Sleepy trees

Posted by Ken Campbell August 9, 2008 0 Comment 573 views

I wonder what he thinks sometimes, this boy of mine. I wonder what he thinks of this life.

He’s 18 months old, and headed on a canoe trip, to spend his first night in a tent. He’s actually been camping quite a bit, especially considering his tender years, but he’s always slept in the van, on a bed. This will be his first time sleeping on the ground in the outdoors, with only nylon walls for shelter.

We’ve come to Lake Ozette for this episode of the Campbell Family Camping Show. From the put-in near the ranger station to Ericson’s Bay is about four miles each way, and we push off shortly after lunch, in the middle of his nap time. Actually, it would be nap time if we were at home… out here all clocks run on vacation time. All the same, he’s handling the utter lack of routine quite well, but he’s a good kid. Strong and happy, good-looking and friendly. Just like his mother.

As we glide along the shoreline, he is completely immersed in the scenery that passes by. Each rock that protrudes from the water along the banks is noted with a grunt and a pointed finger. Every duck, gull and eagle is an object of great interest. He’s like that, intrigued by just about everything, from mountain peaks to pebbles along the road. There are some scattered trees along the shore that have fallen down, casualties of the wind storms that are common around here in winter. They lie half in the water, dead and slowly breaking down in the elements. Micah points to each of these as they come into view, and I tell them that these are sleepy trees, that they had to get out of the way so that other trees could grow in their places. I know that there is more to it than that, but he seems satisfied with my explanation and so am I.

The water in Ericson’s Bay is quieter than out on the main lake, and before long our hull scrapes the gravel beach at the campground. There are other camps set up in the woods and it takes us a few minutes to find our spot for the night. Mary and I have both been here before, although it has been many years, and we are surprised to find how few amenities the camp has to offer. I seem to remember picnic tables, anyway, and fire rings with metal grates. It’s a more primitive site now, with none of these things. It’s ok, we like it like that.

We set up camp and have dinner, walk on the beach and throw sticks and stones into the water. The bugs are everywhere. There are flies and tiny moths that seem to vibrate as they fly, and there are mosquitoes that are always hungry. The mosquitoes dine heavily on Mary and Micah, leaving little red welts behind them, but they mostly stay away from me. It’s not that they never bite me; they nibble now and again, but it’s obvious that, as far as the vampire-bugs are concerned, the taste of my blood doesn’t measure up to the high standards set by my family.

Micah falls asleep in my arms as we watch the fire. At first, he is excited about the flames that claw higher with each fresh stick placed in the circle, but after a while, he just stares into the hypnotic flickering, same as the rest of us, until his eyes close for the night. Mary lays him on his sleeping bag in the tent and he immediately curls up and begins snoring contentedly.

It is overcast again in the morning. We are planning to meet our friend John near Forks this evening – he and I will spend the next few days kayaking along the coast between La Push and Ruby Beach – so we have breakfast and break camp without much delay. As I pack the bags into the belly of the canoe, Micah goes back to throwing rocks in the water, an activity that never gets tiresome and makes him very happy.

We pass the same features along the shore that he saw the day before, but you wouldn’t know it from his reactions. He’s still tuned in and mesmerized by what he’s seeing and the sleepy trees still elicit comments and gasps. I watch him as he watches his world, and I think about what I told him the day before.

It’s the same way for people. Like the fallen trees make way for the ones that come behind them, so too will I fall someday. Micah will inherit the world that was once mine, he’ll grow in the places that will clear up when I am gone. It is all part and parcel of the cycle of life and sleepy trees are just a reminder to me that I need to make this time count, because it will not last.

Micah, free from such philosophical noodling, falls asleep on Mary’s lap with a couple of miles left to go. He’s comfortable and happy, with his whole life ahead of him. Better get some rest.

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