Camping means breaking the shackles of the city and seeking freedom in nature. Yet, paradoxically, rituals are a large part of life in the outdoors.
Unlike religious rituals, these have an irrefutable logic: Violate them and you’ll be miserable.
One ritual is anchoring the tent. Knocking in the pegs (especially if you’ve forgotten to bring along a hammer) is a nuisance, especially after you’ve struggled to get the tent up in gusting wind. But skip a peg or two and the whole tent may fly away.
I’ve also figured out how to set up our bedding: Unzip all three sleeping bags; lay one flat, lay a duvet cover on it with the open end where our heads will be, lay another sleeping bag flat on top of that, and finally lay the third sleeping bag on top. Zip the top and bottom bags together and you have super-warm bedding that will hold together all night.
Before I figured out this arrangement, I would put the middle sleeping bag on top of the two zipped-together ones. It would keep slipping off and we would freeze.
In the Sierras, even the zipped-inside bedding arrangement is not enough (at least not with our less-than-great sleeping bags). So now we have a bedtime dressing ritual. For Shraga it means putting on his bikers’ thermal long johns, socks, and a hooded sweatshirt.
For me it means putting on an old cotton-knit turtleneck and pants, my socks plus Shraga’s silk-and-angora winter socks, a nightgown, and … a fleece hat with the logo of our favorite Israeli beer. The hat was a last-minute addition after I discovered that all of my body was warm but my ears were freezing. Also, with the brim pulled low over my eyes, it kept the sun out and let me sleep long past sunrise.
Sexy? Warm and sexy. Do we look funny? We look like a couple of aliens. But then, you might say, we are aliens, just passing through. Aliens with rituals.
Text and photograph copyright 2011 by Esther Hecht. No portion of this text or photograph may be reproduced in any form without the express permission of Esther Hecht.