But now, I Feel Different

I’m relaxing in front of my Big Red propane campfire, steaming cup of Mt. Whitney French roast organic coffee at my side, Winnie the Pooh slippers warming my normally never-cold feet on this gorgeous last full day of my October Solo Camping Adventure. The sun is drying the ocean dew that dampens the fading prayer flags and glistens the thorny berry vines surrounding Site 64; Monet has been fed, walked and is taking her morning nap, snoring, I believe. 

Yesterday, my favorite campsite became available, so I moved here and I’m so glad I did; it’s the best spot in the entire campground as it has depth, a variety of trees and bushes surrounding me, creating a sense of privacy and wonder. 

I know it may sound selfish, and maybe even a bit ungrateful to those of you with busy careers and children, but I never want to leave here. I’ve been camping for 21 days, yet I’m already feeling sad at the thought that today is my last full day. I don’t want to move from this great site, yet I want to visit my favorite places in the area—Monet’s running beach, my writing cliff, restaurants in town, the wineries. I don’t know what it is about this trip or this phase of my life, but I crave quietude and time to reflect. Getting in the van, driving, is an invasion, an interruption of reading, writing and art time. I don’t know, but it feels like I’m on the cusp of figuring something out, something deep and important, and then I pull away, distract myself with scenery, with conversation or some other kind of horsing-around activity. 

Keeping busy. Keeping active. Keep moving has been my life’s theme. 

But now, I feel different. 

I was talking to my lifelong buddy, Julie, yesterday. We were sitting on her deck, under a beautiful gazebo, relaxing on her new patio furniture, feeling grateful for our more than 50-year friendship. Just hanging out. Two girls with their chilled margaritas enjoying time together, catching up, sharing secrets, laughing about our intriguing, new reality as official Senior Citizens; aches and a few pains and an honesty about life’s unpredictability, things we wish we’d known then, and this truly blessed, unconditional love we have for each another. 

Julie has always been sensible and wise, grounded in God’s abiding love. Me, I was the excitable, flighty one with a heart that’s more stupid than smart. I always looked up to Julie, still do. Her life has turned out just the way she wanted it to. Not a lot of people can say that. Hanging out with Julie, even if it’s just for a couple of hours every couple of months, makes me feel like all is well in the world: my forever-and-a-day buddy. A person I can always be myself with. She knows all of my flaws. And still loves me. And vice versa, except in my eyes she has no flaws. She’s perfect. My perfect friend. 

Time passes. But our friendship is still giggly and girlish. We’re the same people we’ve always been, only with a lot more Girl Scout badges on our sashes.  

Girl Scouts is how we got to know each other. We lived in different blocks of Paulina Avenue, went to the same school, Beryl Heights Elementary. I don’t know about Julie, but Girl Scouts was a way for me to learn about how to survive in the wilderness, go camping, learn to tie knots, and that kind of thing. Unfortunately, our experience was nothing of the sort. Yes, we got our working-class parents to buy those aluminum, highly burnable, mess kits, we worked on the Girl Scout manual trying to earn badges, but Troop 91 was lame. We camped in our Troop leader’s tiny living room a couple of blocks away from Paulina. I think Julie and I mutually understood, without sharing our disappointment, that our Troop lacked leadership. Perhaps the experience planted the seeds of our future involvement in Student Council and various high school clubs. For me, Girl Scouts  was so unfulfilling, but it whet my appetite about Nature and camping, which I wasn’t able to pursue until my junior year of college when I ended up getting married on a Big Sur camping trip.

I feel a eureka moment coming on … 

Perhaps, she says in her Freudian, rub the goatee—unfortunately—voice, this phase of your life is about dipping your toes into the icy, but tolerable creek you have yet to fully submerge yourself into?   

Drench yourself, my dear, sit in the caldron as long as you need to, until you get (even more) wrinkly. Then, you can say, you’re done. 

Jolting up on the fainting couch, she (me) responds: That is why I love soaking in a bathtub with candles and bubbles and spa music and a glass of wine and flowers and plants on the window sill! Saturation. Stillness. To know, what I know. To be best friends for a half a century. To realize what I need to realize so I can wrap myself in a warm Turkish towel and feel connected to the trees and the birds and the stars and all of the doors and windows that have ever been opened or shut to me until I can land and be wherever I need to be for as long as destiny permits. 

At long last, the pieces of the puzzle are slowly coming together. 

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