This weekend I went camping with my family. We usually do a car camping kind of thing (drive up in the car, pitch the tent, open up the bundle of wood we bought at the camp store, go a few steps to a pump for water, fire up the camp stove to make mac ‘n cheese, sit and sip cocktails in the nice firelight)…fun! Not this weekend. This weekend we had to hike half a mile – in the rain and mud with all our stuff – to stay in a cabin with no running water, an outhouse halfway up the hill, collecting and processing our own wood…a different kind of fun, to be sure, but easy it is not.
It’s amazing what we take for granted. I’m not saying our problems are not important and that we should all shut-up and stop complaining, but it is very interesting to compare the trials of having to wait in line for self-checkout with having to hike .25 miles to the spring every time you need water. It kind of helps put things into perspective.
This is something my husband and I have done on several occasions on our own, and we’ve taken our son a few times as a carry-in-a-pack age baby, but this is the first time he’s come as a real kid. We were interested to see how the unplugged experience would resonate with our digital native boy. There were some negotiations regarding the bringing of his laptop (I won with the logic that he’d have to carry it himself), but ultimately, we were all device free. During the day, we did “chores,” hiked around, looked for crayfish, ran screaming through the woods (one of us); at night, we read books, told jokes, played UNO, checkers and Yahtzee at night. It was exhausting, but delightful.
The book Joey and I are reading together is Farmer Boy, the second in the Little House series. It is an historical fictional account of a nine-year old boy who lives on a farm in upstate NY in the 1860s – the story focuses on all the chores (morning and night), work on the farm (animals and plants), daily routines of bathing, cooking and going to school (when he doesn’t have farm work to do, of course). Joey and I are both exhausted by the end of every chapter! It has led to a new appreciation on his end for zippers, Gore-Tex, toilets and the refrigerator. He even has changed his morning refrain to “I can’t wait to go to school today!”
These reminders – both in theory and practice – have served to reframe some of my thoughts on my own daily routine (laundry, dishes, dinner…) and as a result, I have found peace in the daily minutiae. A shout-out to the men and women of the past, who worked so hard to feed, clothe and care for their families – all their hard work, struggles and lack of “downtime” have made it possible for me to look at their daily chores as recreational activity, for me to read to my son at night, and then blog about it.
– Libby Bingham