Take It Outside

To feel revitalized by a vacation is a betrayl, or it’s just what a vacation does. One has to believe in distances to go camping. The winding road, mileage signs, houses, cows, power lines, and layers of trees, must be enough. There must not be here. This is not to say it doesn’t work. I arrive feeling I’ve left all my cares behind. Usually I literally have: In all my packing I always forget one thing if not several. The journey is a process of regret becoming not caring. When I go camping I always overprepare for an undoing of preparations.

That’s the romantic view. There are certain preparations that are necessary to feel like a mystic. Entertainment is maybe the most dire. On the other hand, one might start to find fauna entertaining. One time a curious grey jay landed in the tree behind me and observed me as I observed it, and for the rest of my time there I thought about it perched somewhere. I thought about it watching me, and I looked for it everywhere I went, like a crush.

One must believe that camping is worth it, because what makes it different than ordinary life is how much more work domestic tasks are. Eating, sleeping, and shitting are microcosms of the journey to the camp site. One walks from shelter to fire to woods over and over.

I want to insist it’s not a suture. Going camping is being “away it all”. In The X-Files the truth is “out there”, which frequently means on a reservation. All the really good alien encounters happen on the res. Even if we don’t intentionally camp in sacred native places, we imagine the land as a Native American stomping ground, which of course it must’ve been. We white people imagine life was good because of plentiful fish and game. Our appetites are excited by a primitive fantasy in which capitalism had not yet paralyzed us with choices. We fry our bacon and eggs over the fire, imagining ourselves in a cowboy movie, thinking they’re the last bacon and eggs in the world. Not just the hotel but The Shining itself is built on an Indian burial ground; that leering imagination of haunting animates the nation.

Phil Sandifer sees David Cameron fucking a pig as “a test of whether Cameron has the most fundamental skill required of our ruling elites: the ability to set aside all empathy and reason in favor of doing what you are told is required.” If the utility of pigs “is to teach us indifference”, eating bacon is a symbolically as well as olfactorily pungent morning ritual.

Cooking and eating became exciting in a way I had forgotten about when I had to baby it over the campfire. At home, I try to figure out what I’m making while I cook, rattling myself with sheer urgency into desire. Camping, I plan ahead. I imagine meals. Camp cooking is an advertisement for eating. And therefore for life back home?