Soul-o (aka solo) camping

Having time alone in nature is a soothing tonic for the soul.  Lately, I’ve found myself fed up with other people’s drama, and frankly, my own.  So, I decided, “To heck with it all! I’m going camping!”

Tully Lake in Royalston, MA is a manmade lake created to control flooding in the Connecticut River valley.  There is a walk-in campground there, which keeps out the RVs and trailers, and that’s just fine by me.  Even though it’s only 30 minutes from my house, I can go there and feel like I’m getting away.

As soon as I got my tent set up, I immediately set out on the stand up paddleboard we recently bought.  Ahhhhh… To be away from the commotion of life, the computer, and the phone… What a relief!

I paddled lazily around the lake, watching with wonder the electric blue damsel flies that skimmed over the surface, where bushy plumes of chartreuse aquatic weeds could be seen stretching up from below.  Each plume had a tiny, white 6-petaled flower attached to the end of it, soaking up the last of the summer sun.  I have to say, the flowers looked ridiculously small in comparison to the full foliage of these aquatic raccoon tails.

I paddled back to the campsite, which was right at the water’s edge, and went for a swim in the fading daylight.  Swimming is also good for the soul; it’s meditative and cleansing.

After a quick bite, there wasn’t much left to do but sit and admire my surroundings.  My campsite was situated under a stand of hemlocks, which is coincidentally my favorite tree.  I’m not sure why I like them so much.  Perhaps it is the way their short, green needles glisten in the sun, like the sheen of a happy dog.  Maybe it’s because of their delicate little pine cones, which aren’t much bigger than my thumbnail.  Or maybe it’s because I lived in a house on Hemlock Street for the first 5 years of my life.  I’ve heard of spirits haunting houses, but is it possible for a house to haunt a spirit?  If so, then this house has been haunting me my entire life, following me through my dreams and replaying memories in my mind, like a reel to reel film.  They are so real, it scares me.

The moon sat low in the sky, a large crescent, and as it set, the stars began to shine across the sky.  I had no intention of building a fire, but the temperature dropped quickly, and I got cold just sitting there.  I fumbled around to find a few small twigs and sticks and lit a fire using just one match.  I felt impressed with myself, thinking back to the days when I used to teach survival skills as an environmental educator.  But what I really want, is to make a fire by rubbing two sticks together.

There is something primeval about building a fire and staring into its flames.  It feels a bit like staring into the soul of the earth, the way that I imagine peering over the edge of a volcano would be.  That night, as I sat there gazing into the flames, and then the embers, I truly felt that I was looking eye to eye with the earth, one soul connected to another.

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