Suburban landscapes are not usually associated with blissful camping experiences. However, we often travel great distances to achieve what we already could have in our own back yards. In fact, it may be an important factor in achieving sustainability in our society.
Do you remember the first time that you spent the night outdoors? For many of us who grew up in a suburb, our first time sleeping in the outdoors was in the wilds of our backyards when we were children. We braved the dangers of sleeping among the wild starlings and sparrows. We might have even suffered from a mosquito bite. If things got too rough or too uncomfortable, we could go always go back inside. But how accomplished we felt when we first spent our first whole night in the wilds of our backyard without our parents’ help.
But, as we entered adulthood, we felt like we outgrew that stage, so we ventured further afield. Nothing wrong with that, as I still venture into the great outdoors to camp. But just recently, I have come to not only appreciate what my backyard has to offer, but to actively spend time camped in it.
It is midnight in my neighborhood. Most of my neighbors have gone to bed for the night. Through the rising, spiraling wisps of steam emanating from my hot tub, I take a break from my Physical Therapy exercises for my damaged arm and shoulder. I look up into the dark sky. The waning crescent moon has not yet risen. The brightest looking “star” is high in the sky and is perched just above the Mountain Ash tree in my backyard. Actually, the “star” is the planet Jupiter. A few weeks ago, I looked through a powerful telescope at it and saw three of its moons orbiting around it. The largest of these was Ganymede, which is bigger than the planet Mercury. I remember that my parents would exclaim “Great Ganymede” for something that startled them. I never suspected that either of them were closet astronomers!
The wind from this afternoon has mostly abated. The seemingly calm is momentarily interrupted by a gentle breeze from the West, carrying with it a subtle hint of the lavender planted in that part of my yard. Life is good.
I step out of the tub into the cool, early autumn night. The mock orange bushes on my porch have not yet lost their leaves, so they shield me from my neighbor’s view. With no moon out and lights off and shielded by vegetation, I stand naked on the porch and let the water evaporate off of my body as I look toward the heavens. When I am not yet completely dry, but before I start to shiver, I put on my bathrobe, good arm first. Then, I have to work to get the bad arm in the other sleeve.
I am not ready to go to bed yet, so I go into the kitchen and make a cup of hot tea, and also pour a glass of burgundy. Back to the porch I go with a cup in each hand. I have to just sit and be still in this moment…. drink it all in and be grateful. The hot tub motor cycles on again, drowning out any faint noise of vehicle traffic of a busy street four roads away.
It takes a very long time to finish my drinks and the tea is cold by the time I finish it. Finally, I unzip the sleeping back that I put on the bench on the porch, crawl inside it and lay my head on two of the small throw pillows on the bench. Staring up at the constellation of Cassiopeia through the slats of the pergola over the patio, I dream of geographical journeys through our solar system and into far away galaxies.
One usually associates blissful camping with a secluded rural area. Urban camping conjures up scenes of homeless camps. But you probably didn’t think that a suburban landscape could be associated with a blissful camping experience. But not all suburban landscapes can be described as blissful. What characteristics does your suburban neighborhood have to have in order for one to have a blissful camping experience?
Characteristics of a neighborhood where you can blissfully camp
First of all, you need to live in a neighborhood where neighbors respect one another. I can’t say much for the rest of my hood, but our little section of it has recently changed for the better. We used to have all owners, until the recession of 2008 hit, which resulted in an influx of renters. Much of the following decade was full of sad stories that I don’t want to relive. But recently, we have had some new folks buy the rentals on our block. Now, most of the residents own their own homes. And they seem to take pride in keeping them up. Most of the people on our block now know one another and are friendly to each other. I’m starting to feel upbeat about my hood again!
Secondly, landscaping is important. Besides having a privacy fence, we have a lot of trees and shrubs surrounding our yard. I planted these the best time it is to plant them…..which was 25 years ago! When a neighbor forgets and leaves a back porch light on, then any possible light pollution is mitigated. The trees I planted two decades ago are now large enough to make me feel like I am in a forest, even if some are non-native ornamentals. The mock orange bushes, besides giving me cover to bathe in the hot tub au naturel (during a new moon), also act as a windbreak for the bench that I will sleep on. In the Spring and early summer, their pungent fragrance fills the backyard and my olfactory senses with joy.
