It’s been ten years since anyone’s been here – by the looks of it. Several blades of grass tower a foot higher than the time-ravaged picnic table. What looks to be an attempt at building a fence is covered in lichen.
The picnic table and fence are hidden down a steep hill below a hiking trail. Flynn and I are travelling this trail when we stumble upon the abandoned campsite. At first, my instincts tell me to pass it by. The rusty, overturned trash cans are not too inviting. But, as there are few comfortable places to sit otherwise, and since Flynn isn’t a stay-on the-trail type, the campsite begins to look more welcoming.
Against all good judgement, I stuff Flynn in his carrier, swinging the straps over my left shoulder and slip, slide and crabwalk down the incline. Down we go, all the way down to the fire pit around which three fishermen might have gathered to celebrate the day’s catch. Through the trees, about 50 feet away, I catch glimpses of the lake where they likely spent the afternoon.
On paper, I’m thoroughly enjoying these surroundings. In reality, I’m anxious – for many reasons, one of which is the series of “why me” meows from Flynn.
As you can probably guess my personal beliefs on cat ownership differ from the average person. While I don’t condone putting your cat through unnecessary stress, the short-term anxiety does not necessarily outweigh the freedom Flynn experiences when his African lion instincts are awakened by the unobstructed sights and sounds of nature. It’s just a theory, but one that’s supported with evidence such as the decreasing frequency of “why me” meows as I remove him from his carrier, the curiosity in his ears as he prowls through the grass, and his heavy eyelids blinking up at me as he eventually drifts off to sleep.
For being so old, the picnic table is reasonably comfortable. It’s an ideal place to write and relax. The sky, which has been cloudy all day, begins to threaten rain, but I decide to wait it out, praying for it to pass. An hour later, the sun is beating down on me. I’m glad I committed to staying.
Commitment isn’t easy. When it comes to writing, one of the biggest competitors for my attention is my passion for the outdoors. I have to make a choice, and unfortunately, I can’t always have it all. I can creatively combine when possible (i.e., writing in a secluded cabin in the mountains or at an abandoned campsite), but no one yet has attempted “hiking and writing,” “biking and writing” or “bungee jumping and writing” – or at least no one who’s lived to tell about it. Therefore, a choice must be made. In the end, it doesn’t matter as long as what I’m doing is done for God.
Doing something for God means I do it with joy and not fear that there’s something better around the bend. The activity that I’m doing right now is worthwhile as long as I’m living in the moment and giving thanks to God. It’s a constant struggle for me to believe that my soul can be equally joyful no matter where I am or what I’m doing. If true joy is what I’m after, I’m not missing out as long as I’m focusing on God. The activity I’m doing at that moment is as good as it gets.
That mountain top I could be standing on is only as enjoyable as I make it, and I could just as easily be anxious and depressed on a mountain top as I could be happy and content on a busy New York subway.
I have to remind myself of that every time I sit down to write. This place isn’t bad, though. I avert my eyes from the lake in the distance tempting me to venture onward and breathe in the blessings of the abandoned campsite.