I went on a camping trip recently up in the San Gabriels. It’s a hot, dry, desert foothill area (especially now during this drought), but the campground is located by a brook and has lots of shade, so it’s a little oasis from the heat. I got to the grounds early so I had my pick of sites, and grabbed one right next to the water.
I set up my hammock between two trees at the edge of the little stream. I’ve got the hammock situation figured out! I put my inflatable sleeping pad inside to give myself added support, grab a pillow, a water bottle, a snack, a book, and my phone (only to take notes of my brilliant flashes of insight!). When I get myself comfortably ensconced, I’ve got Abby in my lap and everything I could possibly need to enjoy hours lounging in the shade, enjoying the peaceful babble of the brook.
That really is one of my favorite experiences in the world. Relaxing in the shade, with sun filtering through the leafy canopy, the contrast of green leaves against brilliant blue sky, swaying gently as the breeze kisses my skin, the water singing as it splashes around the rocks on its way to unknown adventures. My little refuge was graced with a colorful display of butterflies, humming birds, goldfinch, woodpeckers, robins, and stellar’s jay. I saw my first Western Tanager, a gorgeous yellow and black bird with a red head. There were tree squirrels and ground squirrels, and I even briefly caught a glimpse of a bobcat! I didn’t want to close my eyes and miss something, but there is simply no healing melody like moving water, and I needed to let it sink deep into my being.
Except that I kept thinking of ways the experience could be improved. For example, if there were no flies bombarding me like annoying little buzzing battleships caught in endless brownian motion. That road could be a lot further away so I didn’t have to listen to the motorcyclists overindulging their crotch-rockets. Of course the campers who set up right next to me have noisy little children.
When I realized what I was thinking, I was blown away by the magnitude of my foolishness. Here I am enjoying one of the most blissful experiences available to humankind … and I’m focusing on the few things that aren’t perfect! How totally, completely ingrateful!
With that perspective, I actively turned around my complaints. Fortunately, Abby was vigilantly providing bug repellent services by snapping flies out of the air midflight — and they were flies, not mosquitos! The road provided me the convenience of being able to access this campsite since I don’t have a four-wheel drive vehicle. At least the children weren’t just screaming continuously like tortured banshees warning of impending calamity (as do the neighborhood children). What great parents for exposing them to glorious nature at so young an age.
You know, I noticed that when I was focused on the children, I didn’t even hear the brook. The opposite was true as well. When focused on the movement of the water, I didn’t even notice the occasional passing traffic. And I was a lot happier.
I realized just how perfect things can be, even in their imperfection.