by Bob Miller
When I put up the tent in the front yard on the lake side of the cottage and start sleeping in it, people ask me, “why do you sleep in the tent when you have a nice old cottage with five bedrooms and nobody but yourself in it most of the time? I explain that I can hear the sound of the waves better in the tent than in the cottage and that the evening breezes meander through the tent more easily.
Of course, I don’t tell them the real reason I sleep in the tent is just because it’s fun.
It’s fun to drag the tent down from the attic and put it up, and make the same mistakes in putting it up I did every other year. It’s fun to inflate the king-sized inflatable mattress with the little pump and then squeeze it through the front door flap of the tent.
It’s fun to drag blankets and pillows and sheets out of the cottage and across the dirt of the front yard and shove the whole pile into the tent and then struggle to arrange it all on the big inflatable mattress in the small space. It’s fun to lay my head down on the damp pillow in that dim cozy place and remember building tents with blankets when I was a kid, and to see the magic show shadows of the trees and the leaves moving on the tent walls, and to hear teenagers laughing on the beach.
And it’s fun to fall into a deep sleep and be awakened just before the first light by the sweet noise of the birds gossiping and shouting at each other from the trees over my head. Everything about the tent is fun, even having the damn thing collapse on me in the middle of the night during a storm that suddenly arrives from the great lake that is only fifty yards away.
Of course I don’t tell people the real reason I sleep in the tent is just because it’s fun, and I am enjoying my second childhood. One of the best uses of old age is to rediscover the simple magic of childhood, and to use the magic to cast sunlight on the dark shadows of life.