part of a Snickers bar for bait and almost catching a crawdad. Which we would not have eaten.
1b. "Board chairman."
Once, I remember - and I remember almost nothing of the wider context of this situation - but once, I was with my dad and we needed a place to stay, and I think hotels were full up, or maybe they were just too boring to him at the time, so anyway we pulled up outside a hospital - a big hospital - and got our sleeping bags out and slept on a small grassy area by the parking lot. Of course, security came along eventually and kicked us out, but the joke was really on them because by that point we had already gotten a good night's sleep.
I learned something valuable from my dad: sometimes you just gotta think a little bigger, or a little smaller, or a little stranger than everyone else, and then just do it, and chances are that you'll figure out a lot of solutions to life's problems that way.
2. "The labyrinths of memory."
Surprisingly, camping with kids is different than camping by yourself, or even with other adults. Strangely, I did not recognize this as a child. My dad was a master at recognizing the importance of Payoff, and being okay (I think) with putting in a lot of work for the opportunity of making a handful of moments that MAYBE will get remembered.
And sometimes, kids do remember, even in the days before Facebook, Instagram, and selfies on location.
4. "Ultra-specific visuals that make me happy to see when I'm camping, or not:"
A. My wife in a pink sundress, yellow sunglasses, and pinned-up hair holding hands with our son as she escorts him to the bathroom.
B. My wife in a pink sundress, yellow sunglasses, and pinned-up hair reading the biography of Theodor Geisl I just got at the library, while our daughter alternates between making bracelets and practicing head stands using my wife's back as support.
C. A dripping, gooey, warm, messy s'more with dark chocolate around a fire with an evening of lively bantering ahead.
1. "The labyrinths of memory, with map."
My most vivid memory camping, with my own children is still probably the first time I took our daughter solo.
It was the eve of my birthday, we were on our way to meet my wife in Bend the next day, and I singlehandedly set up the tent while holding my daughter and fending off wild bears and boars with the other hand (or at least being prepared if the rustling in the forest turned out to be them).
She woke me up every 12 minutes throughout the night to remind me how unhappy she was.
It was one of the worst nights of sleep I've ever had, and it was so bad that I just started laughing at her every time she woke me up, because I knew I'd laugh about it someday, so...might as well get a jump start.
It also brings up something important I believe about raising children: true respect is not about having them try something ONCE and then accepting their judgment -
"...he/she just doesn't like this/that"
- respect is encouraging and creating opportunities that keep providing ways for them to push themselves and oftentimes LEARN to like experiences, instead of accepting immediate gratification and judgment of "I don't like this."
You don't get to try something ONCE and decide that your definitive decision is "I don't like it." You find other ways to keep coming back to it, sometimes in fresh ways, and help embed one of my favourite ideas: be open to CHANGE, and to NEW EXPERIENCES, and to understanding that not immediately connecting with something is not sufficient reason to turn your mind off it.
So, we camp. And quickly, after that initial...experience, it came to be one of her favourite things. After going to Powell's anyway.
4. "Four camp foods I believe in."
- corn pancakes
- fried potatoes
- hot dogs
- refried beans on bread with sliced yellow pepper
4b. "The infinite ache."
I feel sore after camping. It takes so much more work to do almost everything. But to eat, sleep, live outside*, breathing fresh air (and campfire smoke) is an opportunity like few others to connect with your family: socially, spiritually, and to make you remember it's okay to have to work a little bit to do some of the basic things in life. It heightens your sensibilities and ability to appreciate little things. Like dishwashers.
2c. "The tent trailer of Cherbourg."
Once upon a time, our family had a tent trailer.
Then one day, we were towing it and sideswiped some cars on the side. It's a vague recollection.
We never got another tent trailer, and that's really my only memory of it.
I have slept on air mattresses. And I certainly like them. But I have also slept many times on hard ground, and I suppose I feel that at this point in my life, I run very hard, and I work very hard, and I play very hard, and I push myself very hard, and by the time I have the opportunity to sleep, that is the luxury. Not the level of comfort necessarily, but simply the opportunity to sleep, so when I sleep in a tent with hard ground underneath, it may not be the epitome of luxury, but it is still sleep that I appreciate. Especially if I'm not being woken up every 12 minutes.
*of course, I also believe in outdoor cinema under the stars