Remembering: The Tent

Posted: February 23, 2008 in Homelessness, Hopes, Housing

Mother Nature is doing her thing again.

California’s central coast is getting wet. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There has been very little rainfall this winter. That puts this part of the state at risk for wild fires. So, it’s good that we’re getting rain. The rain will also make the flowers bloom. That will put more pollen in the air, which will make my allergies flare up.

It’s always something, isn’t it?  

One thing Mother Nature decided is that she was not only going to give us rain, but she was going to throw in high winds for good measure. And geez! There have been some high winds today. According to the weather forecast wind gusts have been up to 50 mph. That’s strong enough to knock some people off their feet.

Even now, as I write these words, I can hear the wind picking up periodically. Not a good night to have to be out of doors doing anything. No. It’s good to be inside.

Last year at this time, I was living in a tent in a field. Right now, that field is probably muddy. I haven’t been to that field in a while. I wonder who is still there?

I remember what it was like to endure many a rainy nights there. I recall a number of times when the small creek that rain behind the tent would overflow. There were a couple of times when the waters were so high that my tent started doing its Noah’s Ark imitation. I was sure that it was going to float away with me in it.

Then of course, there were the nights when it would be raining and we’d have high winds at the same time. Two or three times, the winds were so high that the tents stakes were actually pulled out of the ground.

There is one night I remember in particular. The heavy rains had subsided. But the winds didn’t.

Laying there in the dark I wondered if my tent was going to make it through till morning. Then there was one extremely high gust of wind and I heard a loud crack. I sat up wondering what the sound had been. Then there was another gust of wind and I heard something come crashing down. I made ready to bolt out of the tent because I suddenly realized what it was that had made the sound and I certainly didn’t want to be inside the tent if it hit.

The sound? It was a heavy limb from one of the many trees surrounding the immediate area of my tent.

When I crawled out of the tent to see which tree it was that had lost the limb, I just about had an "accident." The limb had landed less than 2 feet from the front of my tent. I could see that it had broken off from the main trunk of the tree. And it was thick. About 4 or 5 inches in diameter at the end that had been attached to the tree.

I didn’t sleep at all that night. Each time the winds would pick up, I’d find myself straining; listening to see if any of the other trees might also lose a limb. I was concerned that one might come crashing down directly on to the tent while I was sleeping. Thankfully none of the other trees took any damage.

When morning came, I had resolved to "break camp" and find some other place to put up my tent: someplace where I didn’t have to worry about trees limbs crashing down. The problem with the idea of moving somewhere that didn’t have so many trees was that I had chosen that location because of the trees. They had offered some concealment. And when you’re homeless, you try not to draw an attention to yourself – especially if you’re sleep out of doors. After all, there’s no need to advertise where you’re sleeping at. That minimizes the possibility of being harassed by the local police who are all too happy to give you a ticket for sleeping outside.

In the end I stayed put. That tent was "home" for quite some time. That it held up for as long as it did still amazes me. Toward the end of my stay in that tent, it had become pretty ragged. I was already looking to get a new tent. Fortunately I didn’t have to buy another one. I was able to leave that field behind.

Yes. It’s good not to be sleeping out of doors. It’s good to not be wet and cold. It’s good to know that tomorrow morning I won’t have to walk through the mud just to get to "civilization."

I can’t help wondering though…

Who’s out there in that field tonight? Has someone else taken up living at my old campsite? Do they have a tent set up, or are they just huddled up in a sleeping bag, or perhaps an old blanket?

The forecast for tomorrow is more rain.

If there is someone living in my old camp, I wonder what tomorrow holds in store for them.

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