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Cottage Diary
Sabbatical, 2004
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this 2003
Camping Diary:

Part Two
Part Three

Camping in the Age of Flab

...deep in the forest, somewhere near the Manitoba/Saskatchewan border

July, 2003

My annual vacation has begun for 2003, and I have gone camping.

“What?” you may respond, “Didn’t you go to the cottage?  What about that saga you were writing, and all that repair you were doing?”

Don’t worry, the cottage segment of my vacation is yet to come.  Fans of the repair saga - and to my surprise there are quite a few - may yet see a continuation of it on these pages, but for a few days anyway, I’m camping.

This time alone with my tenting gear actually represents a domestic compromise.  When our children grew up and no longer came with us on our annual vacations, Heather announced, “That’s it.  My camping days are over.”

In her view, we camped (1) as a low budget method of getting from Winnipeg to our holiday destinations [eg. the cottage], and (2) because, since the children and I actually liked camping, we outnumbered and outvoted her.  With the kids gone, we have slightly more available money for motels - so scratch reason #1 - and as regards #2, the numerical advantage has now disappeared.  The vote about whether or not to go camping now results in a 50-50 split, and since the wife’s vote is more important than the husband’s, I lost.

I sold my camper trailer and bought a tiny one-person tent.

The thing is, Heather runs her own one-lawyer practice, and she can’t leave it for very long - certainly not as long as my five week clergy vacation.  Thus the compromise: when Heather can leave her practice, we go to the cottage, stopping for the night at clean motels with showers.  But, when she must still be at work even though I’m on vacation, I can go camping by myself.

I bought a very small tent because I actually once had fantasies about doing rugged backpack camping, but so far that hasn’t materialized.  Instead I go to official federal or provincial campgrounds, set up the tiny tent along with our ancient dining shelter, and indulge myself in stargazing, reading, fire-building, and short day-trip hikes.

a small campsite
Campsite For an Old and Out-of-Shape Fellow
... a bicycle, a tiny tent, and a very old dining shelter

Fitness?  Where are you?

At this point I must mention a sad feature of passing the age of sixty.  Fitness goes A.W.O.L.  The belly sags over the belt, muscles turn to flab, and even minor exertions leave one short of breath.

My life is a sedentary one.  It doesn’t take a lot of muscle to prepare a sermon, visit a hospital bedside, chair a meeting, or do some studying.  Many days I come home exhausted, but it is a mental exhaustion, not physical.  In fact, on totally weary days I can’t sleep, because while my mind is telling me I am worn out, all day my body has moved only slightly, and my muscles are crying out for something to do!

Last winter I had an extraordinary visitor: another Anglican priest, a friend of my son’s, who was in Winnipeg on a conference.  He’s a former trucker, with a black belt in Karate, and can speak multiple languages including Cantonese.  He came to our apartment because my son, his friend, suggested he do so, and we ourselves became fast friends.  He is between the generations: much older than my son Chris, but much younger than me.

This age thing is important to mention because of what this man did for me during that visit: he said, “Your physical out-of-shape situation can be remedied.  You need a daily regimen of exercise.”  I was skeptical.  He still had his youthful optimism, and seemed blissfully unaware that the disabilities of aging are pretty inevitable.  However, I let him take me down to the gym room in our apartment block, and show me some exercises he thought would be suitable for old guys.  “Give your muscles a day or two of rest between sessions, and sure as guns you’ll sleep better, and you’ll get noticeably stronger and fitter.”

He was right, in a way.  I did sleep better.  Although my pot belly didn’t go away, but I also felt marginally stronger.

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