Camping Without Kiddos, A Solstice Reflection

We ran away to the mountains again this weekend. We have a few spots we like—a favorite beach campground, an inland canyon campground, and a lovely mountain campground—close enough to skip town for a weekend without too much hassle. This weekend the beach was full, so off to the mountains we went.

It was also the first campout we went on without kids or friends in the last eighteen years or so. Our kids are both off on a two-week school trip to Europe, and we were left to think about that empty nest that’s coming sooner now, rather than later.  Our eldest is starting college in the fall. But we live in LA. He’s not moving out; he can’t afford it. But it will be different nonetheless, and it will bring a series of shifts.
So we are getting a taste of what our future holds.
I’m delighted to report we still enjoy each other’s company. (We did take the dogs, too.) But it was quiet. There was less to pack, less to cook, less to clean. Also fewer helpers, fewer games, and zero ghost stories. We did ok.
We took a lovely hike in the morning with the goals of tiring out the dogs, looking for deer, and reaching cell signal. It was a little pathetic, but we were concerned about the kids’ activities that day, and wanted to receive a text reporting that no one was injured on the bike tour of Munich or too damaged by the concentration camp museum at Dachau. I feel like we were justified, but we really did go hiking with the intent of looking for cell service. Twice.
The kids were fine. They’ll have lots to talk about when they get home, of course, but for now, they’re safe and sound and enjoying adventuring.
On the way back down the mountain I took some pictures. There are always the requisite oak pictures; I love sprawling oak trees. And then there was this one with the busy community of trees.

The middle of the frame is filled with mature, dark grey-green trees.  These are the grown ups. They are thirty foot tall Live Oaks, some with what could be nests or clumps of mistletoe in the branches. These trees are providing for others. The foreground is filled with bright, spring-green, new growth. These are the kids—fresh, green, shooting up, vying for sunshine and sucking it up like sponges until they seem to glow with it. And then there are the old ones. There are a couple of dry, leafless trunks still standing, a stump and a log on the ground. The old trees are nearly as tall as the middle-aged ones, still offering support, but also adding a different quality and texture to the photo and the biome.

It is so with animals too, of course, and with people. On this solstice weekend, when we were thinking about the changing seasons, it was a lovely reminder to think about the cycles of our lives, not just the year. We were grateful to be together, still happy, and to have the opportunity to give our kids this boost toward independence and introduction to the larger world, so they can see too, how different and how similar we all are.
When the kids get home, we’ll listen to their stories and share ours—thankfully the worst thing that happened to us was the crows ate all the dog food; we had to feed them sausages, the poor dears. They’ll tell us about what it was like to ride a gondola in Venice and walk the grounds at Dachau, and we’ll do that thing people do so well—weave a history of community and a web of stories, build a scaffold to support the next phase of our lives.

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