On camping

enchanted forest

It’s spring, and as I mow, my mind rattles with minutiae and skittering thoughts shaken loose by motion and noise of the old petrol push-mower. How do I prove that my mother is stubborn? Where are all the great male muses, historically speaking? Do I think enough about intersectionality, or am I only looking for confirmation of my own experiences in feminist writings? Is the written word really addictive, or do R. and I have the kind of natures that would make pretty well anything open to abuse? When I sit down to blog, however, I find I am thinking about something else entirely. I live amongst people who don’t camp.

Most of my late teens, twenties and early thirties were spent in tents. My family, my partners, my friends, all camped pretty well every time they went anywhere. The first time I returned from North Queensland to Sydney and slept in a small flat in Chatswood after months of camping, I felt strangely confined in thought, as well as in person. I lost my virginity in a tent; I worked on farms up and down the eastern side of Australia, and pretty well always went back to a tent at the end of the day; I made my home in tents on five continents, over fourteen years. Then I bought the witches cottage and I wasn’t a nomad anymore.

I have of course camped since. A. and I camped out in a national park near Armidale on a trip to a protest rally, and were stalked by a malevolent possum. My sister R and her husband took us camping in the wildest part of Poland, on the Biebrza River, on the first overseas trip Owl ever took. We camped for five days; Owl getting increasingly whiny about the fact that his excessively bony ribs dug into the ground despite an air mattress that I claimed was for the feeble. We camped, too, with our friends W & M, in Norway, where the camping laws are beautifully free and easy (500 m from a dwelling, not on tilled soil), and where Owl discovered the joys of baby wipes and no longer felt sullied by being exposed to filthy wood-smoke and the grime of the woods. KLM lost the tent I had packed up wet, and it re-emerged three days later – the Owl felt the odour was enough to function as some kind of aversion therapy, but I remained sentimental about the fragments of Norwegian moss that snuck back into Australia past AQIS. But these short forays are not the same as those marathon sessions, often of months at a time, of living separated from the night by only a thin layer of taffeta and a slightly thicker one of tarpaulin, or, on fine nights, just a layer of mesh.

My intimates now are generally of the resistant kind. At Byron Writers Festival I threatened to book a campsite, but my companion’s need for solid walls was vindicated when it rained incessantly the whole time we were there. I actually have close friends with whom I have never camped. In my twenties, this would have been unthinkable.

I think perhaps I need to undertake some re-education. Maybe do a bit of brainwashing. I don’t really want to have to find new friends, I hate people too much.

*this post was intended to have photos, but wordpress is being a bitch. Photos may or may  not follow later.

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2 comments on “On camping

  1. I’m glad you were diverted from stubbornness! I love autobiographies by theme, and I’m startled at the thought of how much time you spent in tents. How will you go about re-education? Taking a friend non-camping friend camping ended in tears and ended the friendship for me. Do you want to risk it? How much influence did 8 months in the marquee have, do you reckon?

  2. Suzanne says:

    I enjoyed your thoughts on camping. I too love to camp but haven’t done it in far too long. I came to your blog via your mother. A discussion on my blog about fluid identities led to commenting her commenting about intersectionality and ageing. From there we went to a discussion about the meaning of intersectionality which led to her quoting your blog. Now I’m here and am glad about that. I like your writing style and particularly like your name Quoll Girl.

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