Tenting Tonight: A Writer Wednesday Post

June 6th, 2012 | Posted by Irene in Uncategorized

To hear the spoken version, click: TENTING TONIGHT


My Flapsdown Tent photo & all text c Irene O'Garden 2012

This time of year the house feels as confining as an elevator.  We don’t have a screened porch, so a few years back, I bought a screeny tent. Every year I pitch it at a short remove from the house. My husband prefers air-conditioning, so when he is out of town, as he was this week, I take the opportunity to sleep outdoors.

I make it as tempting as can be—a well-cushioned cot, a good pillow, a bit of sheet, a puff of sleeping bag for chilly nights.  I used to have to pack a flashlight and my book. Now I can read myself to sleep on my phone, which also has a flashlight app and another our modern marvels, the Star Walk app. Point the phone to the night sky and see the stars and constellations spelled above you. I don’t always use it, because it occasionally spooks me, these hovering big pictures. They must have been a comfort in the olden, wilden days, but it’s nice to have some unimaged places.

What is it about sleeping out as the days lengthen? It’s not that I sleep more soundly. Little animal noises wake me up. Traffic rumbles more distinctly.  Often once, twice, or three times a night, my dog Bee barks a blue streak, defending me from mysteries only she perceives.

But I can’t forgo the air on these spring nights. Feathery breezes, fresh and primal scents of accelerating growth, susurrus of insects.  To be another breathing body in the night, a part of Earth.

And somehow this body feeds on the subtle shifts in light—moon dropping over the trees, the moon in all her lumpy in-between shapes. Not just the elegant Ali-Baba crescent, or the pointy Magritte slice, or the full moon, face of longing and fulfillment, but the ordinary egg moon, the glop of batter moon, the melting in-between moon, the plumping crooked tuber moon. The moons we miss indoors.

Later still, pearling sky, break of birdsong, gilded treetops and the light-planked trunks of sunrise. The eye catches nodes along the bark, like valves on instruments, discerns the firming tissues of the leaves, music visible.

Sleep out because of all that is awakened sleeping so.


Do you ever sleep out?

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  • Gm

    I love that you sleep out! In California you don’t need a tent. Or so we thought, long ago, when I was young. Moon watching is the thing …

    • Thanks, Gm! Hope you get to enjoy your tent-less sky soon!

  • chris

    Glad you have Bee as your protector….comforting……………………………………..xoxo………chris

    • Thanks, mighty friend!

  • Lindao182821

    Good thing you don’t have a brother  there to tell you spooky stories!  Sleeping out in the summer was always fun – and I never got bitten by mosquitoes when I was a child – must have gotten sweeter as I aged.

    • You have always been sweet. The mosquitos have developed better taste!

  • SaxonHenry

    Wonderful post, Irene! Having just toured your garden last week, I’m imagining you sequestered in your outdoor nest as I’m writing this at evening’s onward march! I am wishing for you wonderful writerly dreams tonight!

    • You are adroit (adroyt!) at helping so many gardens grow! I mentioned a number of times at Book Expo in New York today!

  • Mj

    Thirty or so Philipstown families will be taking your lead, Irene, at the Sleep Over Under the Stars on Saturday night — the campout portion of the Hudson Highlands Land Trust’s Annual Family Festival.  For many, this will be there first experience of experiencing the pleasures of sleeping outdoors.  As you so beautifully described, the experience can be a magical rite of summertime.

    • This community sleep out is such a beautiful creation from the well-focused creators of the Hudson Highlands Land uurst. Feel free to post it on your website!

  • Mary Hallock

    One of my favorite memories is camping in Rhode Island with my Danny–age eight. Our little dome tent had a screened roof and we could see the moon, watch the trees blowing in the wind and hear the ocean. What a piece of heaven!

    • Cool–the idea of a screen roof is grand! Hope you still get out in the wild from time to time, Mary!

  • It’s so nice that you enjoy sleeping out in the garden. We love it too and we’re trying to encourage more people, especially youngsters, to get in touch with nature and sleep outside. http://www.gardensleepout.co.uk/ It sounds like your sleepout nights are wonderful –  a great balance of ‘roughing it’ without leaving all the technology behind 😉

    • IreneOGarden

      Dear Primrose–How exciting to hear of the National Garden Sleepout in the UK! Our local Land Trust offers a sleep out night, but exciting to think of your whole country getting involved. I’ll pass this along to inspire others! Thanks for getting in touch!

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