In the night, they drove to the same spot they had arrived to earlier that afternoon. They had always been lucky with this particular camp site, especially since other sites around were always full. It all started as a fluke, them even finding a spot on a busy weekend, but indeed this fluke had worked out for them multiple times. This time, again, they managed a spot with little trouble, the last site in the park, the ranger promptly checking in and collecting dues for the night’s stay.
They pulled up to their campsite and were greeted with a twinkle-lit tent. She had set the lights up that afternoon and left them on despite the brightness of the day, knowing full well that they would enjoy the bright welcome later that night. She strung the lights, the same one they had used to light up their wedding reception on a grassy field out in the woods, along the front of the tent, weaving through the tent’s frame methodically.
Together they enjoyed the fruits of their afternoon’s labor–the tent they had pitched, the bed they had made to sleep in. In the early days, when the tent was a new gift, they had fumbled along to set it up. To her, it was a fairly new culture, this business of being outdoors. She didn’t have the years of experience from overnight family trips to the forest, sitting by a campfire, absorbing smells and sounds, sleeping under the stars in an insulated bag, that would grant one muscle memory to put together such a thing as a tent. So she stumbled along to his guidance, and he, although exasperated, showed her a peek into his upbringing of all the things she would associate as American. Their tent, now the age of a toddler, was pitched with little incident that afternoon. They worked together seamlessly, moving along at the right pace, each thinking one step ahead of the other in a mechanic dance.
She slipped on more layers and socks, and he wrapped a sleeping bag around himself as they sat together on the picnic bench outside the tent. He popped open a bottle of sparkling wine, the same brand they had drank at their wedding reception. Together they crouched, slightly chilly from the evening’s temperature drop, taking turns sipping their nostalgic drink. Douglas fir silhouettes patterned the magnificent starry night sky.
He freed himself from their huddle and walked a few feet away from the lighted tent to get a better view of the stars. She rolled up her rain jacket, making a makeshift pillow to lay her head on the bench for a relaxed lounge and stared straight up to the sky. The stars shone ever so brightly, large and small and medium sized.
In those moments, there was little need to think of anything else. She was content, though she rarely was, often thinking back to a passed experience, or looking forward to something to come. In that moment, she was not thinking back to the day they had just had, strolling along the park and stepping on grass blades so emerald green the colors popped against the mud-brown tree trunks. They had walked alongside the river, where ducks dipped their heads into the water, elevating their rear ends to humans who looked on, amused. She was not recalling the lovely dinner they had to round up the night. Neither was she looking forward to the following day, when they would feast on brunch, taking joy in stabbing poached eggs to watch the yolks bleed in slow motion. As they waited for their table, they would rush to a nearby bakery to purchase a specialty pastry, made famous in this town. She was not thinking about the hike they would do, having to drive along two miles of bumpy gravel road to reach a magnificent view of waterfalls.
No, in that moment, with her head resting on her rain jacket, eyes to the sky, and him wandering slightly farther off into the darkness but not too far that he couldn’t hear if she called for him, the scene of the night took over: crisp air, glistening fairy lights, pine needles on the dusty ground, hard wood of the picnic bench against her back. Crickets in wild orchestration, a subtle night breeze against their cheeks. The deep navy sky peppered with jewels and every so often, a shooting star or two.
They lingered in the silence, savoring everything around them and every memory that had come to pass to lead them here and now, two years since they first became husband and wife.