For more than 6 months, my home was a couple of yards of nylon and mosquito netting. Total weight: An astonishing 0.8kg. I have jeans that weigh more. By way of comparison, Karta weighed in at a whooping 18 plus kilos.
Despite the weight, there was nothing I carried that was more important than that 0.8kg. Nothing. By day tent, but by night, shelter, sanctuary, hide-away, and home.
Rain or shine, every day would end the same way. Exhausted and soaked in sweat from the waist up and dripping wet down, as soon as I stopped, I would began to cool down. Always, always the first order of business was shelter. Pitch the tent immediately to retain what warmth was left of the last hours’ efforts, escape the inevitable cloud of mosquitoes and black flies, or beat the rain. More often than naught, it was all of the above.
I had it down to a science. Within a few minutes, I could have the tent up and me inside, safe and sound. Everything needed within arms reach. Everything I would need to find the energy and strength to repeat the whole exercise starting before dawn the next day.
Once inside, I rarely left. Dry, warm, free of the incessant torment of a thousand bugs, and insulated there was no reason to leave. I was home. I was AT home. And like every other home, I did everything inside the tent. I slept of
course. But I also cooked, ate, planned, and schemed tomorrow’s scheme. I wrote, and wished, and prayed. I longed for normalcy while lying on my back, a trekking pole in each hand, one foot pushing against the paper-thin tent wall that was flapping wildly and bulging inwards under the weight of wind stirred up by a way-too-close tornado.
More often than I care to admit, I would suddenly realize I had been conversing with the stove. Or a mug. Sometimes to nothing at all. In that tiny space, that 6×2 foot space that I called home, I felt safe. I felt protected and secure. Not just a home, but sanctuary and when Mother Nature fumed, asylum.
I am continually amazed at how quickly we as a species can adapt to the harshest of circumstances or great ease. How quickly we normalize our existence with what we surround ourselves with, or are surrounded by. How quickly we take for granted so much of what composes our lives.
Absent a chair, sitting down on one was a luxury. A table, on my God, decadence. Don’t get me started on running hot water. You know, the kind of running hot water you don’t have to run to the river to fetch and heat up in a 1 litre pot.
Those times I was blessed by the kindness of strangers with a place to stay or a meal, my normal always stood in stark contrast to theirs all ways. Passing alone through towns and cities, my normal always stood in stark contrast to the couples and groups, the gangs and throngs that I came across in all ways. Seeing those people, each on their own journey, I wondered about their stories and lives.
Blessed with so much, privilege heaped upon our plates, how easily we slip into complacency. A roof, an actual roof and not a tarp or tent, overhead. Three meals and more a day. Grocery stores and Starbucks on nearly every corner. Every possible convenience made more convenient every day. But the worst of it, the very worst, is not what we take for granted, but whom.
The tent brought that back to me with a vengeance. Alone, but never lonely, I could not help but be humbled by what I had, no matter how little. Far more importantly, however, was for whom.
For the strangers, now friends, who had helped simply out of goodness.
For long-ago friends that I have lost contact with but whose love and support had indelibly stamped my soul.
For Love. Most of all, over and above all else, most of all for Love.
You need not paddle across Canada, living in a tent fending of bugs and bears. Look across the table, that marvellous convenience you haven’t given a second thought to in ages, and into the eyes of those that you love. Take their hands and open the front door to your heart. You might be surprised where the adventure leads. After all, the purpose of life is to live it.