Friday, May 10, 2013

Epiphanies Not Guaranteed

I went camping with some people this weekend.  We stayed at Sul Doc campground, in Olympic National Park, on the peninsula, during an unseasonably warm and sunny three days.  Even Mount Rainier was out (as pictured above)! We drove out on a Friday, taking our car across the Puget Sound on a ferry, stopping in Bainbridge for rhubarb pastries, and set camp before dusk.

We had beans and rice and beer for dinner under a shockingly clear, star-laden sky.  Saturday we made breakfast tacos and hiked to Sul Doc Falls and back, soaked in the Sul Doc hot springs with dozens of Russians on holiday, and read books while roasting weenies and s’mores around a fire. Sunday we broke camp after skillet eggs and bacon, drove back to the ferry with a stop by a Bainbridge deli, and went home.  Everyone more than got along.  It was a storybook weekend, told in idyllic images of sitting, walking, eating, and drinking in various combinations too perfect to have planned for.

It was the kind of weekend that justifies a reticence to make too many plans and supports the idea that if you balance preparation with openness, you will come out on top (more often than not).  It was the kind of weekend it’s hard to come back from because your life seems too rushed, with too many goals, and too many requirements to stay inside and buckle down.  The things you wanted to do have grown a little more looming, and a little less exciting.

I can keep that state of mind for weeks, gleefully refusing to get caught up in the formerly important stuffs, while sadly aware that they’re still there, gaining on me.  I have this vague idea of a weekly early-evening dinner I make, where people stop by and bring something or not, and hang out, and there’s a progression of eating and drinking with leisure where there’s always another plate of pickles or bottle of wine.  It’s that weird nostalgia for something that was never actually had, perpetuated no doubt by an insatiable appetite for shows like Giada at Home and Jamie’s Dinners, and the writing of Alice Waters, Tamar Adler, and Julia Child.  The closest approximation of what I want was an Italian next-door neighbor’s house that always had open doors, always had food cooking or lying around, and had a massive side porch and yard that constantly teemed with people.  The next closest thing to my imaginary-European-epicurean-joie-de-vivre lifestyle was at some neighborhood restaurants in the Cherrywood neighborhood of Austin which, while not in homes, always had someone I knew sitting around doing something, so that I could start eating alone and be joined by three people then leave four hours later from the same table but parting from five different people than I started with.  The third closest thing is, inevitably, camping, where activities are minimal and nature-filled and eating is sensually drawn out.

It is appropriately ironic that I should resolve a goal to have a leisure day each week with an open invitation to friends to drop by.  It’s the very essence of the post-camping creep into the camping-mentality.  And yet.

Oh yeah.  I recommend this campground for some good gettin’ away time.  Dogs are allowed on leashes on the campsite and some, but not all, trails.  I cannot guarantee you good weather or personal epiphanies. 

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