Saturday, May 14, 2016

Camping With Teenagers

It is like playing Whac-a-mole keeping camping teenagers in their respective tents at night, but it is worth it, because sitting around a campfire, singing songs (even the aforementioned Oasis "Wonderwall"), listening to a scary story told by a funny young storyteller, and playing memory games in the smoke and redwood needles is special indeed.

We rolled out yesterday along the turquoise ocean, cutting through hills dotted yellow with oenethera, lupine, and coreopsis until we reached the redwoods in the low coastal range. Some kids had never camped before, and tent set-up was understandably entertaining. I had borrowed a tent I had a hard time visualizing how to put together, so I needed guidance from a young, wise camper to make it work. Eventually, with a lot of teamwork, we all got our tents up and temporary homes as comfy as we could make them, we went for a short walk, and we made a sloppy dinner, likely as loaded with redwood needles as nutrients.

After food, stories, campfire smoke, and s'mores, we retired for a night among old trees.

This morning, the adults rose earlier than the kids, and we made ourselves several pots of French press coffee. Talking with my colleagues under the lace of new redwood needles felt good, like we were supposed to be right where we were at that very moment. The kids rose and scarfed down bowls of sugary cereal. After we broke down our camp, we went for a short, easy hike. The teenagers ignored it, but the adults paused at a still rooted, downed tree that bounced like a mechanical bull. We had to play, so we stopped and did.

When I was very young in Oregon, my family lived on the side of a hill, and growing sideways out of that hill was a strapping Douglass fir that was just strong enough for my brother and me, one at a time, to climb out and bounce on it, a natural trampoline. Arms out and knees bending to the tree's bounce, we would ride it like a snowboarder rides her board.

The kids camped and felt like adults, cooking and singing and feeling all their feelings so hard. The adults—each well over 30—camped and felt like kids, playing and bouncing and just being happy around each other. Among the trees a thousand years older than any of us could fathom, each of us lost track of age.

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