The annual family Girlscout camping trip tradition is a family favorite. I didn’t grow up camping, but I married an eagle scout, and I was one of the original scout leaders of our local troop so, it never much felt as if I had a choice. I was a slow-adopter to the camping hoopla. Reluctantly, I’d go on the trip and never regret it. I say, reluctantly, because these outings happen in June, which is the prime month for all the end of the school year activities. Never regret it, because it’s always delightful. We sing, make fires, cook as a community, we visit with other parents, and experience the world through our daughters as they take in the kind of freedom that only nature can give.
2019 was the best camping trip yet.
In backseat our scout and her bestie kept themselves busy with their phones and were clearly looking forward to the trip; they would set up our tent and sleep, along with the other scouts, inside the main house. My eagle scout and I caught up as we do on long drives.
Typically, we opt for a state park, but this time we camped in Ashfield, Massachusetts on the grounds of the home of one our Troop-leaders. Not only is the property gorgeous (the superlative doesn’t do it justice), open, and straightforward, but it also reflects the beautiful character of the people who love it. Headed there from Boston, on I-84, there was a moment in which we left everything behind: the pace, the disappointments, the noise. All of the hamster wheeling and overwhelming feelings of powerlessness over the crap that usually befalls us, melted into the background as we entered green, lush spaces that completely enveloped us. That region, a friend said later has “an incredible green-to- human quotient.” He is right. He got married in Eastern Mass, in an elegant mansion, he and his bride remain a genuine vision of hip, good people. Back then, quite pregnant, and happy about it, I remember fawning at the region. It had hit me but not like it hit me during this latest trip.
Ashfield shines not because of all the natural beauty alone. The people are welcoming; they care about the right stuff. There’s a local theater company that does impressive immersive work, a farmer’s market, a preservation society, good coffee, and a great pond. Drive anywhere in any direction, and you’ll undoubtedly be surprised at what pops out and never miss anything you ever thought you needed.
The rain has been a constant this summer, and we saw some in the forecast, but it didn’t matter. At night, the sky crisp with fresh air let us open the fly of the tent to see an expanse of stars, constellations, and planets, each one taking turns to brighten up the dark. We were under an umbrella covered in infinite lights. I wanted to take it all in, swallow every single moment of the sky, the breeze and my guy next to me, patiently hearing me fawn over every unencumbered deep breath that I took in. It was hard to go to sleep. By the time I caught my second shooting star, I was ready to close my eyes to the rhythmic sound of our night, remembering the dancing fireflies floating all around us. I know that I have fallen in love with New England land before; it happened in Vermont. That much is true. It was during my stay at my gorgeous and talented writer friend’s place. Few places have a massive waterfall in a backyard, and rushing water is one of my favorite sounds. It’s not that I am a serial New England land-dater. But if I am, who cares?
While the kids went to a rope’s course, those of us who enjoy firmer ground went out to explore. We were doing our thing until it was time to meet back at the lake for an afternoon swim and some paddleboarding.
Shelburne Falls is quaint an has the Bridge of Flowers, which is such a labor of love by volunteers.
We had to stop at a bookstore. A family tradition that started by our eldest bookworm. And I had Japanese jelly coffee for the first time. It was yum.
The meal and jelly coffee were from the excellent charming restaurant Delicatesse. We also shopped for fun stuff at the local grocers.
What makes my heart jump into the reckless love affair must be the mega pause button I push when the open green spaces displace the daily and disconnected living we do. Wash, rinse, repeat. Wash, rinse, repeat. Wake, work, manage, remember to enjoy and be grateful and laugh at what I can, sleep. Do it again the next day at lightning speed. It must be a sign that this stuff manager, who works hard for her money, needs to reach for the green permanently. I have our small city deck, parks around where I live, bodies of water, and unblocked open spaces. Those work, they will do in a pinch. These other spaces, though? Those have staying power. I need to do more than an intermittent forest bathing; I need to change my life.