Sitting on top of the world

On the way to the little clearing in the Jemez where we would camp for the night, my ears popped. Snaking along gravel switchback roads, we climbed further and further towards our summit – 9,000 feet above sea level. My husband and I were in our VW, following our friends in their much more suitable off-road vehicle.

“It’s not much further” they told us on the walkie-talkie.

We’d passed phone signal range some miles back. Mine was already in airplane mode, and just the thought of not getting any news push notifications for the next 24 hours was thrilling. As we reached the top of the road and I saw the view for the first time, I felt my heart quicken as it seemed to press outwards and warm my chest. I needed this.

The last few months, needless to say, have been tough for us all. With social events cancelled and our usual support networks stripped away, it can be exhausting to find special and relaxing moments in the current pandemic-ridden world. In the ‘before times’, planning fun things gave me energy. Arranging holidays is a hobby and researching the best new places to get drinks or dinner is part of my love language. Naturally, I’ve felt adrift due to not being able to plan very much at all at the moment. I feel guilty when I mope about this, because I know that I have a lot to be grateful for. We’ve all had to learn new ways to find our joy.

As a person who suffers from pretty bad Seasonal Affective Disorder, I feel incredibly fortunate to be in a place where it’s sunny all day, every day right now. With the nights gradually getting cooler, I knew that the window to camp was closing, and I hoped that a socially distanced wild camping trip would be just the lift that I needed.

Our friends already knew the way to the spot, so there wasn’t much for me to plan apart from layered clothes, car snacks and the more efficient way to stack the cooler full of beer. I cracked open a can of aptly named Happy Camper IPA whilst setting up the tent. Thanks to some practice a few weeks ago in the Pecos, I made light work of it in about ten minutes. I joined the others to gather rocks and kindling to build a firepit. We got it lit right as the sun dipped out of the sky, as though resting on the edge of the world. Then, dinner cooked on a Colman grill, more beer and conversation, marshmallows and laughter all around when I burnt mine to a crisp. Open skies and enough frenetic energy to keep us all warm as the fire died down.

As we stamped out the last of the embers, I heard someone whisper ‘look up’. The galaxy twinkled overhead, as though the stars were flecks of wet paint, some of which had been smudged across a black canvas. I rolled out a picnic blanket and lay down on the ground to gaze at the glittering sky through the trees.