Monday, July 18, 2011

God's Country

Rolling down the window in Truckee, I tried to take a picture with my phone of a road sign. Something I could send my brother that would convey more I wish you were here and less Ha ha! Look where I am, Sucker. It was dusk and the photo didn't turn out but the smell of pine trees and fresh mountain air crept through my nose and filled my lungs. The smell. The one I can easily create using nothing but memory and imagination. The one that is always better in reality than any remembrance could ever be.

"That smell!" I exhaled feeling suddenly peaceful. My husband glanced at me and smiled. "You have no idea how much it means to me that you love this place." I rested my hand on his leg.

"I do love it," he replied. "Not as much as you do, but I love it."

"If anyone loved it more than me, I'd be astounded," I joked. "Well, unless it was my parents." I paused. "Or my brother. They'd be the only candidates."

It was strange to be there without them. Very strange. But I realized that the place isn't tangled in the laughter of my family members. It doesn't depend on the stuffy smell of the cabin I've spent so many weeks of my life in. Perhaps it isn't even what we do when we're there.

It's in the music of silence--a place where the head clears and a gentle bird's call rings out calmly. A place where the cars on the distant road can almost be mistaken for a babbling creek. Or is it the other way around? It's in the majesty of water so blue, air so crisp, joy so full, that one can't deny the fingerprints of the Almighty Creator.

It was late when we reached our campground. The boys, managing to stay awake for hours upon hours of nothing but hot Nevada desert, were consumed by sleep as we started up the mountain. Matthew awoke when the car stopped but bringing Garrett to consciousness was like trying to wake the dead.

When I finally got him to open his eyes, he looked straight up into the heavens. Gasping, he exclaimed, "Wow, mom. Look at how many stars are out!" My gaze met the objects of his affection and I smiled. Dotting the clear, black, sky were hundreds of twinkling lights--most perfect for wishing on. They were the very first things he'd noticed. I, myself, had not yet seen them.

God's glory revealed. He does that for me. "Look at this picture I've painted," He smiles. "It's better than any masterpiece you'll ever see. Look up, child. Look up and see my immeasurable majesty." Tahoe makes me look up. She always has. I see the tip top of enormous pines. I see light, powdery blue skies. I see birds and stars and holiness unmasked.

Our camp site was gift wrapped and handed to us by God, it seems. Securing our reservation much too late to get anything on the 4th of July, I was looking at campgrounds near Donner or along the Truckee. Knowing that at most of those I'd be unable to bathe--unless I wanted to take my shampoo into the icy waters of the river--and that the mosquitoes would be thick as thieves, I decided just to check several parks along the lake. On a whim.

One site was available. One site out of several campgrounds. "It has our name on it!" I told Troy as I repeatedly temporarily reserved it while he checked the church calendar and cleared his time off. We bought a new tent, big enough for all of us with a screen room for good measure. As soon as I paid, online, for our new equipment, the ranger returned my call and told me that, no, the big tents don't fit on the sites at D.L. Bliss. We crossed our fingers that she was wrong and brought our tinier tent along in the event that finger crossing didn't work.

She was right. The big tents don't fit on many of the sites. It fit just fine on ours. Luck? Fate? Coincidence? Providence. He's in the little things.

I kept thinking about how much my brother would love that campground. The fanciest RV I saw was a tent trailer. Apparently, it was a tent park. There wasn't anyone there in a mansion on wheels. People weren't comparing pop outs or slides. They were pitching tents and camping--the way we grew up. There was something strangely peaceful and comforting about that.

Around the fire ring were several chairs. Two of them were the tiny camp variety. One blue. One orange. They served as reminders that my dream has been accomplished. I am a mom. I first visited that place as a five-year-old. My son will reach that milestone in two days. I'm passing it on to another generation, this obsession with Tahoe. As we walked, hand in hand, down to the water early one morning, the oldest said to me, "Mommy, can we move here?" My heart screamed Yes! A thousand times yes! but, not even bringing my practical self into this, my soul said no. I've often felt that it just wouldn't be the same. It would lose its mystery. It would lose its appeal. The amazing would become mundane. I'd have to sell all my superfluous body parts on the black market just to pay rent. And maybe some not-so-superfluous ones, come to think of it.

But my family loves it there. Enough to dream about moving there. That's what matters.


  1. As we exited the 80 and drove towards the lake i rolled down the window and had almost the same exact conversation with Aaron. "I wish I could explain what this smell means to me, how it both stirs things up and brings total peace to my soul".
    Oh, and beautiful use of superfluous. We've had that conversation as well, in fact, that day, in the rain while we drove to your campsite.

  2. So happy for you! I grew up camping as our family vacations and totally loved it! But as a mom I found out how much work it is and Hubs dislikes being dirty so we have not camped much at all.
    Sounds like a wonderful new family tradition for you guys!

  3. I have just returned home from a perfect period camping in the Swiss Mountains with my family
    in our Sunncamp Trailer Tent. My partner and I just can't take on the thinking behind sleeping in a disgusting inn when I might get outside in the fresh new atmosphere.
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