I had none.
I considered doing some household organizing, some yard cleanup.
I gave a half a second thought to working on tax prep for home and bakery and rent house.
For a fourth of a second I considered heading out to a nearby musical event where there would be hundreds of acquaintances and dancing.
Then I called a couple of friends for bunny, chicken, dog and cat backup, made up a big pot of venison curry, half for me, half for Thomas who would come over and check things for me, threw my pillows, a sleeping bag, thermarests, propane camp stove, french press coffee pot, a bit of food and hiking boots and gleefully headed down south to Big Bend National Park.
First stop, Panther Junction, to renew my yearly membership pass and seek a permit for a backcountry camping site. First time ever, I was told by the Ranger that there were no sites available in the national park. None. Even 4 wheel drive access sites were taken. But should I wish to stay, I could try zone camping.
Definitely wishing to stay, after the 108 mile one way trip and effort, I said, "Sure!" with animated voice, but heart filled with trepidation.
Driving back towards one of our favorite hikes, quite a few miles off road, I looked at my stuff and looked at the hills and gullies and cat claw and lechugilla and almost berated myself for not bringing a big backpack! But remembered that I am not that much into backpacking, pulled up my bootstraps and started the adventure of seeking out a sleeping zone a half mile from road and hundred yards from the trail and definitely out of sight.
When I mentioned I was going camping over Valentine's Day weekend without the kids, folks asked if I were to have a companion. I mentioned Rumi. And Mary Oliver. Well, in my imagination I mentioned the poets, as I had a couple of books of their poetry. But no, no human companion. I was hungry for solitude. Hungry to think my own thoughts for a few hours. Hungry to sit for an hour and look at the same pile of rocks.
No agenda. No work. No vision casting, or spiritual expectations. Just openness to be in the moment and enjoy.
I sat and ate my supper, noticing in depth, for the first time, the interesting ridge opposite the Pine Canyon parking area. As the sun went down into late afternoon, I laughed as the rocks transformed before my very eyes into a recumbent nude, lying on her belly, hand resting on cheek, rubenesque rump, roundly rising into the sky, and the other hand, finger pointing coyly, seemed to say,"I see!"
My warm venison and cauliflower curry tasted heavenly. The warm, pre-springtime desert air felt like dessert. Even though I was tempted to pick up a book and read, I kept reminding myself to be here. To be now.
A quarter hour later, the ridge transformed. Now a gigantic toddler, perhaps four year old, lay on her belly, wearing little overalls, feet entangled in the air, face looking down, as if watching a line of ants. Where did the model go?
I put away my cook gear, made some herbal tea, and sat to watch my ridge. The sun was almost behind the Chisos mountains behind me. The rocks were warm and alive with color. Now the ridge morphed into a woman, lying sweetly with resting face tucked into her arm. And as I looked at the other rocks, even more figures appeared in the shadows. It was delightful.
Camping for me is magical. Camping in silence offers room for a different magic to arise.
I did see a fleeting meteor. I heard the wind as she came to greet me. Sleeping bag spread under canopy of stars, the waxing moon cruising the sky, a mysterious band of cloud that was pushed through the sky by occasional cool breaths of breeze. It was weird. Sometimes the wind whispered down the gully, and I felt nothing but stillness. Sometimes she would silently touch my cheek.
Each evening, each morning I ended and began with poetry. The words were so tender, so rich, at times I wept. They made me feel human. Alive. Hopeful. Rich beyond measure.
I had all intentions of writing. I did none. But I hiked around. Sat still. Meditated. Drank lots of coffee with heavy cream. Made and ate amazing food. Read much poetry, two books, watched stars and felt wind be gentle and still. Wished for about two weeks more, and never felt lonely, knowing that my kids and work awaited me when I returned.
Somehow I think the camping trip was the perfect choice for this year's valentine's day celebration! Should I offer you my stew recipe? Well, here it is!
Camper's Fish Stew
one piece of bacon or a tablespoon of oil
Frozen Cod or catfish or any other kind of fish you have frozen, 1/2 to 1 lb
garlic, two or three cloves, minced
fresh ginger, one knob, chopped
one or two jalapenos or mild green pepper
sm. can green chilis
tomato paste, two tablespoons or two fresh tomatoes
bunch of cilantro
bunch of fresh spinach
can of coconut milk, full fat
a bit of curry powder if you happen to remember
In a medium to large sauce pan, fry up bacon until it releases the fat. Add celery, onion, and saute until almost tender. Add garlic, ginger and peppers. When they begin to release their aroma, stir in the curry powder if you have it. Add the fish, the tomato, the coconut milk and some water if you need, and bring to a boil. Add a generous pinch of salt and several twists of freshly ground pepper. Cover, continue to simmer for twenty minutes or so, while you sit and watch the rocks as the sun begins to set. Remove the lid, stir the stew. When the fish begins to break apart, add the spinach and cilantro. Taste for seasoning. Cook for another fifteen or twenty minutes without a lid to meld the flavors and reduce the liquid so the stew is thick and creamy. I prefer to use whole cream coconut milk because it gives such a creamy mouthfeel. A bit of canned corn might be nice if you like. Or some potatoes. I kept mine scant on the starchy side, you know, the whole low carb thing, and it was rich and beyond delicious! I even ate the leftovers for breakfast the next day!