Reflecting is a normal part of camping and a quiet camp lends itself to reading good books under the sunlit sky or night whichever you prefer. At first, I was not much of a reader during camping. Probably because I was always in the moment. Sourcing and chopping wood, fretting over the fire, prepping food, popping wine, cooking and savoring the good meats, and giving the kayak and climbing gear the once over. Not to mention hiking, climbing, and kayaking.
One day, on a stop for supplies, I bought an Architectural Digest magazine at the Shoprite in Haverstraw NY. I thought I would not have time to look through it but I bought it anyway. On my second day at Beaver Pond Campground, we got a downpour and I was happy that I had spent time securing the tent and digging a small trench to guide water away from my campsite. I stood under my tarp and looked at the water running away from the campsite on top of the hill in the A Section. It was beautiful watching the rain flow effortlessly down the path of least resistance. The sun was still in the distance, was it just a sun shower?. I ran to my car to grab the magazine. Figured I would spend time reading until the rain subsided. The magazine was in the door pocket but when I went to reach in for it, I felt another book and took both. No time to waste as the rain came down hard. When I jumped back to my tent and sat under the tarp, I realized that I had grabbed a book gifted to me by my friend Beverly from work.
The book titled, “Notes to Myself” by Hugh Prather was small and unassuming. It weighed less than the magazine. I remembered that I had read a page or two and thought to myself, what is this book about? The book reads like someone’s thoughts and I figured, I have enough work dealing with my thoughts why read someone else’s. I grabbed a bottle and cork screw and sat in my camp chair. Pouring some pinot grigio into my glass, I turned the pages and read the first few lines as water droplets sprinkled on my legs. Passing the forward, I read the top of page three “But its morning. Within my hands is another day. Another day to listen and love and walk and glory. I am here for another day. I think of those who aren’t”. The power of those words in the backdrop of rain and thunder and nature and water flowing away from me was a stark contrast to what I was used to when solo camping. It was a pivotal moment and my interest in the book peaked. I looked at the title again, “Notes to Myself, My Struggle to Become a Person”. But, I am not struggling to become a person. Looking around, I thought- I am here camping alone, by myself- of course, I am in search of something.
I read many pages in the hours during the rain. It was easy to do as most pages were only half full of text. It was more like reading stanzas in a poetry book. I looked around often as I read and every word took on more meaning. The book was revealing itself to me. It was about a man’s inquiry into himself. His life, his place in the world, his relationships, and his dreams. And as I sat there pondering my place in the world. It was easy to juxtapose myself with the world of Hugh Prather. He told me his thoughts and in those thoughts were solutions. The book is a great collection of private musings about the nature of love, life, and death, and the journey that is understanding. I didn’t get to read the entire book on that three-day trip. But I did finish it in the days that followed. The book opened pathways of understanding into who I was and helped me to define who I would become.
Three decades later, I can tell you that I have read that book several times throughout my life and I still have a copy to read to others. I have given out a handful to friends and family and it has never disappointed me, they loved it. Hugh Prather died in 2010 but his book, Notes to Myself has earned international accolades and sold millions of copies in ten languages. He also went on to write several other books worthy of camp reading like “ I touch the Earth and the Earth Touches Me, Notes to Each Other, Little Book of Letting Go, and How to Live in the World and Still Be Happy”. His books have been an inspiration to many since the 1970s when he sent a copy of his journal to an unsuspecting publicist. No one expected a journal to get so much traction in the literary world. How good was it? Well, the book is still in publication today. Give it a shot, you won’t regret it. Oh, and I did read that magazine after all and winded up subscribing to Architectural Digest for a year. I think it made me better at picking paint colors… Anyway, safe trails.