Relationships are about compromise, although I have to admit that means my partner often has to compromise whilst I get whatever the heck I want. Be it lunacy or a desire to be a better woman or this continued quest for the rituals of my childhood, I have decided to forgo my need to sleep on my pillow-top with my indoor plumbing and electricity and venture into the woods to sleep outdoors.
Bill loves to camp and I love Bill, therefore the mathematics of my logic seem pretty simple: I will camp, but on my terms. My beloved is thrilled to pile his survival gear onto his back and skip down the trail to face mosquitoes the size of hawks, risk encounters with rabid wildlife, and to sleep on the lumpy hard ground with only a sheet of nylon to protect him from a sasquatch attack. The things that fill Bill with childlike glee do not hold the same luster for me, so we went car-camping at Ocean City State Park. Compromise.
Camp was set up quickly (easy to do when you drive your truck to your site) and we grabbed Rosie’s leash and Bill’s kites and trekked toward the Pacific. Lots of people were already flying kites and Rosie gave them no mind as we shuffled toward the surf to scavenge seashells. We were able to check out the velella velella that had been washing up on he entire west coast, littered along the beach like thousands of used prophylactics. With no sand dollars to be found, Bill unfurled his mid-sized kite. Rosie continued playing with her frisbee until the kite zipped downward, roaring as its parachute fabric sliced through the air. Instantly, the Wondermutt’s hackles rose and she tore through the sand in a fit of rage, taking down the massive 3 meter kite with force. Two hours into our camping trip and Bill was angry, Rosie was helplessly tangled in a web of kite string, and I just wanted to go home.
Back at camp we watched the sun drop below the horizon as we roasted hotdogs over the fire, then settled into our ridiculously plush accommodations. More luxurious than the hotel the railroad used to house me in, the REI Labor Day Sale had treated us quite well, with a two room tent tall enough to stand upright in and a matching pair of adjustable padded cots that would promote much needed beauty sleep.
It seems funny, in hindsight, that keeping warm had been of such deep concern for me since I awoke in the middle of the night sweating uncontrollably. “Great, now I’ll catch a chill,” I thought. I rolled over, trying to will myself back to sleep, telling myself I could wait until sunrise to pee, when it hit me: my resurrected belief that oatmeal promotes longevity paired with my venture into the apple orchard the day prior (read: binge on oatmeal for breakfast and apples in the field) had inadvertently done horrible, awful things to my guts. I needed to go to the bathroom: Right Now. I did not, however, need to pee. I’d committed a misstep in hanging our flashlight from a loop on the tent’s ceiling to create a makeshift light fixture and had to awaken Bill to help me untie it. He was fumbling in the dark while I was doubled over performing lamaze breathing techniques as my muscles cramped, forcing me to grit my teeth. “Hurry. Huuuuuurrrrrrry,” I stage whispered, trying to avoid waking our neighboring campers with my desperation. I gingerly stepped backward out of the tent, just in case the universe felt compelled to force humiliation upon me, so I wouldn’t ruin our new outdoor dwelling if the dam were to burst. Bill slapped the flashlight into my hands and I scuttled down the trail toward the cold, dank, public restrooms. They were disgusting, but when one is sick the sensibilities of modern living wane, and I abandoned my usual hover-technique and plopped myself onto the seat to get down to business. When I was done the grody toilet was even more post-apocalyptic, but I felt better, thanking God for somebody’s kindly left-behind handsoap and scurried back to camp, emotionally high off defeating my mortal fear of other-than-home bathrooms. This was roughing it: I’d allowed my ass to make contact with a public toilet seat. This was what men feel when they hunt elk, this was what mountain climbers feel when they conquer peaks, this was my own personal Iron Man competition. I had vanquished my enemy, shitting in a public restroom, and in this surrender emerged triumphant. I was a camper, and it was awesome.
Compromise, at times, is about sacrifice. At other times, however, compromise leads to self discovery and growth. I had already begun to plan our next venture into the outdoors before we’d even had time to pack away our existing campsite, and my personal growth would render less compromise from both of us.
In memory of Pie Edwards, it is time to bring back our family ventures into the woods, including one unfortunate camper’s horrifying bathroom story for each trip. June Lake 2015, here we come.
” Lose yourself in nature and find peace.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson