thinking out loud about tents

yes nate, i'm thinking of camping until july. i might as well write the story here because i've posted about it on facebook. my sister will see it within 48 hours, which means i'll be getting a call from my mom a few minutes after that. she's not gonna be happy i'm considering tent living for 10 months.

i may be crazy, but the vision came in prayer one morning and hasn't left me since. i saw myself in a tent in nancee's backyard. that's it. oh, but how the vision has grown in the days hence. i've picked out the REI tent that i no longer need to buy (see photo above, story below) and researched heating devices. nicole said she would build me a platform and i'm already mentally combing my books for which will make the cut.
i long to throw the rest of the shit into storage. half my stuff is in the attic above me already. i look around my (admittedly tasty) room and see things i'd like to not see again for awhile. things i'm aware i could be living without. more precisely, want to be living without. i am trying to live as a monastic and there is too much 'too much' still all about me. i want clean. sparse. bones.

as i've said in earlier posts, this is hard. there's a reason people go off to monasteries and retreat centers to do this work. the silence, the nature, the community committed to a similar way of life -- these all serve to support one's devotion to the practice. the austere beauty helps conserve energy that is then free'd up for prayer, for hanging with God. (nate, perhaps you can relate to that, i know you've a very visually oriented person.)  

it's true, one doesn't necessarily live in a tent to achieve such simplicity, but the tent is the vision i had. the tent will allow me to be outside - a lot. the tent will be mine and phoebe's cozy little space. and of course the tent will punish me, especially when it starts to rain. but who cares? i could do with a little physical hardship, a little chop wood, carry water. 

money is, of course, a factor. the generous donations to my campaign and my small doses of editing work will last a lot longer if i'm not paying bay area rent. but that's really not why i want this; i can earn the money if i must. i'd just much rather maximize this carved out year and live something radically different. or at least more different than it is now. it's not as though nothing's changed since july -- believe me, praying 5 times a day will change your life no matter who, what or where you are! plus i shaved my head as a tangible symbol of my vows and there are any number of social or vocational things i've let fall away because of the project. still, my life is just a little too familiar for my liking. my surroundings and day to day existence (once i adjusted to having a room instead of a home) are largely the same as they've been for many years. i've been drifting somewhere between householder (grihastha in sanskrit) and monastic (as in vanaprastha) most of my adult life. i would choose householder if i could, but that way has not opened for me. and so it feels good and right to step further along the path that i can actually walk.  

the etymology of grihastha comes from the root vana, meaning 'forest' and prastha, meaning 'gone to'. I want to live in a tent because I need to go to the forest. There's too much urban in my urban love monk. I can't leave entirely - that's not what this year is about. But I could make greater efforts to silence myself, to be surrounded by little and less, to spend more time out-of-doors -- that is to say, with God. And the truth is, I've always fantasized about a simple little room of my own, where minimal is as minimal does. I crave that now, despite also loving the sacred things that fill my space. I've loved that sea glass mobile, that canvas print of egyptian spices photographed by stine, that family beach photo where we're all wearing khaki and white. and they'll be there when this is done. i don't need them right now. i need vastness and void. i need stillness and quiet. i need a tent.

actually, i don't need a tent. what i need is a place to put it. miraculously, as i spilled this whole story to my spiritual director earlier today, she grins and says, "i have a tent to give you." what? "yes. i found it on the street just today." what? "i've got great street finding magic, did you know that about me?" um, no I didn't know that about you! she tells me it's tall enough to stand in, which was the one non-negotiable in my quest for the perfect tent. turns out, the perfect tent is the one that your friend offers you for free, out of the blue, on the day you've decided you definitely need one.

it also turns out that nancee's yard -- for the best possible reason on the planet, love -- may not be available after all. which is why i posted an appeal for a patch of grass on facebook. and why tomorrow's prayers will no doubt drift toward (read: perseverate on) the great unknown of where me and feebs will be practicing, pooping and sleeping. this mysterious, multivalent, most needed thing we call home.


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