Tents/Tense

March 25, 2012 at 8:15 am (Memoir) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Growing up, I spent one month out of the summer living with my dad and step-mom in Banff, Alberta. This was before Banff was a major commercial tourist destination. Back then, Banff was more than a small town but not so much more that we were never allowed to wander around alone.

My older sisters would come to work, usually as hotel maids or shop assistants and my younger brother and I were expected to stay with and get to know the half-siblings. It made for interesting sibling rivalry at times. I was use to being on my own. At home, my older sisters and younger brother had their own lives and friends. I was the quiet one. I spent a lot of my time hiding and reading.

At home, I had my favourite places to read: in closets and under beds. There was less room at dads’ to hide and more people to hide from. Yet somehow, an old army tent became just that – my perfect reading/hiding place.

I can not draw

It was a big tent. It was army green. I, my baby brother, my three step-siblings and the three or four children my step-mother babysat could all fit in it when we wanted to. It took up the entire front of the backyard with a swing set behind it. It looked just like this picture (below) except it was a much darker green.

By queercatkitten

I could spend hours alone in that dusty, hot tent, thinking, daydreaming and reading. The others, all younger than me, would wander in and out, play on the swings, run around the yard and retreat (finally) to the relatively, cooler house.

Then, blissfully, I would be all alone. The quietness, the greenness of the tent would envelop me as if I were in the middle of a vast forest or under a deep green lake. I would float, dissolve, and get lost in the absolute warmth and quiet.

Absolute warmth and quiet (photo by thraxil)

It’s ironic how happy I could be in that tent in the backyard. I am not a camper. I’ve camped. My sister and her husband and infant son drove me to university (the first time) and we spent the weekend before camping outside of Banff. It rained and rained and rained. The baby cried all weekend. Ironically, that baby camps now as an adult very regularly – he’d live in a tent, I’m sure, if he could.

We, my ex & I, camped on our honeymoon trip – a week, by car from Saskatchewan to Lake Erie and his relatives in Ontario and back again. It rained. All week. I wept like a baby the last night and he paid for a hotel room.

I do remember one good camping trip. My dad took all of us (two adults, 8 children, a baby and a dog) to camp beside an icy blue lake just above Canmore, Alberta. The adults with baby slept in the van and we children got the tent. I slept on a rock (pebble) all night.

But I remember the stillness and the beauty of that lake. The perfection of a quiet night alone with just us (family) and the wilderness and running down to the lake with my siblings feeling as if we were all whole and perfect. Family.

Were you ever out in the Great Alone, when the moon was awful clear,
And the icy mountains hemmed you in with a silence you most could HEAR;
With only the howl of a timber wolf, and you camped there in the cold,
…     …     …     …     …     …     …     …     …
While high overhead, green, yellow and red, the North Lights swept in bars?
Then you’ve a haunch what the music meant . . . hunger and night and the stars.

The Shooting Of Dan McGrew
Robert Service

I can’t give you a picture that I’ve taken, of the aurora borealis because my camera is not that good (or maybe I’m not that good of a photographer). I’ve heard the aurora borealis has been very active this winter but I’ve not been out late enough or far enough from the city to see any. I miss seeing the lights. Growing up, in a small town, walking home (after midnight) from babysitting I would see the northern lights at least once a winter!

I'll give you instead a recent picture of Jupiter and Venus conspiring in the night sky - can you see them to the right of the tree?

It has been a tense week. It has been a tense year and I am yearning for hideaways – for caves and tents. I am hibernating this weekend, sick and not daring to wander far from a bathroom. On Friday, I closed my curtains and left the world outside as I read and pretended that being a child would be easier than having to be a responsible grown-up.

Irony.

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