News flash: widow lady sets up tent

Tent_7216D[1]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.

Tent_7216B[1]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.Tent_7216I[1]

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.]

Author: Sue Fagalde Lick

writer/musician California native, Oregon resident Author of Freelancing for Newspapers, Shoes Full of Sand, Azorean Dreams, Stories Grandma Never Told, Childless by Marriage, and Up Beaver Creek. Most recently, I have published two poetry chapbooks, Gravel Road Ahead and The Widow at the Piano: Confessions of a Distracted Catholic. I have published hundreds of articles, plus essays, fiction and poetry. I'm also pretty good at singing and playing guitar and piano.

4 thoughts on “News flash: widow lady sets up tent”

  1. I’m so proud of you Sue! I’ve never done that, always had someone to guide me on the tent setup experiences. I dont remember what I googled, but about a year ago, I found out there are wbesides dedicated to women camping alone. Also, I wanted to tell you to a tarp along to place on the ground under the tent in case of rain mainly. (Keep tent floor dry.) Many tents come with a rain shield. Yours didn’t. Perhaps it’s because I live in the hot south…almost all tents here have an air vent at the dome top. Then we place the rain shield on top, secured with hooks so it doesn’t blow away. Air can flow in/out & if it rains. The rain flows & slides off the tent easily. Your furbaby may or may not like camping, all kinds of noises at night and critters with interesting smells. We take ours & she loves it, especially the meeting new people part. I am glad you’re giving camping a chance. I didn’t grow up camping as my folks were “done” with that stuff by the time I came along. But I’ve camped countless times as am adult, both tent & rv, & usually enjoy it. I’m a loner, and love to read & write, and nature inspires me. It also reminds me there’s a God in control of all this, and humbles me. I’m not a big fisherperson, would rather pay a guide and let them do the planning, provide & hook the bait, and clean the fish.


    1. Apologies for the bad grammar. I’m on my phone….tiny screen and keyboard challenged.

      By the way, most parks don’t want you to take furbaby into bathroom with you. Might ask that question when you call to make a reservation. There are also upscale parks. I’ve not stayed in one. I drove through one outside austin a few years ago and was blown away at the nicer amenities. I bet folks there a) all have dogs & b) most use their own rv bathroom…so less likely to care if you bring your baby in the bathroom.


      1. My furbaby is too scared to go into park restrooms. I would probably leave her home because she’s awfully nervous away from familiar territory and the trip would be all about her.


    2. Thanks, Silvershiloh! Getting a tarp is definitely on my to-do list. And I know I didn’t put the rain flap on correctly. There are vents in the actual tent that I would like to open up. I don’t know if I would actually go fishing. I always feel bad for the fish. But I grew up fishing a little and mostly watching my dad and brother fish, and I do have my late husband’s fishing gear that he never used, so maybe. Or maybe I’ll just fish for ideas to write about.


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