I was supposed to go to Big Sur for my birthday, but any California Camping reservations are made with the caveat that fires might squelch them. Thus it was with my Big Sur Dreams. Side note—if you are ever wondering whether or not California is on fire, just reference this helpful website a friend shared with me: http://iscaliforniaonfire.com/ Instead, we camped at a site in Malibu and a site in SB. There are a lot of minor details of this camping trip that I’m too lazy to lay out for you, but here are a few things I learned:
Most everyone has a better side and a worse side than what you have seen of them on first glance. We rolled up to the guard booth at Gaviota and the ranger lady was instantly terrifying. She wouldn’t let me answer a question before talking over me to ask another. I paid her whatever money she wanted just so I could escape her hawkeye and find the solace of my campsite. No sooner had we fled her gaze, however, than we realized we needed to return to The Campground Queen and ask her about parking details for our extra friends who were staying. I was filled with dread. Conflict management in general is not really my favorite thing, and I was loathe to ever be seen by the Guard Booth Governess again. I can’t really tell you how it happened, but my second conversation with Erica of Gaviota was possibly the best ten minutes of my weekend. We discussed squirrels and her children—and she showed me pictures of both. Our parking request was no issue at all, and I went on my way. But, if I hadn’t been forced to chat with her that second time, I would have left the campground without ever having learned her name, or seen the sweet side of the ranger lady. I’m too quick to oversimplify other humans, and I’m grateful for those moments when I’m forced to take a second look at the opinions I’ve formed in haste.
You can usually fit one more person in the tent. I recently bought a tent at the REI garage sale—the package said “2+.” Being the outdoorsy and knowledgeable human that I am, I naturally understood the description to mean, “two large people can share this tent, or maybe like three smaller humans.” On the first night of our trip, Chloe and I shared the new orange tent. On the second night, we were joined by Chelsea. Although we had initially considered offering Chelsea the hammock, the winds were far too blustery to rationalize exiling anyone to such an exposed night’s sleep. Only after our trip did someone explain to me that the “+” means that the tent is extra long—not that it can fit more people. With most situations, there is usually room for more sharing than is delineated by a manufacturer.
Share the light. We knew we didn’t have a flashlight. Since we were just car camping, I wasn’t too concerned. iPhones are basically fancy flashlights anyways, right? Turns out, setting up a brand new tent, in the dark, with nothing but a phone as a light source isn’t exactly easy-peasy. I felt like an idiot, doing some sort of tent/upright yoga stretches or something. We must have looked pretty sad, too, because as soon as we had finished assembling the tent, some strangers showed up and said “Hey, your little light was annoying us—you can borrow our flashlight for the night. We have another.” Not only was their kindness shocking, but the flashlight really did make the night a million times easier. (Don’t worry, mom: I made them a watercolor the next morning to thank them for their thoughtful act). Too frequently, I see people struggling with feeble whispers of truth, in the darkness, and I can’t be bothered to walk over and share the light with them.
If you’re having to force it, maybe you’re doing it wrong. Remember the orange tent? Well, we had disassembled it once previously, but we had never put it together before. We clipped one of the clips in the wrong place unknowingly, and couldn’t understand why we weren’t strong enough to make the tent work. After several minutes of struggling blindly [with a phone flashlight], we managed to correctly assemble it, but it wasn’t until the light of day that we realized the top bar had been slightly bent by our errant clipping. Sometimes I find myself fighting with all my might to do a thing and wondering why I can’t. But that’s the thing about the Christian life—it’s supposed to be God’s strength, not mine. I’m not saying things won’t be hard, just that nothing is impossible with God. Sometimes, when I’m really riding the struggle bus, maybe that should be a red flag that I’m going about things the wrong way.
When people aren’t around take care of things for you, you learn what you’re capable of. Chloe and I built several fires this weekend. Emphasis on Chloe. Impressed by her fire bending skills, I asked her if she had a lot of experience starting them. She told me she’d never had to start one before, someone else had always been around to do it. We did a lot of things this weekend that we’d left up to others in the past. As much as it would have been lovely to have our wilderness savvy friends with us for the weekend, we were able to take things we had learned from them on previous trips and somewhat manage them on our own this time. Right now, life is a low tide on the friendship shore—many dear people have scattered across the states, and I’m finding myself having to tackle things I’ve left up to others in the past. As much as I would love to have my people back, I am trying to be grateful for this season of practicing new skills and relying more on God.
Wildfires are an inevitability of living in California. This isn’t the first—or even the second—time that wildfires have majorly altered weekend plans for me *this year.* They move all around, they’re unexpected, and they’re a big deal. That doesn’t mean I stop making weekend plans, it just means that I accept that fires are a likelihood and seamless plans are myth. I get the liberty of making a plan, and the honor of rolling with whatever is in store. Sometimes, fires close the campground. Sometimes, you accidentally pack a pinochle card deck instead of a regular card deck. That’s pretty much the same principle for life, too.
Oh, and one more thing…with enough aluminum foil, I can cook almost anything on an open flame. There’s no dual meaning to this observation…I just think aluminum foil is pretty fabulous.