We're back from a weekend of tent camping with friends. Friday afternoon found us driving toward The Crags, an area on the backside of Pikes Peak that is one of the most popular hikes in CO. There's a fairly primitive campground surrounding the trailhead and we secured two fairly primitive campsites there. Our friends have four girls, we've got two girls and a boy-morphing-quickly-into-something-larger, so that makes four adults and seven kids. The oldest was me (40) and the youngest was our friends' little one (3).
I've read these spiritual gurus who say that the best way to really get to know someone (build community) is to go camping with them for the weekend. Here are a couple of things our friends learned about me and my family.
When it comes to building a fire, I ain't no purist. Now if the sun is shining and blue birds are whistling dixie on the branches, then yep, I'll gather little twigs and dried grasses and squat down and basically give mouth to mouth to those first few embers, coaxing them into a roaring dance of heat. But, if it's been raining all afternoon and all I had for lunch was a couple of packs of those round peanut butter-n-cracker combos and it's way after 5pm (eating time) and I'm needing to start a fire? Well, if your grandma's favorite apron has one of those flammable tags on it, I'll fight her for it. I'll use whatever is available to get the fire going. There are times when doing it right gives way to getting it done; not always, but sometimes. Our friends now know this about me. And they seemed to be o.k. with it.
The other thing they learned about us is our taste in fine lit-tra-ture. They discovered this after dinner the first night, when my youngest daughter said, "Daddy, let's read the Stephen King book." I've been reading King's memoir on the craft of writing, On Writing, and I took a few after-dinner-moments last week to share several edited excerpts with the kids. I thought they were utterly hilarious and my kids (and girlfriend) agreed. Stuff about babysitters and farting and eating way too many eggs and yarking all over the floor; you know, highbrow reading like that. Later that evening, the other dad and I were walking down the hill to track a moose or check our email or something, and he said, "John, I don't know that I've ever heard a kid ask to have Stephen King read to them after dinner." "Well man, that's us."
We really had a great time and when we got ready to leave, the consensus was, "Let's do this again soon." So I guess we passed the community-building test. I do wonder, though, if in the stillness of their tent Saturday night, an exchange like this didn't take place between our friends: "You know, I bet Stephen King would use anything, ANYTHING, to get a fire started. Doesn't that make you a little nervous?" "Yeah. Let's be real nice to John. I'll be glad to get home."