Have you ever visited a place you could never forget? For me that place is Long Key State Park. Located in the Florida Keys, Long Key is a great place for being. When I say being, I mean a time to live in the moment. It’s an experience marked by feeling more closely connected to the natural world. When our activities slow from a sprint to a crawl, we can better appreciate all of creation.
Last October we rented a small RV from Cruise America and spent a few days in Long KeyState Park. There, every campsite is oceanfront property. The rhythm of the waves is a constant soundtrack. Gentle sea breezes keep mosquitos away. Most of the sites are lined with trees to afford privacy from neighbors. Something amazing happens when you park an RV, get out comfortable camp chairs, and sit down facing the ocean. You don’t want to leave.
When asked, “What did you do while you were there?” I responded, “Nothing, and it was the best nothing of my life.” I loved to sit and watch the birds at low tide while they pecked among natural debris to find food. When they flew away I watched a lone ant marching in the sand. Maybe he was a scout for the rest of the colony. In the evening I saw the soft glow of moonlight reflect upon the surface of the water. The next morning the sky was ablaze of color as the sun rose above the horizon. I realized that all of this nothing really was something. The world was full of life but I was always too busy to notice. I grew to appreciate the little things.
So why did I need to go all the way to the Florida Keys to be? That’s definitely food for thought. For me, being requires several days of low activity and uninterrupted time in the outdoors. If those conditions are met in a different location so be it. Camping in one place for several days definitely lends itself to being. As I write this I am saddened to realize my one experience of living in the moment happened almost a year ago. How ironic to make doing nothing my new goal.
Being is a state of rest that we rarely experience. According to the book of Genesis, after God created the earth, he rested on the seventh day. I like to imagine God in a state of being. On His day of rest, God saw everything He had made, and said, “It is good.”
When have you experienced being? Leave a comment and tell me about it. Let’s support each other in being more and doing less.
Camping holds fond childhood memories for me. Our family spent many weekends tent camping in Ohio’s Mohican State Forest. Mom worked most of the day on Friday packing everything we needed. She planned the menu and packed the food, cooking utensils, and camp stove. Dad came home from work at five and we took off.
Once we arrived at our campsite, everybody had a job to do. My little brothers gathered kindling. Dad set up the tent and built the campfire. I carried water and helped wash the dishes. We used tin plates, bowls, and metal silverware, no paper plates or plastic ware for us! Looking back, Mom had the most work to do. Mom was always getting things in and out of the car to prepare meals.
At night we sat near the campfire, roasted marshmallows and told stories. When the fire died down, my brothers and I crawled into the tent. We told jokes and giggled until Dad demanded quiet. Our parents lingered by the glowing embers, and the soft sound of their voices lulled us to sleep. The next morning the tantalizing smell of bacon and eggs prompted me to get out of my sleeping bag and hurry to breakfast.
We took a lot of walks through the campground by the river. Dad loved to check out other people’s campsites to see what kind of tents or trailers they were using. He dreamed about an upgrade. Eventually he bought a small thirteen foot trailer that we took to the Smoky Mountains.
I’ve tried to get my husband and our children to share my love of camping. Our experiences have been memorable too, but only because they were disasters permanently etched into our minds. We live in Florida, and tent camping in the summer has its challenges. Last August my adult daughter and I spent a weekend camping at Sebastian Inlet State Park.
The first night was great. We wrapped tilapia and vegetables in foil and roasted our meal in the coals of the fire. A cool breeze kept us comfortable. On Saturday afternoon a horrendous storm forced us to take shelter in the car. Water flooded the floor of the tent. When the rain slowed to a drizzle, we grabbed our bedding and stuffed it in the back of the car. About an hour later, we laid our felt covered air mattress out to dry in the late afternoon sun. The breeze disappeared and the temperature rose. Wiping the sweat from my forehead, I discovered our firewood was wet. How would we cook our bean burritos? One of our neighbors came to the rescue by giving us some special fire starters which ignited the wood. After dinner I read the warning label on the fire starters, “Do not use for cooking.” Maybe that’s why the burritos tasted weird. Exhausted from battling the heat and storms, we retreated to our tent after sunset, only to be attacked by sand fleas! My daughter was nursing flea bites for a week afterwards.
When our children were younger, my husband and I took them camping out of state. During a trip to Yellowstone we were apprehensive about our decision to camp after a park ranger told us a herd of bison stampeded through the campground the night before. Contrary to the safety and warmth I experienced as a child, our night in Yellowstone was a night of terror when we heard a bison snort just outside our tent. To our surprise it snowed that night. My husband got up early and built a campfire, but the kids and I refused to shed what little warmth was afforded by our sleeping bags. Maybe our situation would have improved if we had brought bacon for breakfast.
This year my husband and I planned a trip to Canada. We reserved an oTENTik in Fundy National Park, New Brunswick. The park website displayed a photo of a structure with cabin-like walls and a canvas roof. The website suggested we bring sleeping bags, food, cooking utensils, and a cooler. Although there was no cooking permitted in the oTENTik, we could cook in a community kitchen nearby. Since we were flying, we packed our sleeping bags in a suitcase, along with packets of dehydrated lasagna, and a small pan to boil water.
When we arrived at Fundy, the oTENTik was clean, equipped with bunk beds, a gas heater, table, and chairs. We walked over to the community kitchen and discovered we needed to build a fire in a wood burning stove to cook. During the previous week we slept in hotels and dined on delicious Canadian seafood. We had no firewood and forgot to bring matches. Did we really want to go buy those things to cook freeze-dried lasagna? The town of Alma was only a five minute drive away. So we drove into town, picked up a pizza, and brought it back to our campsite. We really lived off the land. Modern conveniences have weakened my pioneer spirit. I want to enjoy living in the great outdoors without doing all the work. My experiences with camping as an adult gave me a new sense of appreciation for my parents.
Did I already mention Dad eventually bought a trailer?