I feel like I’m on a ship listing permanently to one side. Waking up this morning in darkness with the Orion constellation bright in the sky, I realize I’d managed to sleep without sliding all the way down to the other end of the mattress. The camper is tilted—severely. Staggering along my “galley,” I grip the edge of the counter and fill the coffee pot. Wow. This camper is a ship. Everything works on an angle—the propane for hot water and for heat, the water, the fridge, and the lights.
Pouring boiling water through the coffee and filter on my favorite ceramic blue mug (with the engraved cattails, snow-capped mountains, sun, and birds) that I’ve placed in the sink so it won’t slide, I’m singing:
The joys of camping alone are several. No one makes you figure out a way to level the camper late at night when you’re just too tired and it was super hard and rough to find this spot.
No one laughs at how crazy it is to camp on this kind of tilt. No one listens to you singing off key at 5:30 a.m.
The flip side is that no one helps me figure out a way to level the camper when I’m tired and have driven long and twisting and supremely beautiful roads all day long from Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, north to Delores, Colorado, and following the Delores River up into the San Juan Mountains where aspen are turning, and then on to the red rock canyons as the Delores winds toward Grand Junction.
No one laughs with me at this crazy camp that I found on a rutted side road of red sands off a national forest road high on a plateau. That said, a canyon wren sweetly sang in the early light, its descending notes a revery and gift of an off kilter camp. (I climbed up the rocks and took a photo of the canyon wren too).
Then, there’s the other reason I ended up in an uneven campsite. I am alone. My camper set up is the ideal place for a woman on the road, yet even so I am careful where I pop up for the night. I’d contemplated a spot off the Delores River on the magnificently Scenic Byway 141, but that was exactly the problem. I was right off the highway. It felt sketchy to be visible on a Saturday night.
I’d thought perhaps an actual campground might magically appear sometime after 6 pm when my energy started to flag. No such luck, unless I’d pick an RV Park in the town of Gateway—just not me. So I turned to the map and found the Uncompahgre National Forest access. Even after zigzagging up a steep, gravel road high above the river, I didn’t like that main access either for camping.
No, the joy of this Toyota Tacoma 4WD truck is that I can head up a gnarly side road with deep ruts, put it into low gear, and leave the riffraff behind. And I did, although even at my campfire last night, a truck in the dark passed by at crawling speed and I found myself having one of those moments caught between trust in people and fear. The truck kept going.
Perhaps typing on a keyboard that wants to slide off my little table in the early morning darkness has me a bit off kilter too. Last night, I felt centered as I fed dry pinyon and juniper wood onto the flames. I sipped wine and ate crackers and cheese and read my favorite poet out loud, repeating old favorite lines and finding new ones that struck a chord.
Hafiz is my muse —funny, wise, spiritual, romantic and with a profound theme. Life is love. Love is life. Love is infinite and forever. And this constant subtheme—don’t take it all so seriously either! Laugh. Sing. Take in the wonder.
He wrote often of the “Beloved” that is God, and his is a God that resonates today across the long centuries since the well-loved poet of Persia first penned his poems in the 1300s. In my translated version, “A Year With Hafiz, Daily Contemplations,” the author Daniel Ladinsky liberally modernizes Hafiz in ways that the droll poet would find both appropriate and humorous.
Perhaps it was the sight of my first golden aspen leaves of the fall yesterday, picking up a leaf off the ground and spinning it by the stem between thumb and forefinger that directs me to choose this of so many Hafiz poems to share:
A SADDLE ON EVERY PARTICLE OF SPACE
Most are still a leaf spinning between heaven and hearth.
What can one see of their surroundings in a state
of fragile or chaotic motion?
Either settle on the ground and come to know
its astounding wonder and sing to us from there,
or maybe sharpen up your meditations and get lifted
higher and reside in the radiant stratosphere
until you turn into such a fine holy ash you integrate with all.
Put a saddle on every particle of space and ride
like a wild cowboy, and just keep going. Having fun everywhere.
while you sink your spurs deeper into all Being—
and into what can be called God…Who then just
Always I seem to find one stanza that I have to read three times. This is it:
“Put a saddle on every particle of space and ride
like a wild cowboy, and just keep going. Having fun everywhere.”
So here I am on the Halcyon journey riding like a cowboy on a bronco hanging onto the saddle of my leaning camper —and now I’m chuckling and ready to share a laugh with my boyfriend Steve who’s waiting for me in Missoula with his arms open. I’m ready to step into them after this latest six week adventure.