There I was, sitting next to a blazing campfire. I felt a slight chill as the July sun fell from the sky. It left behind splashes and streaks of crimson and ginger to welcome the midsummer moon as it ascended into the heavens. A marshmallow turned black and crispy on the crooked stick I held above the flames. I sat there and relished the smell of the burning timber and the syrupy scent of pinecones while the sound of the river murmured in the distance. I sat in the company of old friends as we smiled and laughed and spoke of days gone by. There was a delightful sense of peace and tranquility that surrounded my heart and enveloped my soul.
And then the sudden crash of thunder forced me from my dream and dropped me back into reality. I opened my eyes and found myself looking past my feet to the babbling reality show which filled the television screen in front of me. I realized all too soon that I was once again sitting in my living room, imprisoned in my old brown recliner, empty and alone I forced my eyes closed, trying frantically to recapture the simple freedom of my dream. I could not.
To go camping when you are three times the size of the average human being is a calamity of misfortune just waiting to happen. Climbing up the rickety little steps and squeezing through the hobbit size door of a camper, is only the beginning. Cramming yourself into the closet-size bathroom and trying to shower when your massive body fills the tiny stall is a whole new chapter of this dismal story. Sitting around the campfire in one of the standard little white plastic chairs will turn into a fiasco when it collapses from the sudden impact of 400 pounds squeezing into it. The walking, the swimming, even climbing into the rowboat sitting at the dock is a comical catastrophe in the making. You realize that camping will just be one to many “UH-OH” moments strung together. You sigh as you heave yourself out of the chair and lumber off to bed, realizing that the only fire you will enjoy tonight is the little pine scented candle on the nightstand.
This was my story just a few short years ago. Camping was a simple pleasure that I had never experienced. Last summer I celebrated my 54th birthday, by heading up north to a campsite in the woods. I enjoyed the contentment of a raging fire, surrounded by friends, old and new. I even roasted three of four marshmallows in quiet celebration of my new life…my new beginning. In shedding almost 250 pounds over the years, I am sure that I inadvertently added precious days to my life. I shall not waste them. I will spend them doing things that once filled me with anxiety while visiting places that I have only dreamed about. 55 once seemed ancient…..but today, right here and now, I realize that my life is only just getting started.