The sun filters through the leaves of the trees.
The time has come.
Moving slowly indicates your lack of enthusiasm for the task. This is reluctant packing for sure.
You sweep out the tent with a tiny brush. You wrestle with the sleeping bags, trying to squish them back down to the size they used to be.
You collapse the tent.
You pull the stakes. One is stuck. You grab and tug. The hard plastic grinds into your hand.
When you’re nomadic, pulling up the stakes always hurts.
Unexpectedly a strong arm reaches around you and pulls effortlessly in one smooth motion.
You finish the job in tandem then, folding the worn pieces of tent fabric into each other forming an unwieldy mass. Together you stuff it into the tent bag. But, as usual, it refuses to fit, making it impossible to zip.
You give up and leave it messy, unable to find closure or feel the satisfaction of a job tied up neatly.
You load coolers in the van. Duffel bags of clothes, squishy sleeping bags, the bursting tent bag. Boxes of cooking supplies, camp chairs, a pair of shoes, sunglasses, purse, phone.
The campsite clears out when everyone heads to the camp store for last minute snacks.
You sit down under a tree and stare at the campfire ring, the contents black, charred and sooty.
You think about last night’s fire blazing and roaring and mesmerizing.
Because that’s what camping’s all about, isn’t it? The fire? The warmth and heat. The circle of camp chairs around it.
The joking and singing. The stories and jostling. The sticky fingers and burnt foil packets. The meat sizzling in the skillet. The feeling of being and belonging. The dark creeping in and the whine of mosquitoes and the chill in the air.
It all happens around the fire, the heart of camping.
But now it’s over.
Time to get in the van and drive away.
The chatter in the vehicle dies down and you are spent.
Dusk settles and then darkness cloaks, and eventually, pinpricks of light punch through the velvet sky.
And still you ride.
Following the ribbon of highway straight in front of you, with only the lulling sound of tires on pavement.
Content to be traveling.
Confident in the knowledge that somewhere down the road there will be another campfire.