Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Other Side of Being Peaceful


Ya’ll know that one of my favorite things to do in the whole wide world is to sleep outside in a tent.  You can go ahead and call me crazy but I don’t care.  It’s just one of my things. Everybody has a thing, right?  I don’t make fun of your “thing” so don’t say anything about mine. 

I love being outside at night.  I love hearing the coyotes and feral dogs call in the dark.  I love hearing the frogs—we have about four different frog calls I’ve noticed, even though I don’t know the proper name for them.  I love a clear night when I can unzip the flaps and watch the moon outside one window and the stars out the other. There are no bugs inside my tent because everything is zipped with a fine mesh for windows.  In fact, I get more bugs flying around in our house at night from opening and shutting the doors then I get from the one act of zipping open the tent to walk inside. My temperature parameters are less than 75 degrees and more than 55. Somewhere in that 20 degree span I have as good an environment outside as I do inside the house. I’ve been disappointed lately because it seems like we went immediately from too hot to too cold.  I keep waiting for the nights to stabilize.

But I came close to meeting my match the other night.  If I live to post this blog you will know I’m OK. 

Saturday night at bedtime I gathered my flashlight and Nook and headed out to the tent. The weather was promising and I had a new book so life was looking good.  I unzipped the tent, zipped it back and threw the Nook down on the sleeping bag.  I turned on the lantern hanging from the ceiling and took off my shoes. That’s when I felt a lump under the tent floor.  This was strange because when I set the tent up for the summer I lay some hay underneath to make the floor soft and also to kind of level it out.  Sometimes the floor was a little clumpy from the hay but never this lumpy. I went to tap it down with my foot and when I did the lump moved. And I swear it made a little “slither” sound in the grass as it moved.

I love nature and all but this, I have to admit, scared me to death.  If I didn’t work with youth who read what I say and might be permanently corrupted by colorful language I could be more clear about how much this scared me.I didn’t actually scream as much as make a loud shudder. There aren’t enough letters in the alphabet to spell the sound I made.

“Get a grip on yourself,” I thought, “What happened to Jane of the Jungle?”  I tried logic: “ You know there is no way whatever this is can get inside the tent.” 

I gathered my composure after a bit and gave the floor a light little exploratory tap this time.  More slither movements. I analyzed the situation.  It was a lumpy lump before I heard the slithery sound.  It could only be a big rodent (extremely lumpy and with a long slithery tail) or a snake (a lot flatter than a mouse but lump-possible, especially if coiled up.) I scrolled through my memory to see if King Cobras live in Texas.  (They don't.)

At the end of this brief analysis I gave the floor another small tap.  Another slight slither responded.  It was starting to become a conversation of sorts.  I tapped, it slithered.

So I bailed. Franklin Roosevelt’s admonishment to not fear “fear itself” was not working for me.   I got back into my shoes, got the Nook and flashlight and high-tailed it back into the house, reminding myself that the slither sound had been moving toward the back of the tent and into the woods—not toward the tent door. The tent door was my only escape route unless you count tearing through the fabric walls or windows which was starting to sound like a logical option to me by this time.

That was Saturday. I’ve been back twice now to check on the tent in the daylight.  There were no signs of any critter under my tent floor, no trash pile of left over candy wrappers or stash of dog food crunchies. Whatever it was, it was at least a tidy tenant who appeared to have moved on down the road.  I stomped and shouted and fluffed the tent floor to claim my territory for myself—No Visitors Allowed.  And last night I went back to resolve any fear of critters living under me while I sleep.

To tell the truth I don’t really care what is underneath me while I sleep just so long as it doesn't move around and stays on it's side of the tent floor.  In other words, what I don’t know can’t hurt me.

So, I guess if you’re reading this at least I didn't die of fright, no matter what kind of critter.  And I hope you do read this because I do have something of value to share with you today.

I have an update on my “How to Paint a Labyrinth.” 

A couple of years ago I came up with a brilliant idea to paint the pattern of a labyrinth on the grass in my field.  And it truly was gorgeous. Since it was to be my own personal labyrinth I made the path wider than the wimpy ones you get on canvas at retreats.  MY labyrinth was spacious with room to throw your arms wide or invite your dog to walk with you.  It was probably large enough to attract attention from the folks at Google who like to take aerial photos of everything for their amazing maps.   

Then I worried about how much money I was spending on paint so I let the pattern fade away into a memory. But the time I had with it was glorious. I would sometimes walk it twice a day.  I walked it so many time that I wore down the grass and almost had the path memorized.  At the end of its life I tried walking it from memory but it didn't work.  One of the many reasons to walk a labyrinth is that you don’t have to think while you’re doing it and “Is this the turn here? I can’t quite tell” is not exactly a mindless activity.

But I missed it.  I missed the luxury of having many different ways to pray.  A couple of times God spoke to me while I walked.  And I ended up with the feeling that I had hung up the phone before we finished talking.

So I re-prioirtized my expenses and gave “a case of paint” every month a higher priority than going to the movies or buying every single book I find interesting.  

Go to my other blog called Really Cool Stuff if you are slightly interested on having your own.   A case of marking paint is less than $50 and the path requires around 50 square feet of free space.  And it does break down as the grass grows so it’s not permanent unless you want it to be. However, if you are tempted to paint one in a lawn of pristine St Augustine grass at your church you’d better check with the Building and Grounds committee.  You know how those people can be.


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