February 23, 2007

Old friends

Cold when I return to the tent after dinner -- wi-fied elegant establishment just outside Land Between the Lakes where they served me ghastly spaghetti and meatballs. (Aside: why is it so rare to find that simple dish done well? These folks used what looked like vermicelli and what tasted like leather for the balls).

Yes, cold. And dark. I drive the car right up to the tent, leave its lights on while I get the essentials -- sleeping bag, laptop (irrationally paranoid about leaving it in the car), gloves, torch, inflatable pillow. When I step out, I'm a little disheartened to see that the flysheet and tent below are fairly sodden with dew. Already at 9pm. It's going to be a cold night.

Then I switch off the lights, and it's as if someone has thrown a great blanket over the world. A blanket with a myriad tiny gleaming spots and one gleaming fingernail-like crescent over at that corner seen through the trees.

For a minute, I stand there, shivering in the cold. Should I go to sleep already? Tell myself gotta write! Get back in the car, switch it on, turn on the reading light and begin writing in my diary. As I do, I wonder: what if someone suddenly knocked on the window? How high would I jump?

Finished with the diary, I switch off again and step out. It's even colder now, but I'm now getting into the spirit of this. Old friends up in the sky, after all. The Great Bear towering above the bare trees, and the North Star that it points to, and good solid Orion, and faithful Sirius, and many more. Many, many, many more stars. I'm shivering, but I also feel somehow connected to the familiar by the stars, a comforting thought when I'm so alone.

Lower myself into the tent, take off sandals, rig the torch up to hang above me, blow up the pillow. Then sit there wrapped in my bag, read for a while by torchlight. Eventually I worm fully into the sleeping bag, reach up to turn off the torch and again, it's suddenly dark. And I suddenly notice how quiet it is. (Ever notice how light sometimes seems to fill your ears?)

I'm snug in the sleeping bag, but the pillow is a major headache, no pun intended. It won't stay in one place, it leaps about like a toad on speed every time I lay my head on it. But I sleep. Twice I wake up, reach up and unzip the door, and the outside flysheet, and lying there I'm looking straight up at that carpet of stars. Not something to do for long leisurely spells, because it's below freezing out there and I can feel it. Oh yes I can feel it, even now as I write this. But I'm snug.

And I sleep. I wake with a few aches -- the pillow! -- but exhilarated.


Michael Deibert said...

Sounds quite idyllic to me, Dilip.
I'm listening to Merle Haggard as I type this.

Kartik said...

Those aches- they mightn't just be due to the pillow. I've noticed that sleeping in the cold does that sometimes.

m. said...

oooold friends,
crouched in their corners like bookends
*end of yodelling*

i can't tell you how enthusiastic i am about the camping thing! my spirit of adventure flourishes when my bed is no more than 2 feet away. :)