September 12, 2013


One misty morning we take out the truck and load it heavily with children, sleeping mats, duvets and backpacks. The day before I spent hours making groceries lists, organizing crates of veggies, fruits, biscuits, cereals to feed all of us for two days. Were going to the top of the cliff, miles away from the nearest town. I fill plastic cans with water from the tap, and paperbags with rice and pasta. I pick up two camping stoves, stakes and solid rope to dress the tarpaulin that we will serve us a shelter if i trains. The kids are getting restless. Many of them, being raised in the city, have never slept outside, let alone spent two whole days in nature. I sometimes forget how their childhood experiences are so very different than ours ; how they are more accustomed to indoor space than we are. I remember when I used to spend all day hidden in my secret spot in the garden, or further, in the forest, creating lonely stories and games. Maybe these childhood memories are the reason I always feel uncomfortable away from nature, even if big cities fascinate me. Summer is my redemption, I can finally go back to the mountains, and this time, I am not going alone.

We drive to the camping spot at sunset, following the twisted road along the cliff, and carry our equipement as the light calmly set the top of the pinetrees ablaze. We are sleeping in a large meadow of yellow grass, owned by a sheperd that lives nearby. We can hear the bleat of the sheeps in the distance. The meadow ends with a circle of high stones that opens the ground before the feet, like an opencast cave. I am quite stressed because we need to get the camp ready before nightfall, or else the kids wont be reassured enough. Aimy and Tom get angry while setting up the tarpaulin, while I organize the cooking spot, securing the camping stove with heavy stones. Finally everything falls into place, and the kids gather around us to eat dinner. My knife hurts my hand as I squeeze it hard, slicing through the whole wheat bread. We show the kids how to clean their bowl and spoon using an handful of grass and boxwood leaves. They are equally disgusted and amazed by the trick and try their best to remove every last bit of food, it is hilarious to watch.

We take away their flashlights as the dark comes. We sit in a circle and we tell them about the night, how we think falsely that we cant see anything at night, where our nightmares come from. They all share their fear of the night with us, and by the time we are finished talking, they are less afraid. It is entrancing to watch them outgrow their own fear. Like everyone else, I am always anxious being on my own at night, mostly because my imagination transforms the trees into animals and the night noises into strange voices ; but when I am surrounded by children, the anxiety leaves me ; I know I have to be the brave one. We make them walk along a rope, blindfolded, so they can feel the uneven ground under their feet and hear the sounds of the forest. Some are even bold enough to return to our camp alone, without any light guiding them. Soon they are all wrapped up in their duvets like caterpillars. I go fetch a sweater from my backpack because the night wind makes me shiver. On the plateau, the warmth can be intense during the day, but at night, the temperature can quickly drop below zero. While I am tidying the camp, listening to the troubled breath of sleeping children, I watch the moon rising above the cliff, huge and rosy, like a peach right for the picking. It lights up the plateau and suddenly we can see as clear as daylight. The moonlight offers its serenity and I am so grateful to feel its influence on my skin and in my belly. We spend a long time watching the stars above us before falling asleep.

The next morning I am woken up pretty early by the cold. My hair is covered in little beads of water. We eat breakfast in silence while the kids wake up one by one. Their bed hair exploding in little wisps and their sleepy eyes are so precious. The day is spent between chasing games, buidling imaginary castles between trees,  and walking under the ever hot sun, finding treasures like vulture feathers, quartz and beetles. At the end of the day, we share star tales with them, pointing our fingers at the night sky to show them Cassiopeia, the Big Dipper, and Orions belt. One kid leaning on my shoulder, one laying on my knees, my fingers are holding two little hands, I sing them to sleep once again. This moment seems to stretch indefinitely and I dont mind. I know that for a few days still, I am mama to them. I am the care giver, the fixer of little wounds, the chaser of tears. I know they are not mine to keep, but these few days with them give me a glimpse of the absolute bliss it will be to have my own children one day, and I love them for this gift. 

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