Camping Out

He’s almost 8, my son lying next to me, his permanent smile mirroring my own. Is that Saturn? he asks, looking up at the sky. I ditched the tent’s cover, only transparent thin fabric between us and the universe. Am I trying to remember what 7 was like, or did I never grow up? It doesn’t matter, we are here, together, our fingers pointing at constellations, sometimes a plane flying off to cross the Pacific. We talk about other earths and aliens until he drifts into slumber mid-sentence.

As he snores quietly I read about Lydia Child, her quest to end slavery. I listen to the crickets, imagine camping without the tent, without freedom, following the north star to Philadelphia or New York or Canada. Then I’m asleep. I dream about walking deep in the woods, seeing a gray fox. I wake to the sound of rustling bushes. It might be 1am, click my flashlight on, sets of eyes reflect back from outside the tent. Two deer a few feet away nibbling grass. Pausing they stare at me, then trot off. Asleep again until maybe 4am, then Hudson has to pee. We totter out half-awake, an owl hooting nearby, the two of us in our pjs, little streams in the dark.

It’s morning, Hudson says at 7am. He’s snuggled up next to me in his sleeping bag, hair mussed. Good morning, kid, I say. We grin, no words, just love.

Outdoor Medicine

There was a night when the four walls couldn’t hold me, when listening to The Velvet Underground was too depressing. No tent, no car,  no pillow, only my two hiking legs and a sleeping bag. Modern John Muir escaping the streets. I ambled my way to the base of a country mountain. 8pm dusk and me just sitting on the ground, my shadow fading into night. Long blades of grass, deer droppings, my new bedroom. Resting there I did nothing, no phone, no book, no flashlight. I wanted the hilly air to take me, absorb me, like only the earth can. There was no plan to sleep, there was no plan to not sleep, there was no plan. There was a her somewhere, out there, over there, without the zest of the World War I tune. But I had the full moon. I saw the moon and the moon saw me. I slept and woke and slept and woke, the moon so bright that I thought to turn it off, then realized where I was again and again. The evening went like that, blanketed in endless space, all the ground my mattress. By morning the her, the she, was a little less in me, nature said, let it be.