Finally, your neighborhood should be quiet. And you should feel safe in your hood. All suburban neighborhoods have noise on occasion. Someone has a party one night, or sets off fireworks on the Fourth of July, but for the most part it should be free of loud noise, especially late at night. When I close my eyes on a quiet night, my mind is free to travel to far away places, some of which are located on this very planet!
How Suburban Camping can lead to a more sustainable world
I used to pack up the car with my camping gear and head either up into the mountains or out into the desert to camp, depending on the season. Years ago, I didn’t have to go far. Now however, with an exploding population and lots of homeless people squatting in the public lands surrounding our community, I have had to go further afield to find peace and solitude. My carbon footprint would keep rising with each further sojourn to our public lands.
By camping in my backyard, not only am I saving the money for gas and wear and tear on my vehicle, but I am not spewing hydrocarbons into the atmosphere. In the past, I used to drive a few hours to visit a natural hot spring. Since I have a hot spring Spa in my backyard, I rarely make the long trip to visit a natural one. Even the electricity needed to run my hot tub comes from renewable energy sources-(hydro and solar). Also, revisiting former sojourns in my mind satisfies my itch to travel as much, further reducing my possible carbon footprint.
In late September, my spouse tested positive for covid-19, so besides wearing an N-95 mask in my own house, I planned to camp on the back porch for at least the next five days. I would have been in a pickle had we lived in a garden apartment. The weather is unseasonably warm for this time of year, the smoke from the forest fires are hardly detectable, and the stars will be out again tonight. Another reason to be grateful to have a blissful location for more nights of suburban camping!
Two weeks have gone by since then. I suffered from my own bout of Covid and have now recovered. I suffered that malady while indoors, but now I am feeling better, and am itching to get back to camping on the back porch. The moon has been almost full, so I wear swimming trunks, as the leaves are starting to fall off of the mock orange bushes.
The days and nights have been unseasonably warm for late October. That is, until a few nights ago. A cold front just moved through, bringing much needed rain with it. It also abated the smoke from the recent forest fires. The month of Smoketober is now over! Late at night, there was a break in the clouds. Time to go outside!
Jupiter is much higher in the sky than when it first showed itself that September night. It is now above the Juniper tree. Mars is now visible in the East. From my vantage point, it appears to sit atop the Crab-apple tree. Fall is in the air and the temperature has dropped from the high 70s during the day, to the low 30s overnight. Frost appeared on the outside of my sleeping bag last night! And a fresh coat of termination dust appeared on the mountains this morning. Summer, which used to be defined by the equinox, is now truly officially over…..
The only thing lacking in my blissful suburban camping experience is a friend to share it with. However, having someone else camping in the backyard might end up being too noisy for the neighbors. Just then, I thought of the perfect person to have over for a backyard camp out. There won’t be any worries about him making too much noise, since he passed away four years ago. And, since he never has been to my house, I think that next week will be the perfect time to invite him over.
November 2nd is coming soon. It is the anniversary of Mike’s death. Ever since he died, we usually go afield to camp and have a beer with each other. We always go someplace new and special. But I think we will enjoy our time together in the back yard this year. And I think he would approve of the sustainability aspects of suburban camping. We will taste a couple of different brands of local craft brews and have a deep discussion about the state of the world today, even if we are unable to solve all of the world’s problems together.
But what about all of the people who have no safe haven or home in which to blissfully camp? What would it take for more of us to have a place of our own that provides a safe place to contemplate nature? These are the things Mike and I will talk about.
Dear readers, I hope you may have a blissful camping experience or a quiet, safe place of solitude for contemplation wherever you may be!
11 thoughts on “Blissful Camping in Suburbia”
I am so adopting “Great Ganymede” in my life! Felix and I sat outside on our tiny balcony Saturday night watching the rain, he was cuddled up in a blanket almost asleep happy as a clam. I think he would much rather live outside, I hope he continues to have that desire to be outdoors.
Mike will enjoy the beer and the company. Cheers.
Thanks….We may even end up chatting about you….but be assured that it should all be positive
Thank you so much, Mick.
It just goes to show that as long as you live in another person’s heart, you are never truly dead.
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Brought back childhood memories! We also had a tree fort here for our boys to enjoy camping out at home with a buddy. Have a nice night with Mike….
Thanks…We will! The tree fort sounds awesome…
I enjoyed your sharing of a blissful camping experience, especially the references to Great Ganymede! It all fits well with my world view that one can enjoy nature ANYWHERE! Enjoy your evening with Mike.
When Mom and Dad used that expression, I never knew what it meant. Maybe they were secretly astronomers.
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