Monthly Archives: October 2017

Packing it in

Well, I did go backpacking this weekend — only the second time in my life and perhaps the last.

A group of twelve — nine men and three women — hiked from the trailhead to the Cecil Cove campground, in the Buffalo River National River area, a couple of hours east of Fayetteville, Ark.  The scenery was, as usual in this area, gorgeous, and the hike was short, only 2.5 miles at most. But my new pack, which is supported by neither external nor internal frame, cut into the small of my back pretty hard and I was in pain.

Frost flower
Frost flower.

On the way out, the pack was lighter, for I’d drunk most of the water I lugged in and eaten most of the food. But first, we had to get there!

I knew only two or three of the twelve that comprised the group, and they were all decent sorts. A campfire was lighted Saturday night, which blazed high and kept us warm after we’d cooked our separate meals. But I felt anxious soon after the fire was lit, unable to enter into the conversation, or contribute. I found the topics trivial and tedious — maybe because I was fretting about “doing” something, or getting something done, being productive, or, in short, working — and soon enough lapsed into silence, then retired long before all the others, about 8:30 pm.

Camp fire
Sitting around the camp fire.

It was no easy task sleeping in my little pup tent. Though I had a pad and a sleeping bag, it was damned cold that night, getting down to 23 degrees, and the bag was not warm enough, the ground soft enough. I tossed and turned practically all the night, putting on an extra layer at one point but never able to find rest. I might have slept a couple of hours, earlier in the night.

Stone wall
Stone wall built by former inhabitants of the area, perhaps around the turn of the 20th century.

Though weary, like most of the others, who confessed they hadn’t slept well either, I was cheerful in the morning, getting my coffee and oatmeal going, chatting with everyone. We broke camp about 10 am and returned, most of us, the same way we’d come in, to the trailhead. (Another, longer and more scenic route was taken by the more energetic.)

I want to go back to Cecil Cove to hike the whole seven-mile loop, the short route in and the longer route back. But not backpack there, or anywhere, ever again, could be. I think I’ve packed backpacking in.

 

Camping or comfort?

So the horns of this particular dilemma on which I’m being tossed are these:

  1. Stay at home & experience all the bliss of home comforts, including our new memory-foam king bed.
  2. Go backpacking & camping with a troupe of pals, into the Buffalo River Valley, and experience the beauty of nature, the rugged exercise of the hike, and the sleeplessness of a night on the cold, hard ground.

Hmmmm, hmmmm, hmmm. A toss-up, you say?

I too am torn, hither and thither. Should I toss a coin? Should I sleep on it? (In my ultra-cushy memory-foam bed?) But, no, if I’m going, I have to pack my backpack, and it takes a good while to get stuff together, doesn’t it? It’s not like slamming a few odd bits in a bag and taking off.

Yes, home is comfy, and home is work too, useful if not always beautiful work. At home, but not in nature, I can read and write. I can garden and organize my garage. I can (at least try to) sew that laundry basket of old, torn, button-popped pants and shirts. (Please, dear wife, can you help me?)

Ozarks hike
Typical Ozarks hike on a chilly February day.

In the Buffalo River Valley, I can gape with wonder at the rocks, the hills, the rills, the streams. I can lug my 35 or 40 pound pack over slipper trails. I can exhaust myself for a good cause, which is to get out of town, get out of myself, out of the purview of earthly comforts to which we habituate ourselves.

Bourgeois comforts, boys and girls? Or the glories and hardships of nature? (Tune in for further developments.)

More wine

So this morning, over breakfast, Alexa, the Amazon Echo personal assistant, mentions the actress Gabrielle Union’s new book We’re Going to Need More Wine. I’ll drink to that! I respond, without realizing what the book is about.

(After all, my wife and I resort to wine almost every evening. It’s not analgesic so much as joy. A day without wine is, well, like a day without wine. Our coffee bar testifies to our morning and evening rituals, or addictions, of coffee and wine.)

coffee & wine
The coffee / wine bar at home.

Union’s title is perlocutionary, isn’t it? It’s clever. It gets our attention, keeps it, directs us to the book. We want to see what she has to say, read a bit, see if we don’t want to purchase it.

On Amazon, I see that the subtitle is Stories That Are Funny, Complicated, and True. So it is, and it’s not, all fun and games. It’s complicated, you see. It’s true. And the puff for the piece explains,

In this moving collection of thought provoking essays infused with her unique wisdom and deep humor [oh, puhlease!], Union uses … fearlessness to tell astonishingly personal and true stories about power, color, gender, feminism, and fame. Union tackles a range of experiences, including bullying, beauty standards, and competition between women in Hollywood, growing up in white California suburbia and then spending summers with her black relatives in Nebraska….

Without reading the book, I would guess that wine enters, whether too much wine or just enough to anesthetize, in the “funny” part of the subtitle. Sure, let’s eat, drink, and be merry — whatever dreary or depressing or difficult truths press in on us. “Deep humor,” yes, might be in the wings if we buy and read Ms. Union’s book. “Unique wisdom”? I seriously doubt it.