It’s been a stormy evening with thunder and lightning shattering the dark sky. I’m here again lying in the tent, just listening to the sounds of nature battling it out for supremacy. This is one of the wildest, relentless storms I have witnessed in a while and also the second one I have witnessed today. I woke up this morning to the sounds and sight of rain pouring down and the first booms of thunder in the background. Bright flashes of light made me cower under my thin black blanket. It was rather calm and soothing, just sitting there to myself, letting my thoughts wander while the heavens shouted out from above. This was a first for me, being outside in a thunderstorm with only three walls of thin, rain-resistant fabric keeping me dry and safe. Of course, I was much braver than the person before me, my uncle Jack. He chickened out and left the tent at the first sign of the storm, retreating back indoors. In SURVIVOR, that would be the equivalent of quitting the game. And yet Jack has never been one to tucker out challenges that come his way. Oh well, I guess I know who he would play in the Wizard of Oz.
I stayed in the tent and tried to imagine that I was really in the wild with help miles away, not just a few feet away in my house. In a few weeks my family and I will be going camping and living in the rustic outdoors. That means no electricity, plumbing, or phone/Internet service whatsoever. We will be forced to use other unconventional means of ‘relieving ourselves’. In outhouses for that matter. If I am going to use one of those nasty things I am wearing a gas mask and bringing a can of Lysol with me! Of course that’s not possible since I don’t even own a gas mask. As for the rustic part of the camping trip, I do not believe that people like Zeke or Charles will be able to live without their computers.
Also, Charles and mom will likely eat at a nice restaurant than bother with cooking food on the fire. It’s their choice but the whole idea of going camping is to live without the luxuries and necessities of every day life and learn to survive.
Well, back to my tent session… I am preparing for the day we go camping by testing out my wits in a thunderstorm. The tent held up well the whole night and through this treacherous morning so it shouldn’t be a problem when the real games commence. In a style reminiscent to TheBlair Witch Project, I used my phone to film myself talking about my stay in the tent and various things around me, while the rain came down outside and thunder rumbled, adding to the spookiness. There wasn’t much light in the tent so when I played back the video all I could see was a creepy silhouette of myself hiding under a blanket.
I listened to the appropriate song for this occasion, “Thunder Rolls” by Garth Brooks, seeing how the thunder sound effects in the song mesh with the real world sounds, making it really authentic.
So this is Day 1 and my uncle already ran away from the challenge – facing mother nature in her darkest hour. I must had been in the tent for almost two hours, waiting for the loud but fairly tame storm to pass. The storm did pass eventually but not without a few flashes of Ben Franklin kite power appearing as I was just about to leave my sanctuary, scaring me out of my skin. I finally did get to fold my blankets up and head outside into the morning light. That stupid water hole of our’s was full of, well, water again.
This is only just the beginning. Tonight is one of the biggest storms this year and we are sleeping through it. The end of my army blanket is soaked as I forgot to zip the tent back up after I left, much to Jack’s dismay. Jack is much braver tonight, deciding to endure the fierce storm instead of seeking the safety and common sense warmth of his bed indoors. C’mon that would be too easy! We need to learn how to become one with nature and tackle her beastly villains we call storms, wind, and rain. No one can control or change the weather, but we can be tough and try to see the real beauty of our planet Earth at work. Amazingly, our world’s cycles of random weather have been going on for billions of years. Patterns and seasons may have changed and become unpredictable but Earth still follows her unruly task of making us selfish humans realize what is out there for a minute. Okay, so the planet isn’t trying to seek revenge on people and only has crazy weather because of changes in the air, but humans still need to realize that the home they inherited thousands of years ago is being ruined by their selfish actions and greediness just to get a leg up in the world. Photographers and geologists alike are the few that really appreciate the true essence of the Earth.
Everyone else could care less.
With these survival tent runs, I am really starting to see just how wonderful our planet is once all of the material stuff is put aside. Night 2 is here and my journey has only begun…I still need a bear and an ax murderer on the loose to freak me out. And a tent that is actually in the woods.
With constant reminders that we, the mix and match bunch from Michigan, will be going away for about seven days to live like village people, I have been wondering just how we are going to survive. Yes, we will have tents and lots of other gear such as bug spray and flashlights but actually living in the great outdoors without the magnetic force of a computer nearby is rare. Sure, I have been camping before, at Mystic Lake in fifth grade, but I got to stay in a nice heated cabin with electricity and a bunk bed, not lying on the ground as a huge thundercloud rages over. There was also a nice bathroom near the cabin that I visited frequently during the night. Where we are going, there won’t be those luxuries, which is a challenge I like and am ready to face. Of course, it is not going to be true wilderness – the place is going to be regulated – but being out there with nature is something a lot of people should invest part of their life in.
A lot of people waste their summer, though, sitting in front of screens playing mindless computer games or banging on plastic toy drums that sound like (censored). Of course, not everyone has a readily accessible pool right near their house that they are not responsible for keeping cleaned and maintained (which becomes such a chore that you feel like giving up and wonder why you bought the damn thing). Our Windham Hills pool is great because it provides a place for the community to cool off and relax after a hard day. It’s open to just about anyone nowadays – the check in/check out list isn’t enforced very well and there isn’t always a hired pool attendant/supervisor down there who even cares. Still, there is some control. Kids that are wild and rambunctious will be told to stop or get kicked out. I find it really annoying when a kid makes a huge cannonball jump in the water and I get the full force of the splash. There is hardly anyone of my age group down there also, since it’s mostly kids who barely know how to count and are still in the early stages of elementary school.
