Boot Camp for the Soul

The news in brief: Southern Ontario is beautiful. It’s full of farms and parks and history and art, and I’d like to go back. You can get the full photostory if you’re my friend on facebook; I winnowed down the pics as much as I could stand, but I couldn’t pick just one windmill picture. I have lots to tell about Toronto and Ontarian sheep farms, but for tonight, it’s late, so I’ll just share the existential conclusions I’ve come to about camping.

We stayed at Inverhuron Provincial Park, where our tent was one of only a few in a sea of RV’s. We were right in the center of a nose-shaped peninsula (more of a protuberance, really) that jutted into Lake Huron. It was between the high 60’s and high 70’s the whole time, and only rained hard once.

Pizza on the stove: "baking" is achieved by building extra fires on top of what's cooking. Trying to keep two tinder fires going at the same time is a bit of a pain, but I had help.

Camping, at least tent camping, is like fasting in every way except for eating. You give up most of your temperature control, your comfort, your privacy, your familiar surroundings, your shelter. You give up at least some of your sleep, your hygiene, your expectations, and your security. We entirely lost our surgical connection to the internet. Most of your time is spent seeing to the basic necessities: eating, staying warm, and keeping clean; any leftover time is spent exploring. An obsession with time management is of limited use – patience is thrust upon you, like the stickerbush held back for you by the friend in front of you on the trail, always let go a moment too soon.

Camping also thrusts you into nature, like so many pudgy matzoh balls into a soup. The glorious “outdoors,” to which I have become such a stranger in my later youth, forces you into an encounter. Not everyone thinks this encounter is with the God of the Bible, but I do. I think this unavoidably, like I think the sun is hot, and like the sun, being so baldly in God’s presence is not always comfortable. One hears so many stories of folks of all stripes encountering the divine, overcome by the ineffable on a moonlit beach. But an encounter with God also has a way of stripping you of all the barriers you’ve been putting up between yourself and God, even if you didn’t know they existed.

I keep saying “you.” Of course, I mean “me.”

I am going on faith that this is a good thing.

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