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Sleeping Outside

The weather here is windy, balmy, sometimes wet. Desert springtime, with flowers popping up all over the place, trees leafing out, streams gushing down from the mountains. Great time of year for hiking, camping, exploring, sleeping under the new moon and the old stars. At dawn and at evening we hear the coyotes howling with excitement – mating season. And lots of fresh rabbit meat hopping about to feed the young ones with. ~Edward Abbey


This weekend my grandson is sleeping with me in my little tent. We sleep side by side. I’m on my Thermarest to cushion my bones from the hard ground and he directly on the ground wrapped securely in his blanket. I write this as he lays next to me his face in quiet repose, dreaming the dreams the of a little boy with his entire future at his fingertips and I, in my early 50s with most of my years behind me, years oozing with myriads of memories.

For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed sleeping outside, enjoyed being in a tent or, if the conditions were right, sleeping with the blanket of stars as the canopy over my head. Tent technology took a huge step forward when the primary structure started utilizing mesh for the roof with a removable rainfly for those nights when rain was not in the forecast. This allowed me to lay on my back and contemplate the stars without the need to constantly swat mosquitoes.

My love for sleeping outdoors began when I was very young. We were a large family with very little disposable income so vacations involved a tent, a cabin tent holding 8 people sleeping in double stacked cots, a second tent to house our gear, a screen house for eating with all three connected by a canopy. Those family vacations contain some of the most vivid and joyful recollections of my young life. It is those memories that seeded my love for sleeping outdoors.

My preference is to sleep without a tent, without the thin shell, security blanket to protect me from all creatures great and small. It’s my preference but one I rarely indulge in because mosquitoes in the north woods are relentless and the resultant welts quite itchy. Those pests are not common in the wilds of Southern Utah so, when there, I do sleep sans tent, sans security blanket, exposed to the elements and critters native to that region. One brisk night, I had such an encounter.

I was sleeping under an overhang during a backpacking adventure where, early in the evening, I had made my dinner and left the pots and pans sitting on a large, flat rock for ready for morning grub. During the night, I heard jostling by the pots and pans. It was a Deer Mouse rummaging for food. I rolled over and let him be for I was too tired to get up and put things away.

Later in the night, I opened my eyes from a light sleep, opened my eyes to find that Deer Mouse perched on my sleeping bag and unblinking, staring directly into my face, perhaps even into my soul. Startled, I hit the inside of my sleeping bag with my hands and sent that mouse flying. I never saw where he landed nor did I hear him the rest of the night. With my heart buzzing, I didn’t sleep much the rest of that night. My mind kept me wondering if that mouse was going to return.

This weekend, I am in Wisconsin with my family at our cottage. Generally when here, I setup a tent for myself and sleep outside. I started this habit early on because the noise in the house, the result of the part atmosphere we created in our 20s, was unbearable when I was trying to sleep. I sustained the habit because I grew to love sleeping outdoors.

I grew to love hearing the birds, natural alarm clocks, singing and tweeting and chirping as the suns rays crept over the horizon giving gentle color the night sky. I grew to love the crispness in the air that helped me sleep deep, sleep soundly. I grew to love waking to the first rays of morning sun illuminating my tent.

At this point, a few hours after the sun has set for the day, the only sounds are the chirping of crickets in the cool night air and the slow rhythmic breathing of my grandson soundly, sleeping next to me. The breathing of one who is completely at peace with nary a care in the world. I pray this little boy dreaming next to me grows up loving the serenity, the adventure of sleeping outdoors as much as I do.


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