Most of the clan came up to the water hole today as well as the rest of the neighborhood. I like to have room to spread my arms out and do a few laps around the pool but with it looking like the Atlantic Ocean during the aftermath of the Titanic sinking I mostly stick to one spot, near my odd but loving family. Yeah, they are all misfits in their god-given ways and wouldn’t come within twenty feet of Hollywood but my folks are simple, easy to get along with, and live their life without caring what others say about it.
The Nokia girl comes back to my uncle Jack and I and reminds us that the cleaning job she was offering us is still on, albeit strangely. Its seems legit and I have been waiting for a steady paying job for sometime now. Maybe the answer lies with a woman who has a friend nicknamed Goober and swims around in a pink inner tube acting just like a little kid. Business woman…hmmm….I guess anyone can own a business these days. Is this woman serious or just psycho? I’ll see but I’m leaning more towards the latter just to be smart about it.
The sun is hot so sunscreen is a must. I try to once again get that illusive tan and am actually more successful today. Lying on the chaise lounge is relaxing. I am able to wash away my worrisome thoughts and regain focus on things I want to accomplish in my life. And one of them is definitely not getting that stupid bike of mine fixed.
Jack said he had a present for me when I got home from swimming. Like in most cases, I was like “okay, it’s probably something cheap or silly that will probably be gone in a few minutes and I won’t care about it”. But when I popped open Emily’s trunk and saw a medium sized duffel bag, Jack said it was a tent for our camping trip. Well, that’s good. I will not be forced to sleep in the same tent as Charles and mom, which would be a nightmare. We immediately went to getting the tent set up in the yard. It seemed simple at first but then trouble set in. I have never set a tent up before and getting those pesky poles upright to support the tent was difficult but not torture. With a little bit of help from Charles, the bearded man with the know-it-all attitude and technology that could rival the U.S. Government, the tent went up in no time. The result was a 10 by 8 foot tent with enough room for about four to five people, depending on size. Jack and I would have probably been out there longer if it wasn’t for Charles. He helped us fix some mistakes, like the knot in the roof I tied wrong, and gave us advice but I believe I could get the tent up by myself next time. The secret to getting the ruddy thing up was forcing the flexible poles into their foot slots when it felt like they wouldn’t budge anymore. The tent had to be moved left and right and the stakes adjusted in the ground, stretching the tent out.
Of course I wanted to sleep in the tent the first night so that’s exactly what happened, with the addition of Jack. With a few blankets and a small, uncomfortable pillow, along with my phone that I call my extended arm, I made it through my first night under the stars. I have stayed in a tent one other time in my life, up in Cheboygan while on visit to John Wrosch’s sister’s and family’s house. My sisters and I shared it since it was large enough that we didn’t have to sleep right next to each other (which would have been awkward).
It was different back then. I was thirteen and going through the tough sledding of adolescence while going to a school full of hard-knock ghetto kids who would knock you down and make you feel like the most worthless, terrible thing in the world. Now I am twenty-one and free to take on the world as I choose with no one to stand in my way and tell me I cannot do anything.
Okay, I’m being too dramatic. I’m just in a tent outside my house with the ever so talkative, spieling Jack Draffen keeping me company. It’s nice to have someone on my level, though, who I can have a conversation with without them being too overbearing. Jack has always been that way to me, a kind of friend who I can talk to whenever I want without feeling scared. We are probably the biggest goofs when it comes to things like pitching a tent, moving furniture, making a garden, fishing, playing sports, or meeting women. Whatever Jack says I usually listen to and respond with simple answers, even if I am not totally interested. We usually have simple conversations, such as one tonight where he is going on about what we need for our camping trip and the prospect of learning to fish for the first time and if we will even catch anything. He pitches in ideas and I pitch in ideas – like a tandem bicycle working towards the same goal. It’s this kind of bondmanship/team work that makes us a great pair and I would like to see that continue on but I know it will be hard since I want to move on with my life and Jack won’t be here forever. He was actually the first person that I felt comfortable having a good conversation with. Before him, I was usually confined to a shell, occasionally saying a few hellos or asking a question. I have really opened up since then and am better at conversing with anyone in general. I don’t mind Jack stating the obvious, the fact that with every piece of new technology he encounters he needs my expertise to show him how to use it, or that he needs help spelling any word in the English language longer than 4 letters. He has his quirks, like naming objects such as his radio (Chauncey) and his newer radio (Chauncey Jr.). He’s had some of the same problems as I’ve had in life – being trapped in a lonely box with no way out and no one who understands how to help you. Thankfully I got help and found a way out, and it’s been a struggle or failures and successes. From my first day of school to now being an amateur tent-maker I have learned the ropes and have experienced life. There is still a long road unwinding for me and where it takes me I will soon find out. Only I can decide that. Right now though, I am lying on the floor of a tent, listening to the wind and rain pattering the roof, the cars rumbling by, and the sound of water dripping and splattering into the mud pit we call a garden.