Earthcamp

The other day I took my blood pressure at my friendly local Wal Mart SuperDuperThanksForYourHusband’sEntirePaycheck Center. My numbers were fine, and the elderly man behind me commented “With a score like that you’re gonna live a good long time!” (note: It is not generally regarded as polite to read someone else’s blood pressure. I suppose it’s regarded as private information, like confession. Sort of a visible gauge of how dissolute your lifestyle is. “Wal Mart Blood Pressure Machine, forgive me. I ate 20 twinkies this week, in the dark of my bedroom closet so no one could hear the wrappers crinkling. And I washed them down with margaritas”* However, I didn’t personally mind him doing so since, well, he was an old fart and old farts are allowed certain liberties.)

 

 

 

Without spending one millisecond in thought, I replied brightly “Not too long, I hope!” and walked away.

 

I wondered after a moment or two whether I should go back and explain that I was not in any way implying that he had lived “too long”, or that I was trying to joke at the expense of those who struggle with high blood pressure, or that I was being snarky in any way. He was a kindly soul and was trying to compliment me, and I’m not sure what he thought of my response. Frankly, I was just revealing a bit of my heart.

 

I don’t want to live to be 100. I don’t want to live to be 90. I think 85 sounds okay, but still much too far away. Good grief! It’s over twice what I’ve already lived! I get so tired just thinking about it. I know the Bible says that a long life is a blessing, but how long is long? I’m just a kid at summer camp, begging Daddy to let her cut the visit short.

 

Dear Daddy,
Earthcamp is pretty, but it’s nothing compared to Home. I’ve made some friends, but I really miss You. There’s a lot of fighting here and it wears me out. When will You come to get me?
Love,
Jenni

 

I know, I know. There’s-a-reason-I’m-here-and-God-has-a-perfect-plan-and-if-I’m-still-here-I’m-still-needed-so-suck-it-up-and-do-your-best-run-the-race-with-endurance-do-not-grow-weary-of-doing-good-in-due-time-you-will-reap-the-days-are-long-but-the-years-are-short-etc-etc

 

Don’t get me wrong. I want to be here for my family. I want to make a difference. I want to make an impact. I want to go out in a brilliant blaze of glory. I’m not suicidal. I’m not throwing in the towel. I just want to say sometimes that Life. Is. Hard. And I thank God with all my heart and soul that it’s temporary. Oh God, thank You that this is not all there is! Thank You that eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man, the things which?You have prepared for those that love You. Sometimes I just feel like I can’t wait one more day. I want to see the rooms You’ve created. The crystal sea. The chariots of fire. The cattle on a thousand hillsides. The lion and the lamb laying down together. The angelic host. The New Jerusalem! I want to be in the front row of the concert of praise that goes on forever because we never get tired or hungry or thirsty and our voices never crack embarassingly in the middle of our favorite verse because we are singing it extra loudly.

 

I want to sit in Your lap and listen to You tell the story of the world over and over again, from beginning to end, and marvel anew each time at how beautifully You planned it all out. You had it all under control. You didn’t miss a single detail. I want to throw my arms around the best big Brother anyone could ever have and let Him wipe every tear from my eye.

 

I didn’t go back and say all this to the kindly old fart who commented on my blood pressure. Maybe I should have. But I prefer to think he knew what I meant.

 

*I do not have personal information as to whether twinkies and margaritas mix together well. I would not mind finding out.

 

Dear Ocean,

It’s not fair, you know. This relationship is far too one-sided. I rework my schedule, empty my savings account, and pack my bags in order to come and see you. But you never come to visit me. You never spend a dime in travel expenses or trial-size toiletries. You never call, unless you count the echo in my seashells. Honestly, why do I bother? I obviously love you more than you love me.

 

 

But I can’t give you up. The times we are together…oh, such bliss! It doesn’t even matter where we are–from the North Sea to the Gulf of Mexico, you are irresistible. Your caress…the sound of your voice…the little gifts you give for no reason at all. It makes up for all the months of neglect.
 

