All the sudden my world lay through a small opening. Not of a usual shape one, or content, but rather of a thin material outlined by a zipper. The last three mornings I woke up under layers of blankets slightly damp from the cold nights and entered my new surroundings through this opening. Ah the feeling of camp, its fresh air, its peculiar smells, and the accompanying comforts and discomforts. Every year my big family (my church) spends four days on the shores of Rollings Lake near Colfax. After seven years, (six for me), its campsites, outlying hills, and curves in the road have become quite familiar to us. That small dusty campground has become somewhat of another home where I absolutely love retreating once a year. I greeted Friday morning with excitement. 6 a.m. hasn’t felt that good in many months. Walking through the woods in the morning I couldn’t delight enough in the beauty of the sun rays making their way through the tall trunks of the pine trees. Even the cold and the two layers of sweaters did not bother me. I loved every part of the day. With the sound of voices around the campfire dying out as I walked to my tent, I remised on the day with a smile.
There was yet another kind of opening through which I was forced to see the world the last few days. It wasn’t colorful or pleasant, but it accompanied most of my camping experience. It was none other but pain. It started subtly. Light aches in my ankle on Friday. Sensing it might get worse I headed to the kitchen for some ice. Driving to Starbucks early Saturday morning I felt sharper pain in my ankle with each time I pressed the clutch. After a few more volleyball games I realized I couldn’t push through the pain anymore. I found more ice. By the afternoon my knee gave in as well and I could no longer step on my left foot freely. I retreated to one of the campsites’s tables and then to a comfier chair where I could prop my ankle up. Sitting in the shade I observed the numerous activities going on around me. I thought about all the previous times how I never had time to just sit and read. The hours I often wished I would spend reading were as if handed to me and I was grateful. The desire to be part of some action going on around me was quickly stilled. It was different and uncomfortable, but deep inside I agreed with the pain.
I was even more excited the next morning when I stepped firmly on my feet after a quick stretch in the tent. Another joyful walk through the woods in the morning followed. Happy, that was the state of my mind. I walked through the kitchen area slightly disarranged after the groups of people who spent the night sharing laughs around the tables. Everything inside me was looking forward to another great day at the camp. Yet my tranquil state of mind was shortly interrupted. Walking up to the wooden table overlooking a field where I read the day before, I felt a sharp pain spasm through my neck like the cracking of an ice cube placed in a hot beverage. After falsely calming myself that it will go away, I felt my neck harden and become almost immovable. By the time I finished breakfast I was ready to collapse. I made it this far into the camp, but instead of experience it to the fullest all I could think of was something to lay under my head.
After a few hours my wish was granted. I lay on a bench with soft blanket under my head looking up at the tall trunks of the pines sticking into the sky like sharp pencils. Can I really be in pain again? I thought about the same day of the previous years of the camp. Rush packing, running around, collecting my items all around the campsite, picking up trash around the camp area . . . none of those were present this afternoon. I was forced to look upward. And while I wished to trade my pain for a twisted ankle, the peace that reigned in the sky above me filled my mind. The sun rays dancing in the branches above and the breeze striking my hair made me forget about the pain for sometime. I was forced to see the world around me slightly differently again, through one of the kind openings I didn’t want. How different the whole camp felt. How appreciative of the small things I suddenly became. How grateful to just be there, for having made it so far. How precious the fleeting moments of the camp suddently felt. I thought about the tasks awaiting me the next day at home. I couldn’t dive into them any longer. I was forced to a stop. Forced to reflect on the happy moments in the camp. Forced to treasure the short conversations with my friends, the giggling of my little nephew, and the moments spent watching the dancing flames of the campfire surrounded by the people who mean the world to me. And even now I am forced to relive the camp once again through writing. And for all of that . . . I am thankful.