Every spring I get restless. I fantasize about warm days, cool nights, wildflowers and waterfalls and nights under the stars, road trips and hikes and adventures with my family. We spend each winter huddled in the warmth and convenience of our house, with a comfortable bed and a down comforter to ward off what little chill may intrude in the middle of the night. When the sun goes down, we turn on the lights and life continues uninterrupted late into the evening. The rhythm of nature ceases to exist.
Like clockwork, every spring I find myself craving tent time. I want to lie on my back on a thin Thermarest, the nylon walls of my tent stretched tightly around aluminum poles with a million stars sparkling through mesh skylights. I long to hear a coyote yip echo through a midnight canyon. I need to go to sleep when it gets dark, wake up when the sun rises and bask in the warmth of early sunshine.
Getting away from all our modern conveniences instantly makes life simpler, if only for a short time. It also reminds us to appreciate the things we take for granted every day: warm running water, a cozy couch on which to relax during a storm and a refrigerator stocked with a variety of fresh food. A toilet. A real, honest to God toilet – not a hole in the ground and a log to squat on.
But it isn’t just about getting away from all the niceties of modern society. It’s about spending the night at the base of a big mountain or hidden in a deep canyon, surrounded by nature in all her glory and violence. It’s about not being at the top of the food chain. It’s about being an insignificant speck in a vast landscape, surrounded by the sights, smells and sounds of a wild and rugged place. We need this to remember our place in the universe. We are not in control.
Last fall I spent an eventful evening in a tent in Capitol Reef National Park. Rain poured from the sky accompanied by fat bolts of lightning and thunder that echoed off the sandstone walls. I laid on my back with my eyes wide open, watching the tent walls glow brightly with each lightning strike. When the thunderstorm finally passed I fell asleep only to be awakened in the early morning hours by the horrific sounds of a rabbit becoming a meal to a coyote or mountain lion. The next day, with nerves frazzled by an all-night adrenaline high, I swear the sky was bluer, the air smelled sweeter and life was just a little bit better.