At ditch camp, without the computer on which to type my morning muses, I bring along a spiral notebook and sit bundled by the little camp fire in the early morning hours before the boys awake to write, sipping steaming coffee from an enamel cup, and writing the old fashioned way, pen on paper. Forrest calls this the Ditch Diaries. Sounds somewhat romantic, doesn’t it? And you know, in a way, it is. You know how I love camping, having the opportunity to be closer to nature, to be an unobtrusive observer, to be more at one with the mountain than I can ever be here inside my cabin looking out the window.
However… in case you might be mistaking me for a modern Thoreau (I know, a joke, though at time you can be sure I wish I was both as brave and as talented), rest assured, I’m just a simple observer, up there digging ditch…
So here is an excerpt from the Ditch Diaries to bring you a touch of the human in this often surreal and pastoral picture I portray for you.
“I sit here huddled over the fire, as close as I can sit before risking my rubber boots melting or popping sparks burning yet another hole in this flimsy camp chair repaired over and over again with bailing wire and duct tape. The sun is rising, which in the mountain always appears as a settling, as the line of light begins high on the mountain peaks and slowly oozes its way downward until spreading across the valley below. The warmth of the sun on the peaks creates a stir in the air, as the raw settled air begins to rise, and the chill spreads as the frost forms across the meadow. This is always the coldest time of day, or so it feels.
“Alan has his nose out of the tent, opening his eyes from time to time to make sure I’m here. But as long as the boys are still asleep, he can justify his remaining in the warmth of the tent. He can say that’s his job. He’s caring for them. Comfortably.
“The hardest part of being here is not the digging, not the sawing, not the cooking over the smoky fire, or working off the chill from rain soaked clothing. It is getting dressed in the morning. Slipping off the cozy, warm fleece sweats and putting on the cold damp jeans. Doing my best to avoid direct contact with my own icy fingers and the frozen buckles on my Levis…”