caring camper confessions (#21)

Sitting by my own fire this morning, fueled by wood left behind by weekend campers, i feel both grateful and a sense of a loss.

Our gift of squash roasts over coals. The coals are mostly half burnt scavenged logs. Still, they burn.The squash roasts. 

Friends gave us what they grew, shared with us the fullness of their harvest, and yet i feel a want of something. 

I’m nagged by a sense of lack. It persists, this niggling feeling. 

Do i have enough wood? Is the fire hot enough? Did i do right? If i failed, we won’t eat. If i failed, all of the effort and this gift of squash is a waste and for nothing. 

It troubled me.

So I prayed this morning for peace.

Prayer does not come easily to me. I’ve felt too far from grace and too full of my own self to practice it. I confess that I lacked the humility that true prayers require. 

But i have witnessed others praying earnestly and they do it well.

At Pow Wow this weekend, i was invited to pray at the Sacred Fire.

My guide was a young man no older than my son, who instructed me on how to approach the fire, how to pray there.

He asked me, “what do you know of sacred fires?” Instead of telling him what i knew, giving him the credit of my doctorate, the story of decades of staring into the eye of Ahuramazda, instead of seeking safety from my fear of approaching his faith, instead of armouring myself with credentials, i said no. I know nothing.

Prayer, as i understand it, rises from an insufficiency in myself.

I watched the boy approach the fire from the south of it, take the handfull of tobacco and cedar, place it on his heart and truthfully offer a prayer in the fire in a language i do not understand.

I followed him, mimicking as a child would, fumbling for the right step, the proper gesture, the words.

I did not offer the prayer for peace. Peace has been the prayer i wanted to offer. In the moment of truth, i didn’t know what to ask. I couldn’t remember the prayer. 

My tobacco fell off from the fire. My cedar sat defiantly across the top of a log, refusing to burn.

I sat next to my guide on the bench, waiting to ask “did i do it right? was that okay? am i waiting for an answer here?”

The fire was hot. It had burned hot for two days. The boy explained that if the fire were to go out, the ceremony of the Pow Wow had to end. The heat of the fire was its heart. Putting your hand on your heart and then into the heat is a testament to your faith. 

The smoke burned my eyes, they ran with tears.

Today at my fire i confess a lack of faith. I confess that i have too often thought myself clever, enough to trick the universe. I thought of myself as knowing, but i know nothing. 

I cannot know what purpose there is in this work, i can only do it. I cannot read answers in this fire, i can only look into it.To put my hand into the fire of this work is a sacred commitment, and to do it right is to do it truthfully. 

The rain comes, the fire dies. The squash are roasted long since. Time for soup. 

I have tea, and honey and a sufficiency of everything.

imagine something better…

Imagine you arrived in nature. At a campsite in a Provincial Park. 

Imagine that all around you was only what grows here. Only what was here before you or anyone else had ever been there.

That is nature, beyond what mankind has touched. That is the ecological integrity that our Parks were meant to preserve.

Sadly, it’s a dream. Sadly we have dropped the debris of our urban selves on the ground and in the woods and in the water in our Parks.

Every small deliberate action has a direct effect on the quality of life for all. 

Every bread tag left behind, every water bottle cap dropped on the ground impacts the ecological integrity of Ontario’s Provincial Parks. 

As Caring Campers we cannot allow this to continue. 

So we pick up the debris, we sort out the trash, we remove the impact and footprint of others because we care.

We care because your mess is mine, and unless any of us act to make a difference we all fail.

caring camper confession (#22)

I grew up in an age before ecology, an age where everyone consumed and dumped without thinking of tomorrow.

We were encouraged to do so. Scarcity was the devil that our great economy had killed. The conservation habits of our grandparents were an embarrassment. 

I remember laughing when i heard the story about how my great-grandmother would save tea bags in her purse in a little piece of foil. 

It wasn’t that she couldn’t afford tea. She just couldn’t waste what she knew she could reuse.

Now we live in an age of coming scarcity. The excess of the past age haunts us, in islands of plastics and microbeads and cities teaming in garbage. We know that the time to live with less and reduce our footprint is upon us.

My wife and i went to the woods, to become the Caring Campers, to escape excess. We made the choice to live with less and to live deliberately, inspired by others who have taken a similar choice.

We made the choice to live by the principle that “your mess is mine,” and instead of being blind to the debris of the age of excess, to be conscious of it. And to choose to help others to be conscious of it too.

But i confess that I didn’t make this change without difficulty. I couldn’t have done it alone. And i confess that i’m still learning, still becoming conscious.

It took help and time for me to wake up to what i needed to do to change my consciousness, to change how i lived and find what to live for.

Before my wife, i wouldn’t separate my trash, i’d use single serving plastics and pass over litter without even seeing it.

It took someone else’s consciousness to open up my consciousness and I’m grateful for it.

As a student of history it is clear to me that the coming age of scarcity demands a change of consciousness. It demands the awareness of scarcity that my great-grandmother had. 

Growing up on a farm, she and her family had no idea if the next harvest would sustain them until the following year, or if the price of grain would fall, or any other of a countless number of calamities might occur to their ruin.

This is the heart of the problem of our coming age. We lack the experience of scarcity, we fly from it. But the consciousness of scarcity is what our coming times demand.

My work, our work, the work of any Caring Camper is to stay conscious. To be ready to see the needs of others, to pioneer a place and a way to live with less, to make a place free of the debris of excess that is choking our planet and burdening the coming generations with the filth of unconscious living.

This morning i’m enjoying my tea. Last night i threw out yesterday’s tea bag.

I won’t make that choice again.

Every small deliberate action has a direct effect on the quality of life for all. Even saving tea.