The boy and I'd planned to string ourselves up in fancy hammock tents, but insulation is always a concern when you're dangling above ground. He asked if maybe he could go sleep in Alex's tent instead? Yes, of course, buddy. If you can't find me in the morning, go check the bench by the showers in the bathroom, okay?
Later that night I got him down and eventually debated myself away from the fire and over to my tent. I had a bunch of blankets, a sub-freezing sleeping bag, a fire-engine-red union suit and a whole lot of worry. Then some random neuron fired and I recalled Josh's Nalgene.
He'd extolled its many features and benefits in the attached note. "Once I was camping in cold weather," he wrote. "Before bed, I boiled some water, poured it in my bottle, wrapped a shirt around it and stuffed it in the bottom of my sleeping bag."
Friends, I am here to spread the good news. My toes warmed instantly. I lay there, cozy as could be, and recited a very long gratitude list as I listened to the coyotes summon the moon.
I am grateful for my mummy bag.
I am grateful for my blankets.
I am grateful for my hat.
I am grateful for the lee side of the mountain.
I am grateful for the woman I watched playing with wolves yesterday.
I am grateful for the pot of veggie chili I had for supper.
I am grateful that I am packed into this nylon tube and suspended amid nature's annual death rattle, Dutch-ovening myself because of the chili, with no cell service.
I am grateful for a plastic bottle. A plastic bottle that has warmed me three times: Once when it was given, once when I recalled the gift and its attached advice, once with my toes nestled up against it.
I woke not long after dawn to a well-frosted tent. I made coffee. I dried and packed my gear. I came home. I kissed my wife and daughter and dog. I showered and shaved my head and eased myself back into civilization clothing and civilization eating and civilization life.
Checking out like this is a sheer luxury, I know that. But it helped. It helped with my fear and worry and frustration. But it wasn’t checking out that did it. It was yet again being dragged into the world of others.