I’m sitting in my tent. In my back yard. It’s a green dome tent, and it took me three years plus two hours to figure out how to put it up. It’s cozy in here, protected from the wind, comfy with my lounge cushion to lie on. I’ve got my notebook and pen, a book of poems to read, a cold Heineken, and my phone. Every now and then the dog looks in to make sure I’m still here, but she doesn’t stay. Something about the crackly-sounding floor, I think. I lie here thinking about where I will go with my tent. I could go anywhere.
When I was newly widowed, I bought this tent thinking I’d like to go camping. I enjoyed camping with my family as a kid and with my first husband. (Second husband Fred thought camping was a hotel without HBO and room service.) I could set up my tent by a river or in a wooded park and enjoy nature all by myself. Maybe I’d even go fishing.
Sure. When I first bought it, I tried setting up that tent in my front yard. The instructions baffled me. Short pole, long pole—they all looked long to me. It was like Starbucks’ drink sizes where the “tall” is the smallest size. J-hooks, ring fasteners, slip knots, what’s this Velcro thing for? Yes, the pockets for the poles were color-coded. Yes, the instructions said you could put up this tent in minutes. But no. The poles would not sit still, would not arch. I’d get one end in, and the other would pop out. I tried until my back gave out. Then I wadded up the whole thing and stuffed it onto a shelf in the garage.
Lately I’ve been cleaning out my garage. (Anybody want a TV vintage 1965?) I still had that tent, along with all the stuff I didn’t sell at my October 2014 garage sale, the day of the monsoon rain. It was use it or get rid of it time. Maybe camping wasn’t meant for me.
I assembled my tent parts in the back yard this go-round, to keep my humiliation private. Once again the poles would not stay put. One end in, the other flopped out. Where were these alleged hooks? Okay, the poles crossed and then what? Clearly the people who wrote these directions assumed I was an engineer or someone who had set up tents before. I hadn’t. I never went to camp as a kid. My parents camped in RVs. My first husband was Mr. Nature Guy, but he did the tent-wrangling. I handled the food. I think I hammered in a few stakes, but how the rest of the tent went up, I had no idea.
But darn it, I could picture this tent set up and me inside it being total nature woman. I didn’t want to give it to charity because I was too stupid to set it up.
A couple hours in, my back was screaming again from all the bending and getting up and down. I was ready to quit again when I decided to try one more thing. Bingo. Why couldn’t the directions just tell me or show me that I was supposed insert the end of the little key things attached to the rings into the ends of the poles? I kept putting the poles in the rings and they slid all over the place. Stop laughing at me, experienced tenters. I had no clue. Once I did that, the poles stayed in place, I got them to arch, and the limp pile of “Dry-tanium” fabric turned into a tent. Once it was upright, I was able to figure out the rest—the rain flap, the stakes, the s-hooks. Okay, it looks a little lumpy, like my cakes, and I seem to have three stakes and a rain flap pole left over, but here I am, camping in my back yard.
It funny how I have a whole house, but I’m more comfortable in here, writing in the green glow, drinking from the green bottle. Life simplified.
It’s cloudy outside. The ocean is loud. The neighbor’s rooster crows. The yellow dog stands guard. This tent is labeled as a two-person tent. I don’t think so. It’s not big enough, and that’s fine with me. Maybe one woman and a guitar. I have decided to stay here all day, leaving only for food and bathroom trips. Errands canceled.
Now where will I go? Am I afraid to go camping alone? Yes. Should I do it anyway? Definitely. Can I put this thing up again in much less time? I think so. I can’t leave it up in the back yard forever, although I’m tempted to make it my new office . . . .
It’s two days later. I took my tent down for fear the dog would start chewing on the ropes and pulling out stakes. She has done such things before. I followed the disassembly instructions step by step and managed to fold the whole thing small enough to fit in the handy green bag. My back is killing me, but I am so proud of myself.
That’s just part of what I did on my Fourth of July weekend. I also learned how to make S’mores. How about you?
[All contents copyright Sue Fagalde Lick. Republish this without permission, and I will sic my dog Annie on you, and she chews on logs for fun and can destroy an indestructible Kong in minutes.]