If you’ve been following my blog for long, then you probably remember we camp every summer with a large group of friends who have become family. The actuality of this group of friends is that the faces in the picture change depending on who is available during the five days we camp (with the exception of about four families who have made every trip). This reality is unimportant because on this camping trip we operate as one big community regardless. We cook dinner together. We powwow about adolescent behavior and how or how not we will intervene. We contribute in unique ways whether it be bringing the raft, the popular game of the trip, researching the nearby hiking trails, organizing the camp fire activities, bringing the fishing gear, taking the kids fishing, and so forth — we all look for ways to contribute to one another, children included.
This year we had 37 people and 2 dogs. We camped at Rancheria Campground on Huntington Lake in the central Sierra Nevadas. It’s definitely a place to return. First of all, the group site had electricity so we could all plug in our phones and electronic devices as well as blow up the air mattresses. (I’m not quite so advanced yet, but rather inspire to someday invest in a mattress greater than 1 inch thick that actually blows up.)
It also had a good pizza place and ice cream establishment for all those who wanted to get away from it all — all the downsides of camping, that is. Luckily, we have another nature lover among us so we also found the God-made hot spots — waterfalls and swimming pools!
This is a group of people who are intentional about living well. What this looks like camping is that we make choices when our kids can roam free and with what parameters. We choose when they can ditch the adults and when they need to play our made-up campfire games and sing songs they may or may not want to sing. Together, we communicate to our children — sometimes you have to do things you’d rather not do, but in the end, you may be surprised at how much you enjoyed it (or not — but it’s at least a memory of getting through something that seemed horrible at the time).
I think one of the highlights for me on this trip was seeing my son, who can tend to be different than his peer group, win the heart of another parent, who promised to build him a bedroom in his house when he reaches 13. My son can be complicated. He wants to be a vegetarian because he doesn’t want to harm animals, making it difficult to eat on a camping trip. (I assured him he could make this choice as soon as he learned to cook). He will bend the rules however he can in order to believe he is both following the rules and getting his way. He’s a fashion trend setter in his own mind – winter beanie even if it’s 80 degrees. (See below wearing said hat and feeling sad about a fisherman catching and keeping a fish).
What I love about this group of friends, which also includes all who have come on our previous camping trips, is that they are both for me and my family. Loneliness seems almost an impossible phenomenon because these are people who have walked with me, and I them — for some, decades. I feel like one of the the benefits of mid-age, which I’m enjoying, is being able to lean into the foundation you’ve built in the 20s and 30s, knowing it’s grounded and secure.
There are some that are missing in this picture, that should’ve been there in a perfect world — spouses who have died, who have chosen other partners, or who haven’t yet been found and children that didn’t live to breathe a breath on this earth. Yet, those who live without this perfection are doing more than surviving; they (we) are finding ways to thrive. With each other. In community.