22 June 2007


Yesterday afternoon I put up two tents I own in my friends' yard. Not only had I looked forward to airing the tents out after several years' disuse, but my friend who uses an electric wheelchair and who wants to go camping expressed interest in trying one or both of them out, testing for their accessibility factor.

The smaller tent has room for 2-3 people to stretch out comfortably. The larger one, oh, I guess more like 5-6 people. My friends had been teasing me, suggesting that I was so eager to get them erected that I'd probably forget to do something important - like put the tarp down or pound stakes in or the like. So I purposefully took plenty of time to make sure I assembled everything properly. I staked both tents firmly into the ground and went so far as to arrange the tents so the larger one would take the brunt of any strong cross-plains winds that might blow through.

While KD and I were at our friends' home playing cards last night the weather reared up. It stoooormed. It rained and rained and poured, then stopped and started up again, several times. Just as it was approaching too-dark-to-see dark I took a peek out the back window to see how the tents were holding up.

There was only one tent standing in the yard.

No, I thought, I must be seeing things. Or maybe I'm at a bad angle so I can only see the larger one? I popped up and clenched a teeny borrowed pocket-sized umbrella and set out to investigate. KD made the frowny face that signified her disapproval of me going outside during a thundery rainstorm. She seemed sure that the single bolt of stray lightning would find me, that I'd be fried to a 10,000 volt crisp. I kissed her on her head on my way out the door to reassure her. I said she didn't have to approve of my choice, but her disapproval wouldn't sway my need to understand why I couldn't see both tents.

Outside, I squee-squawed through the soggy grass of the large side yard. Once I got out to where I'd staked the tents I determined that no, in fact, I was not seeing things. One tent had vanished. I squinted through raindrops, scanning the fence line on the far side of their roughly 2 acre property for some sign of the missing tent - nothing. I looked beyond, to the soybean field past their fence - nothing. It had EVAPORATED!

I borrowed our friends' mightiest MagLite and when we departed we did a slow drive-by crawl down their country road on the off chance the tent blew away. Nothing turned up during our late night Maglite inspection, so I decided I'd try again today after daylight returned. Having the rough plans for a continued search was good but I couldn't seem to let go of my confusion about what had happened. C'mon, where does a whole freaking tent GO?!

I couldn't figure it out. I'd hammered the stakes in at the proper angles to keep the tents tethered, I'd shaken them, I'd tried to move the tents around once they were assembled and I'd felt confident that both were secure. I didn't get it, I couldn't for the life of me figure out where my tent went. As I was back in my own bed last night, relaxing into sleep, my brain busily wandered through a vast field of possibilities, sifting for plausible explanations.

Scenario One: The wind carried the tent away.
I had securely staked the tent and I'd positioned it in such a way that strong winds should have hit the larger of the two tents before they reached the smaller one, but it is possible that a stormy gust could have worked around the larger tent, pulling the stakes of the smaller out of the earth in a mighty display of strength.

Scenario Two: Someone is playing a practical joke.
Given my friends' slight aversion to storms this would be unlikely but most certainly possible. If it was a practical joke I'll commend my friends for their implementation. It was a good one that I'll surely laugh later with them over. Furthermore, I reflected, I am lucky to have friends who enjoy playing, who value good-hearted fun, who know me well enough to trust my response to a harmless entertaining prank. In the drowsiness of pre-sleep I imagined myself playing the make-believe practical joke. I made a mental note that if I do ever pull a prank on a friend who owns two tents I could try tucking the smaller tent inside the larger one. I made a note to give that a try someday.

Scenario Three: A stranger took it.
Seems unlikely that someone drove through the rural Wisconsin countryside during severe weather, unlikely that the person saw two tents standing in a family's yard and unlikelier yet that he'd have thought to himself, boy oh boy, I'd sure like me one'a them. It's nearly unimaginable to me that the person would then have taken the time and energy to sneak up into the yard, disassemble the smaller of the two structures and sneak away into the stormy night with it.

Scenario Three: A stranger took it, part II.
There could have been some poor, wet, lost and confused shelterless moggy traveling through on his journey toward personal enlightenment who was caught completely by surprise by the storm.

It wasn't until I really began considering the karmic implications of Scenaro Three, part II when I uncovered my attachment to that tent. It wasn't the tent itself - at any given time I could walk into a small handful of local businesses and walk out with 273 new, and likely more watertight, tents. No, what I realized was my deep emotional attachment to that laughably plain little thing.

I thought about how, years ago, I'd had to save a little money for a long time from my insufficient single mother head of household paychecks to afford its purchase. When I had purchased that tent I felt successful -- triumphant, even. The handful of times I'd schlepped my child out to nowhere to experience nature we took shelter in that tent: our parent-child relationship deepened, in part because of that tent.

A shift occurred when I recognized my own strong emotional bond. Not only did I feel an instant release of some anger I wasn't even aware of carrying over a possible theft; not only did I feel compassion for a person who might honestly have needed that shelter more than I but more importantly to me, it opened my understanding of why I keep so much - too much - of the unnecessary: things that cause me a variety of headaches (i.e. the schlep factor: arrangement, display, moving, storage).

This connecting of the dots in the past 24 hours feels radical. I'm now excitedly anticipating the ways in which I will have the opportunity to transfer this updated understanding of my emotionally ponderous connections to other parts of my life.

As for the prodigal tent, I plan to offer it to my son. If he's uninterested in keeping it I'll give it away. That I don't require two tents is clear. One will be fine. One is sufficient. One is good. One tent is all my current need requires. As for the enlightenment, I think I'll begin testing it out in our too-packed basement.

20 June 2007

Love Note

My shoulders and laughter
are sexy to you
Your eyes and your sprawled abandon
turn me on

Though imprecise with recipe card directions,
I measure my words
Skim superfluous off the top
Using the flat side of my blade.

I choose, arrange,
smith honesty with mouth feel

You don't even know
you are as natural to me as breath.

I ask how was your day dear,
you say okay.

I know from the way you lean into
and I know from the way you resist

That this expression wasn't what you had hoped for yourself
as the alarm chewed through the dense violet blue dawn.
I know this, and you, without the burden of awareness.

I am neither this nor that.
I am and.
You are however.
And yet you are as natural to me as breath.

You cannot see the profound lunacy
in the contrast of white upon black,
of linear straining against
this fluid dance we perform
with its precise footsteps falling
exactly, imprecisely, as they do.

My tongue threads remaining liquid through bitter grounds
as I languidly examine the particles
of the unspoken
of us
of breath.

I wish to ask,
Why do we clench?
Why the catch,
the grip,
the pause?

You aren't aware
you count on me.
Less for timeliness
less for keeping track of the important bill -
wholly for recognizing the subtle shift
within your choked happy throat
when you reply


Our real discoveries come from chaos, from going to the place that looks wrong and stupid and foolish.

-- Chuck Palahniuk

18 June 2007


scarlett: 1.5 years, 24 lbs., originally uploaded by McBeth.

While we try to teach our children all about life,
Our children teach us what life is all about.

-- Angela Schwindt

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