Our little family just spent a glorious week in the wilderness of Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite. “Wilderness” is relative – we did have bathrooms with flush toilets, but we slept in a tent under the trees. We spent our days throwing rocks in the river, swimming, and exploring the alpine forest.
Camping with a toddler at not-quite-six-months pregnant has its challenges, and there were a few things I missed: my bed, for one. I missed washing my hands with soap and warm water, and I missed showers. Though I loved watching Everett get absolutely filthy playing in the dirt, I did miss our washing machine.
What hit me at the end of our trip were the things I didn’t miss.
I didn’t miss walls. There is so much to look at when you’re living in the woods. We saw deer and chipmunks and a hawk working on its dinner. Without walls, we became very friendly with our camping neighbors; we lived our lives right out in front of each other.
I didn’t miss cell phone service. I do like keeping in touch with friends and family through FaceTime, texts and Instagram at home, but it was wonderfully refreshing to unplug from those things for a week. I didn’t miss scrolling through facebook at all. I was more present to my surroundings and to Dave and Everett because I had nothing to check. Checking my phone is a time-filler, and mostly a mind-filler – I find myself turning to it more when I am anxious. Because looking at my phone is a symptom of anxiety, setting it aside for a week released some of my anxiety.
I didn’t miss the complexity of our lives. Camping is so simple. Everything takes longer, and that’s ok – much of the day is spent dressing, cooking, eating, cleaning, arranging… and the rest is spent sitting quietly, being present with each other, and adventuring. We were not worried about tomorrow – about work and church and goals and preschool and writing. We were present together. Our conversations together rarely turned to life at home. We simply existed together in this new rhythm, soaking it in and dreaming of what this part of our shared life could look like in years to come. As Dave so aptly put it recently, we saw this trip not as a break from our life, but as an integral part of our life – one of many restorative rhythms that help us become the kind of people we want to become.
Now we are back home. How do I carry some of these things-I-don’t-miss into the ordinary time of our life rhythm? I have a few ideas.
First, I want to live more life out front, to eliminate at least our share of the walls between us and our neighbors. At our house, that means a couple of things: parking on the street instead of in the driveway to reveal our faux-front-porch in front of the garage, and finishing up dinner early enough to spend before-bed time outside in the evenings on our “chit chat chairs,” as Everett calls them.
I also want to put away my phone more. For now, I will check Facebook once a day, and on my computer, not my phone, so it’s not so natural to just scroll, scroll, scroll. I will not open my email before I get out of bed in the morning.
Thinking about how to carry over the simplicity of camping-life is a little bit harder for me. I like to plan ahead, and our lives right now are very full. But, perhaps, I can create spaces with a little bit more elbow room. Everett started preschool this week, and so I suddenly have a few hours twice a week with much more flexibility. I have a whole lot to work on, particularly with this book project, but I also want to feel the freedom and spaciousness of these hours. I want to slow down enough to enjoy them. I want to think of these hours with a philosophy of abundance, not scarcity. There is a lot to accomplish, but there is also a lot to be present to that I’ve been ignoring.
What do you notice about your rhythm of life in this season? What can you do to respond to the things you notice, to take a small step in a different direction?