I’ve been sleeping in a tent since the end of June. I never want to stop.
It started as a child’s birthday wish that we “please camp outside tonight,” and somehow it’s just kept going. I am camping at my farm. Every evening at dusk, I leave my lovely farmhouse and walk out to a modest tent, stuffed full of a mismatched jumble of pillows and bedding gathered with excitement by my children.
We are under the stars. We are drinking in the cool night air. We fall asleep watching fireflies rise and listening to the owls calling. We awaken early, with the dawn chorus, a riot of excitement in the trees, a celebration of yet another beautiful day being born.
We wonder what the 4:42 a.m. busy birds are telling each other. About the dreams they had in the night. About the plans they have for the day ahead. Where the best worms might be found. How their children are almost ready to fly.
The birds are in community with each other. The owls hoot at night to one another. We hear the faint replies coming across the valley to the owl who sits in a tall pine tree beside our tent. We hear the non-stop babbling brook that never sleeps, telling everyone to keep on going. Nature never truly stops. Nature is ever present, a solid that we can count upon, and yet nature is also always shape shifting, always changing, she is fluid. Nights draw in sooner, and a 4:42 a.m. start time becomes 4:53 a.m. as the weeks roll by and the birds rest a few minutes longer. The water keeps moving, the grass keeps growing, we are none of us alone, we rest and we age imperceptibly as we sleep, still we wake up feeling renewed every, single, day.
I cannot drink enough of this in. The inhaled night air changes me at a cellular level. I am now more like the blades of grass I lie among and yet I am now also more like the Milky Way I lie beneath. I am soil and stars.
Is it possible that this “once upon a magical summers night” experience can be repeated ad infinitum, that nightly I can be melded into a place where in the one same moment I am both ground and sky, I am both lost and found?
I never want this to stop. Yet stop it shall, because I cannot sleep in the snow when it comes. I’ve already retreated a few nights during thunderstorms and torrential rain, back to the protective structure that I call “home,” but whose walls feel like a barrier to the goodness I want to keep merging with.
I cannot want to hold onto the fleeting forever, I must revel in the impermanence. This is nature’s lesson to us “on being” — we are solid, we are fluid, we are single entities in a shared, interconnected experience that makes us “one.” We are wild, we are free and we will always belong to each other.
Etienne White lives where the land meets the sky on a farm in Iowa County where she raises grass-fed, Old English Babydoll sheep, as well as pastured chickens, a happy farm dog, a wily barn cat and her two spirited children. She works at the intersection of marketing and sustainability, leading efforts to create mass consumer behavior change, for the greater good of both people and planet.