Thursday, May 8, 2008

My Last Night in Bush Camp

April 16 through the morning of the 17

My last night in bush camp.

One thing I realize I have not spoken of, yet remains a vivid image of sleeping on the side of the road these past few months, is folding up of my sleeping mat. Depending on the ground two things happen. If the ground is a somewhat grassy vegetation, my form compresses the grass in the rectangular outline of the mat. If the ground is dirt, then I’m left with the waffley impression of the pad. Either way, this is all the evidence I leave behind of my bed. I always wonder how long it will last undisturbed. It reminds me of deer and the beds they make for themselves. I know that in human history and in nomadic tribes today, this is and was the status quo. But, coming from a background of a roof and a bed, I can not help but be fascinated with this brief evidence of my slumber.

Last night was my last night in a bush camp, sleeping on the side of the road. It was a particularly good one. I slept just off an on-ramp and in a grove of gum trees that provided ample cover without the claustrophobic nature of the thicket I slept in the night before. The ground was covered with the thin and comfortable ever-shedding bark of the gums, and despite the proximity and hum of traffic on the busy highway, I felt most comfortable. It has been a long time since my first roadside bush camp in WA where, when I look back, was probably the easiest place to find a bush camp. A mere eighty-km outside of Sydney along a busy highway, it would have been a much harder place to start looking for an evening camp. There is still the sense of foreboding that accompanies the last hour or so before I pull off to the side of the road. Ahead of me is nothing but an educated guess of what the terrain might be. I still get a thrill pretending to mess with or drink water on the side of the road while waiting for a lull in traffic to dive into the bush in order to avoid any nosey eyes who might be annoying enough to call in what they would consider a "transient." I like instead to think of myself, in a small way perhaps, as channeling a little bit of the "Jolly Swagman" of Aussie lore.

It was certainly not without a little sadness that I left that last camp. Once I’m on the road, the next set of cars along the road just assume that I slept in a town somewhere. At least, I think most would assume that. Tonight I did not know where I would sleep, but I knew it would be in a bed without the satisfaction of self-sufficiency.

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