You have other lovers, I know. I’m not so foolish as you might think. I see you giving the same treatment to other people on every shore, and although I want to be the only one, I’ve decided not to make an issue of it. I’m mature enough to share. I’ve seen the poetry others have written about you, but I won’t make a fuss. You do like mine best anyway, don’t you?

 

I like it best when we’re alone, just you and me. Then I can walk side by side with you, and you never demand that I share my thoughts or give advice or make you a sandwich. You just listen. You are a very good listener.

 

I love the scent you wear. I wish I could have a bottle to carry with me everywhere. My clothing retains the memory of your fragrance long after I am home again and I almost shed a tear when I have to break down and do the laundry. Sometimes I even keep one item in a special place for weeks just so I can take it out and breathe you in again.

 

I miss you.

 

Jenni
 

 

Logic

Reasons Why It Is Good Not To Be Pregnant:

 

1. More time to exercise consistently and lost those last 10 lbs
2. No morning sickness to derail homeschooling
3. Freedom from pain brought on by bulging varicosities
4. Hemorrhoids: in remission
5. Less baby-obsessed plans to make, more writing and thinking about things other than babies
6. No “You’re pregnant AGAIN!!!???” comments
7. Margaritas
8. Self-painted toenails
9. The absence of 9 months of worry, pain, hormonal erraticisms, fears and insecurities
 

Reasons Why It Would Be Good To Be Pregnant:

 

1. Because I was. And I was thrilled.
 

 

Wish you were here (so you could pack for me)

Vacation is a lot of work–
although I’m not complaining–
I love to take a trip away
I’m only just explaining.

 

 

I have to clean the house today–
we won’t be here to see it–
but my mom used to do the same
and therefore, well, so be it!

 

The laundry must be clean and dry–
you cannot pack the dirty–
sometimes I think the best “away”
would be a nudist colony.

 

The dogs have travels of their own
to “Sunny Acres” kennel;
they’ll bark along with hundreds there
the owners must be mental.

 

The key must get into the hands
of darling Hannah-friend;
she’ll come and feed the home-bound pets
and bring the junk mail in.

 

Foodstuffs must be organized
for each row in the van;
if we run out of gummy fruits
I’d better have a plan.

 

Swimsuits, sunscreen, fishing nets–
it all must fit somehow–
and wine for toasting on the beach
(I think I need some now).

 

Cameras must be close at hand
for while we’re “living large”
Oh, to be a kid again
with someone else in charge!

 

And so, dear friends, I must away–
the van is needing gas–
my to-do list won’t check itself,
I must get off my ass.

 

Two weeks or so and I’ll be back
to once more share my thoughts,
regale you with my travel tales,
and bore you with my ‘shots.

 

Til then, I would appreciate
your prayers for safety, please;
that God would keep us in His hand
while we are by the sea.

 

Mail Call


I never noticed the mail until I moved to Norway. As a child, nothing ever came in the mail for me that was of any interest whatsoever, except for a brief interlude during which I had a pen pal from Escondido, California. Her name was Leila and she seemed impossibly exciting to my Northern Oklahoma mind. I must have seemed impossibly mundane to hers, for the relationship was short-lived.
  
But moving overseas in 9th grade changed my outlook on mail. Suddenly I was thrust into a world of gray skies, towering mountains, words that made no sense, no McDonalds in sight, and absolutely zero jelly beans. There were new locker combinations to memorize, new hallways to navigate, and “first day of school” nightmares of forgotten schedules and showing up in pajamas, even though it was the beginning of the third semester. I longed for the familiar and routine, and suddenly the mail took on monumental importance.
 
At first I got letters from a lot of my friends back home. My exotic new address (Fiskeholsvegen, Royneberg, only the “o” had a slash through it that I can’t figure out how to duplicate on my present keyboard) was printed with painstaking care in their best handwriting, and the stamps were piled in confusion on the right hand side of the envelope. Any news was welcome. They would titter about who smiled at whom last Friday, which boy skated with them at Skateworld and to which song, and give their opinions on the latest movies. The letters were always signed “BFF” with all the excessive loops and swirls of Girls Who Live Boring Lives But At Least Have Exciting Handwriting.
 
