Cultural Camping

6:30am

I cannot believe it has taken our family this long to start camping seriously. It is such a close cousin to the dacha experience in Russia only without the growing of crops, for camping tends to be of much shorter duration than Dacha. Growing up with Asthma, I was rarely able to even go anywhere overnight in a tent. Now that I am older and less affected by allergies, I am making up for lost time in my contact with the natural world.

campOur family treks this weekend to a state park called Lake Dennison just over an hour northwest of Boston. It is a weekend planned with several other Russian families way back in March when 9 feet of snow still lay on the ground. I have learned to really enjoy interactions with Russian folks I am meeting for the first time. When there is an initial context for the meeting (like this weekend’s gathering), they don’t tend to uphold the awkward personal boundaries that keep modern Americans from having any real community. This combined with the already barrier-free existence of camp life led to a glorious weekend of meeting new friends.

fireAfter we arrived and pitched camp, our next door neighbor brought over a rice dish to share along with graham crackers and chocolate to go with our marshmallows. Another asked to borrow our air pump. Many freely plopped themselves down before our evening campfire. It is just the kind of unhindered mingling and playing that our children crave after a winter of being cooped up indoors.

Now, as the chilly dawn breaks over the sleeping camp, bringing drowsy families to life with its light, I prepare for a new and much slower-paced day after the previous busyness of set up.

10:30am

Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.

treasureAnd it is especially good and pleasant when that unity derives from a common worship of the True God. But even when it springs from a common ethnic culture as in this Russian camp, it is still quite beautiful. Our four urban children, whose physical boundaries are usually so well defined and inhibiting, roam freely from site to site, now following this or that flock of friends. A number of parents have prepared organized games, treasure hunts, and forest romps while others clutch coffee and sip tea at far reduced paces. The summer heat, which in the city radiates and is magnified by concrete and asphalt, here is mitigated by majestic pines. The intermingling of people and pines, of water and well-wishers, of table and wilderness hearkens back to life in the Garden of Eden and makes one forgetful of the world in all its lusts. I am sure that it will call us back to return again during this more relaxed time of the year.

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