Last weekend, despite the heavy rain predictions, or actually because of them, we got outta dodge and headed for drier country in Central Oregon. Now that I'm getting older and have proven to myself that I can tough it out in the elements, I feel OK, and even somewhat reluctanctly excited, about the fact that we have become 'car campers'. Not exactly true to form--we still loathe state-park-type campgrounds with 150 driveways, affording no privacy, much less any remote feeling of getting away into the wilds. But slowly, we're carving out our latest outdoor recreation niche since backpacking with a toddler just isn't going to cut it...at least until the rainy season subsides.
Last week, we had this amazing opportunity fall into our lap: our neighbor offered us first dibs on her VW Eurovan. (!!!!!!!) It's a 'weekender', so there's a pop-up top AND a pop-up table. Complete with a small cooler and curtains, as well as a queen-size fold-out bed down below, it makes for the perfect little family camper. We are so excited to have a way to get out into the elements without having to stay in them if we don't want to. As much as I wish I were up for that 'bad-ass' lifestyle of living tentless under the stars for weeks on end as I was in 1999, I recognize that I'm currently in a phase of life where I just need things to be easy. And I'm more and more okay with that as the months go by.
So, Saturday night, as it had just begun to rain, I was sitting around our roaring fire, waiting for Geoff to put the finishing touches on his 'buffalo delight': a shepherd's pie type dish, complete with chopped potatoes, carrots, onions and ground buffalo, wrapped in foil and tossed in the coals of the fire. Kaya had been put to sleep in her little tent-bed inside the van, and we were eager to eat. She must have sensed that desire, however, and started to cry. As we sometimes do, we let her fuss for a bit, hoping, as she often does, that she'd work it out and fall asleep on her own. This time, however, it wasn't happening. She began to scream, clearly desiring some buffalo-yum as well. Geoff, being closer to the van, went to soothe her. He was speaking so softly to her that I couldn't hear what he was saying...Kaya, on the other hand, who hasn't quite mastered her "inside voice" (though we were outside...!), had loud, yet oh-so-sweet responses that rang crisply through the darkness.
As I sat there watching the flames dance, I listened intently to their exchange. As soon as Geoff started speaking to Kaya, her screams subsided, and were replaced with a long, yearning, "Yeeeaaah." He would speak again, for about 15 seconds, and she would, once again, reply with a "yeeaah," each time in a different tone. Early in his interactions with her, her "yeah"s sounded sad and hopeless, more long and drawn-out. But as the story-telling session continued (as I guessed he was doing), her "yeah"s grew more and more excited and shorter in length--kind of like the variances I just discovered in Chinese, actually. I wondered to myself, as I sat there in my crazy-creek, what was he saying to her to cause her to respond with such excitement. I knew he had to be telling her a story of sorts, as she has come to love, but about what I couldn't be sure. But every 15-30 seconds, without fail, her sweet little "yeah" would come floating across the night to flash a smile across my face. There she was, sad as can be, crying out for help, when all of a sudden, her Daddy (as she has come to call him) comes to the rescue with a story full of all sorts of characters that she is oh-so-happy to encounter. Bears and dogs and birds on the beach, as well as the balls and the sticks and the trees they were climbing. Their adventures of digging in the sand, running along the trails, pushing their babies in their strollers, and sitting by their campfire in the night. He didn't like the story, he reported to me once she fell asleep--it lacked a plot. But clearly, plot isn't what she's after--she's plenty happy to just hear about all sorts of things in life that bring her joy, that take her to the parts of her mind that conjure up feelings of satisfaction and understanding and recognition. And that's what life is all about, right? Being satisfied and understanding our surroundings and recognizing what's important? That's why I go to the desert...that's why getting out is so important to me because it brings me to that place in my mind where I can remember to go back to the basics, to be a kid again, and dream and smile and watch the flames dance.