We were set. Ready to ramble around Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. But then something happened at home and we had to turn around. We drove nine hours, most of it in a driving rain, to get back to where we needed to be.
But we had that one night in our new tent. It was hot and very humid. Before we got into the tent, mosquitoes and gnats gathered on our arms and legs. It was a relief to be inside but only for a short minute. Then the heat of it all made being in the tent like wearing a wet wool sweater in the sun.
A problem easily solved. We decided to put up the tent flaps so whatever breeze there was would cool us. We tied all of the flaps back so when we laid down on our sticky sleeping bags, we could see the trees and the stars. It seemed daring and free like we’d decided to sleep unprotected in a field, nothing between us and coyotes or the deer we’d seen earlier prowling the campsite next to ours. It felt as if that same deer could come and nuzzle my face and I would have to just accept that, become one of the creatures.
While my husband slept, I tossed. I tried to face the tent wall and forget that the tent flaps were open. I worried that someone would come upon us, peer into the tent and that if I opened my eyes, it would be to look into the eyes of a stranger. In my half-sleep, I started to see the face of Josef Stalin floating in the sky through the open tent flap. It sounds crazy saying that but that’s who I saw. I rubbed my face and then saw the moon which only minutes before, so I thought, hadn’t been there. It was bright like a streetlamp.
I covered myself with part of the sleeping bag. I didn’t want anyone peering into the tent to see my bare legs. The hot nylon of the sleeping bag stuck to my legs until I decided, so very late at night, that it didn’t matter if a peering person saw my legs, it wouldn’t change whatever would happen next. I might as well be free. So I shook off the sleeping bag and let my legs feel the cool that the longer night offered.
In the morning we made coffee on our Coleman stove and it struck me that the whole point of camping was to smell the coffee perking in the morning. So we smelled the coffee and then we drank it, boiling hot, in red plastic coffee cups. And then we went home.