Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Camping as spiritual practice

A year ago I knew I was in trouble when, while camping on the Cape during Columbus day weekend, I spent much too much time being cranky and not nearly enough time enjoying the beautiful weather and wonderful setting. I talked about it with my Spiritual Director afterwards. I confessed to it in the confessional box. I apologized to my husband for being a shrew.

I don't know why camping can bring out the worst in me. I so easily veer into control freakishness and impatience. It seems to do this to Nguyen, too. He has a strange alter ego who emerges when we are in the woods. Macho, controlling. Between us it is the clash of the titans.

This weekend was different. We were on our shakedown trip with our new to us pop up camper. We have never had a pop up (pup) before, so there was plenty of opportunity for disputing how things work and what is the best way to set things up and how to pack most efficiently and where things should go in the campground and should we unroll the awning and does it look like rain and no, I don't care for beans, thank you. I even had my period, which is an automatic notch up on the cranky potential factor. And we had our nephew with us, which added to the boy energy, which can, admittedly, leave me needing solitude.

But something has shifted in the year since our last Columbus day weekend. First, the confessions. I think it served to bring home the fact that churlishness is, indeed, a sin. It certainly leaves me ungrateful, which is, in itself, sinful. But it also ruins everyone else's time.

Second, I am working on letting go of control. It is a lifelong habit that has been turned upside down as a Christian. Giving it over to God is the ultimate surrender of personal control... and I think, little by little, it is sinking in.

Finally, I realized that we only had one shot at making this weekend a joy. We can not go back and fix it if we ruin it with bad attitudes. We cannot take back what is spoken, or unspoken, in anger.

The weekend was mixed... wonderful, hot, cold, rainy, good food, bad overpriced food. Exhausting and relaxing. Quiet and noisy. But I think I maintained a pretty even keel throughout. My nephew and kids had a blast.

The pup made it through with only minor damage and wet mattresses from having to fold it up in the pouring rain.

We made it through with mostly good humor and some wonderful memories.

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