Updated: Sep 25, 2019
For this weekend's adventure, I agreed to go camping at Mount Blue State Park. Though I'd left behind more than three hundred pages of reading assignments, I packed my backpack with bananas, a packet of maple almond butter, a stick of deodorant, and my pillow, sans its brand new, white cotton pillow case, and we piled five of us into Daniel's jeep and headed toward the mountain. It rained. A lot. When we woke this morning, it was pelting the tents with such force that my pack got wet from inside, the moisture from the water dripping down the warm plastic made it soppy come sun-up. We'd taken a drive to the general store in town, a few miles from camp, for more rations. We were looking for a deck of playing cards because none of us had come prepared for rain or service-less cell phones, but we bought some chips, ginger ale, and candy bars. Camp was foggy and damp when we got back, and to our surprise, a stray dog was perched on our picnic table, having frozen in place as we pulled up, his belly full of a package of raw hot dogs and a bag of buns. We thought we heard him rustling around the fire pit in the night, looking for scraps of graham cracker or charred pork ends. I mean, we played cards on the top of the mountain, crammed together at a wet picnic table, watching the sun go down and the rain clouds move in over the steamy ranges on the horizon. We found a baby field mouse, not days old, and left him a handful of oats and a bed of soft leaves. Back at camp, the boys kindled the fire all evening, throwing cardboard strips and food wrappers into the flames to keep it growing. After the flames burned down to quiet embers, we crawled into one tent with blankets and played cards, shoved marshmallows into our mouths to see who could fit in more without spitting them out; listened for footsteps outside in the brush while telling ghost stories, and talked about life. And I came to know four people more in one dirty, chilly weekend than I've known anyone during four years in college. Maybe we didn't drive home knowing everything there is to know about one another, but we sure learned a lot about ourselves. I think that's what good times with good people does to you. You start to trust that your secrets stay secret, that what you say doesn't leave the premises, that the kinds of things you think about the world are so small-minded until someone sitting across from you spins it in another direction, and soon, its a campfire conversation, really. And you trust all of that, believing so strangely but fully that, maybe people aren't so bad, so long as you find the right ones. During college, I haven't made too many friends but connections. People I live with but don't know have become essential neighbors, so vital to my mornings that I often listen for the swing of a bathroom door, or the cough of a just-woke resident stumbling to class. These are welcome sounds, pieces of the day's work that fall into place, without me having to say much. By default, I watch for people that look like the right people, and I think we're drawn to each other in that way. We know that when a person just seems to fit us even when we're so comfortable being in our own world, sometimes it's meant to be that you click. And it clicks four, ten, twelve times over for me. Time after time, some door opens up for me here, and I find someone on the other side who just gets what I'm about, who respects my decisions and lets me in for a taste of their day. It's awesome, I'm sure, once you figure out how to do all that. I still think I don't know what the hell I'm doing. I feel like I'm rounding out college on shaky legs, on flat feet, with no direction in a big, big world. I'm scared of spiders and mushrooms in tomato sauce and of being alone when I'm old; I'm scared of finding something I don't want to see one morning, and I'm scared of losing important people, who are no less important in the world than they are to my small life. So often we don't examine the human condition, don't try to make things work, we don't analyze what makes us all the same and come to conclusions that are inclusive, not judgmental. I'm still trying to figure out how to do that. But maybe I had a running start when I laughed out loud in a tent with marshmallows in my mouth, surrounded by friends.