Posts Tagged ‘outdoors

09
Dec
21

To Plunge or Not to Plunge…

When an inanimate object really, REALLY becomes a member of your family, you give it a name.

We named him Travis.

“Him,” in this case is a 2017 Winnebago Travato, Class B touring coach. Or RV, if you prefer. 

For at least two years – starting right after I finally, officially retired – Joan and I began talking about how much we were looking forward to hitting the open road with our two dogs, Rosie and Patrick. 

We longed to wander aimlessly around this big, beautiful country of ours, seeing all the sights we have not yet seen. 

And re-seeing some we have. 

“How cool will it be…” we said, “… to drive around with no particular schedule or destination and no assignment except to feast our eyes on America’s natural wonders for days on end.”

Exhaustive research, conversation, and prayer finally led us to conclude that THIS (the Travato, that is) was the right way to go. And wouldn’t you know it, shortly thereafter, a couple who lived very close to us listed one for sale.

So we went and met Travis. And it was love at first sight.

Fast forward to today, four months later. Here we sit with egg on our faces and feeling a little silly and a LOT sheepish. That’s because we have decided to put the FOR SALE sign on Travis. 

Why? You might ask. As it turns out, we are not campers.

Neither – apparently – are Rosie and Patrick. 

We certainly gave it the good, ol’ college try. We started slowly, with trips close to home and short in duration… gradually expanding our radius and trip length. We had a two-night trip right here in town, four nights up to Lander, Wyoming and back, and then just shy of a week to Kansas City and back.

The dogs let us know right away that they didn’t like the sleeping arrangements. And so, THEIR nocturnal restlessness led to OURS. 

Both Joan and I also both grossly underestimated the amount of work and preparation involved in getting ready to hit the road… and the clean-up work on the other end when you get back home. 

We found that we loved the part about being able to drive around and explore cool, new places. But we really didn’t much love just sitting outside on our camp chairs staring into the fire for hours after dinner clean-up.

At one point, Joan looked at me and said, “I think the people who do this a lot are really PASSIONATE about it. And the truth is, we just aren’t.”

So now we are both feeling red-faced and asking ourselves questions like: Why couldn’t we have been smarter about this? Why couldn’t we have each KNOWN ourselves a little better and foreseen our deep-seated aversion to the camping experience? How did we let ourselves get so carried away by this romantic notion of free-form road-tripping? Why didn’t we do a better job of anticipating the dogs’ discomfort with Travis?

All good questions. But in the end, unanswerable. 

Sometimes in life you just have to STEP OUT. [Sort of like Peter stepping out of the boat.]

Sometimes the only place the answers can be found is right smack-dab in the MIDDLE of the experience. In that sense it is a bit like parenting… 

We live. We make mistakes. We learn. And we live some more.

I just hope this episode (which we will one day affectionately call, “The Travis Chapter”) doesn’t discourage us from ever again “taking a plunge” into the unknown. I hope it does help us to ask better questions and search our hearts a little more closely before doing so. 

When I read the words of 2 Timothy 1:7 (NRSV), “… for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline,” I hear it reminding me that we were created to take risks. Not to risk foolishly, of course, but to use God’s spirit of love and self-discipline to help us step boldly into the Great Unknown. 

Hmmmm. Do you suppose that even applies to buying RVs?

Abundant blessings;

16
Jul
19

Picnic Power

Picnic picYes, “hot weather,” “swimming pools,” “no school,” “sunscreen,” and “baseball” are all worthy candidates, but I’m afraid none of them say SUMMER quite as well or convincingly as the word “picnic.”

We went with some friends recently to see a Theater in the Park production of Meredith Wilson’s Music Man and decided to pack along a picnic dinner.

I was certainly prepared to dig in and enjoy the delicious fried chicken Joan made, with a little Waldorf salad on the side. What I WASN’T prepared for was the wave of nostalgia that was also served up.

Apparently, it has been a long time since I have picnicked. (And no, I don’t think brats and a beer at the baseball game really count.)

It reminded me of the days when my mother used to pack up a big cooler full of food for she and dad and us five kids and we would drive to a favorite spot down by the Scioto River outside of Columbus, Ohio.

It was kind of magical to watch her open the cooler and reach in to distribute the waxed paper-wrapped sandwiches to each of us.

With five kids there was no tailoring of the meat or condiments, you understand. Everyone got the same thing, smeared with the same yellow, red, or white goo. And when my brother Douglas complained about what was on his sandwich (as he inevitably did), we got to hear the well-worn refrain, “Well, Douglas, you are free to either scrape it off or go hungry. It’s up to you,” spoken by either mom or dad.

It was always kind of an adventure to find just the right table… the one with a little bit of shade, located close enough to the recreation area and not too far from the public restrooms.

We had some good, basic picnic gear; the cooler for the food, a large plastic tablecloth to spread out, paper plates, but our own set of plastic cups from home, a large drink dispenser, and disposable plastic cutlery.

I seem to remember picnics as always being messier affairs than a family meal around the dining room table. Out there at the picnic site, you felt free to wipe your mouth on the back of your hand (even if you did have a napkin), drop food on the ground, or even burp. Because hey! You were eating OUTDOORS! None of the standard indoor eating rules applied!

And often at our picnics – especially those that fell on a big national holiday such as Memorial Day or the Fourth of July – the event was not complete without some spirited Frisbee tossing and the appearance of the hand-crank ice cream freezer.

There is no doubt in my mind at all; picnics made our family closer. They were a kind of approachable adventure in which everyone played a part. They exposed us to The Great Outdoors, they nudged us to play and laugh together.

Picnics regularly gave us the chance to do a little impromptu problem-solving… such as when someone fell and hurt themselves, or when a sudden summer storm appeared, or when SOMEBODY forgot to pack plates.

Next week my siblings and I will be convening for a somewhat solemn purpose. We will be getting together and visiting the eastern half of the five locations my dad requested for the scattering of his ashes.

While I am not entirely sure I would recommend this practice for all families, I think this is going to be healing and cathartic for us. And of course, one of the locations is going to be there outside of Columbus, Ohio down by the river… right next to one of the places the family used to go for picnics.

Mom died in 1970 and dad in 2017, so it will just be the five sibs and my wife Joan on this particular “picnic.” But I have no doubt whatsoever that it will be warm and wonderful and will draw our circle in more tightly.

And as we pray and tear up a little, and remember, and scatter, and celebrate, we will also probably have a sandwich and glass of Kool-Aid and remember the power of the picnic.




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