After a while, though, the letters dwindled to the semi-regular, hastily written and disjointed missives of my *true* BFF, Sarah Walls, who wrote on airmail paper especially purchased from the post office. Airmail paper is very thin, almost onionskin, and you write on one side and fold it upon itself before mailing it. As you might guess, there wasn’t a lot of room for elaboration, so her “news” was woefully sketchy. She liked to say things like “Hi Jenni! I’m sitting here with Nance and we’re getting ready to–hey! stop it!–(insert unintelligible scrawl)–anyway, wish you were here! Mr. Hodges said to tell you hi and that cute guy mentioned your name the other day! (insert line of impromptu poetry) Poltergeist rocked!”

 

I would sit and stare at the words, cursing the inconsiderateness of BFF’s who could not include details such as names-of-cute-guys-who-mentioned-you, or remember that in Norway we would not be getting the hottest movies until they were 9 months old and no longer even the temperature of forgotten oatmeal. I couldn’t stay mad long, though. My heart would ache instead and I would wonder how many stamps it would take to mail me back to the world of waving wheat and MTV.

 

When I met My Beloved, his letters… oh……. HIS letters. *insert deep sigh from depth of being* He had already graduated by the time we were An Item, so his letters came from college in The States, and while he managed to cover more paper than Sarah, he was no more reliable. The anticipation of The Mail would build daily to a mind-numbing creschendo as I sat at school, only to be, more often than not, dashed to smithereens at the sight of the empty box staring back at me. But on the days that something came, ah yes…. the sun would suddenly burst from behind the clouds that covered it 278 days out of the year, birds would burst into their little Norski songs, and hedgehogs, mice, and other small European mammals would join hands in the underbrush and dance with joy for me. At least, that’s how it felt.

 

A few years later I was a young married woman with a toddler, no car, and approximately zero monies. We lived in a large Grapevine, TX apartment building and all the mailboxes were located together at the front of the complex. The mail came exactly at 4pm every day. I would watch the clock between pottytraining, reading books, playing games, and staring at the wall during naptime. When Rose woke up from her nap, we would take The Walk. The Walk was the biggest and best part of my day, and of hers. If you have ever taken a walk with a toddler, you know that it matters not how often you trace the same route, because it is new to them every. single. time.

 

This particular walk would have taken an adult walking at adult speed approximately 5 minutes. But when you have to examine and exclaim over every squashed bug and cigarette butt, well…it took us much, much longer. Every asphalt chunk was a priceless jewel full of sparkly bits, and each crawling ant was a highly unusual life form. The manhole covers held opportunities to learn about those mysterious Forms That Appear To Mean Something (“yes, that’s an *S*, honey. It says *ssss* It says “Sssan-i-tar-y Sssew-er!”). By the time we reached the mailboxes, my brain would be gasping for air. And what was I hoping to find in my little Cubby of Unlimited Possibility? It didn’t really matter. Coupons, catalogs, grocery fliers…as long as I had something to sort through I was happy. Over the moon if there was a letter from Mom (still in Norway at the time), but I wasn’t too picky. On the way back home I would hurry Rose along a little with promises that Sesame Street was about to begin. The risk of missing Bert (her personal favorite) was enough to put some giddy-up in her chubby little legs.

 

And nowadays? Nowadays I still anticipate the mail. Sure, email is great and all, but a letter in the box holds a certain joy that nothing else can match. With the cost of stamps rising yet again, I’m sure the amount of mail I will get will continue to dwindle. But I hope it never grinds to a halt completely. How sad would it be to never receive a hand-signed card again? Or a note from a friend just to say “thinking of you”! I get emails from friends, and I covet the news they bring, but I’m afraid that the days of treasured letters tied with ribbons and kept in safe, secret places is waning, forever. There will be no discovered correspondence after loved ones pass away–missives that give us glimpses into the things that were held dear to those who are gone. We read an email and, generally speaking, we reply, and delete. Our words become cheaper simply because they are more easily accessible, and we take less time to think about what we are saying because we don’t have to worry about being misunderstood for weeks should the meaning be unclear. 

 

So hey, here’s a challenge for anyone who is reading. Write someone a letter today. Not an email. Take some time. Think about what you’d like to say. And see if they don’t keep it for the rare and wondrous thing that it is.