12/17/07 Outside of Pijijiapan, Mexico
Above: Thorns as seen from my tent
For the past week, thanks to cool nights and low humidity, I have been camping without using my tent’s rain fly. Because the tent I’m using is almost completely made of a see-through mesh material, camping without a rain fly lets me observe things that I sometimes miss or take for granted when the rain fly is in place. Rain-fly-free camping is like taking your senses to the carnival, like living inside a TV as a 12-hour nature documentary airs, like calling the moon collect and having her answer not with words but with blue comet tails and the fluttering light screams of dead stars. To put it simply, it turns your tent into a lens.
Before the stars come out each night, nature flares up in one final daylight encore by sending out waves of her dusk performers. Mosquitoes flock to the tent by the dozens and try to get at the warm, fleshy vessel of blood that lies tauntingly just beyond their reach. Bats, some the size of hawks, swoop and dart through the air searching for food as dusk bleeds into night. Twig-thin cranes stand as still as thick tree trunks in the rivers and move only when they spot fish lured to the water’s surface by early evening insects. The bushes come alive with cricket sonatas. The rush of activity highlights the ephemeral nature of dusk. There’s a beauty in something that comes and goes without leaving a trace in the time it takes to sit and eat a meal or take a nap.
Above: Tent rain-fly-less at dusk outside of La Ventosa, Mexico
Bathed in the cool silver rays of the moon’s glow, I doze off to sleep under the greatest blanket anyone on Earth will ever see with the naked eye: The thick sheet of twinkling light that is the Milky Way. Nothing, absolutely nothing, can bring about sweet dreams like the feeling of smallness that awakens in one’s mind when the vastness of the universe is recognized and respected. When we wind ourselves tight with our routines, when we fall under the intoxicating, hazy spell of our errands, bills, appointments, and thoughts, a good stare up at the stars can slice it all down to size and put us in our place. Ego cowers under the magnitude of constellations like a dog under the worn switch of its master. And that’s a good thing.
Without moments in our lives in which we feel like components of Mother Nature rather than commanders of her, we risk forgetting that we are all guests on leased land. No cog should ever fool itself into believing it’s the entire machine. Sometimes, however, when we go long stretches without stopping to absorb the relief of a summer breeze or examine the pools of color trapped in an autumn leaf, we misinterpret our place in the universe and grow to believe our lives are more important than that of the one thing that sustains us, Nature herself.