It had been way too long since I’d taken the kids camping. Earlier this month, however, I managed to get two out of three of them to come with me and we had a great overnight trip to our family prairie. We go out to our prairie – and other natural areas – pretty frequently, but there’s something extra special about camping. Maybe it’s the collaborative work needed to set up housekeeping, and tend to basic needs such as food, fuel and shelter. Maybe it’s the opportunity to slow down and spend time with family away from all the distractions at home. Maybe it’s the chance to see the stars, listen to wildlife calls, and experience other nature-at-night phenomena that we usually miss by being at home in our beds. Maybe it’s all those things and more.
(Ok, who am I kidding? It’s mostly the chance to play with a campfire – at least from my boys’ perspective!)
We filled our time with simple but profound activities. We practiced a little archery. The boys took turns lying in the hammock. We poked around down by the pond. Supper was cooked on sticks held over a fire. When the sun went down, we walked into the prairie, laid down beneath the stars and let ourselves be swallowed up by the universe. We identified a few constellations and saw either a satellite or the space station, but nobody really cared about identification. After playing some cards in the tent, we listened to coyotes, owls, turkeys, frogs, and some passing cranes as we went to sleep and woke up the next morning. I figured the boys would enjoy a chance to sleep in, but well before sunrise they woke me and pushed me out into the cold morning to get a fire started. (Did I mention the boys like campfires?) Breakfast was unhurried and delicious.
I brought along some loppers and saws for cutting small cedar trees out of the prairie, figuring that if the boys got bored we could at least be productive. As it turned out, they didn’t get bored and we didn’t accomplish anything productive.
Except that we did. We really did.