I donít know how many more nights this tent will hold up. Lying here in the dark, I see stars peeking through the rips in the canvas, too tattered now to repair like I have in the past. Iíve gotten my moneyís worth out of this old thing; have camped in it more days than I can count. Pleasurable days and starlit nights of pure camping fun, and miserable times Iíve spent caught in storms just praying the lightening wouldnít choose my tent pole as a target.
Iíve lugged this tent up mountains and down into valleys. Have slogged along muddy paths in the rain and trembled beneath the weight of it on hot, dry days in the desert. No matter how difficult the day, itís always been a shelter at night, a place to lie down and sleep.
Solitude is niceóthe walking and camping aloneóbut mostly Iíve camped with others. Family and friends. Iíve found camping with strangers to be one of the most interesting experiences. After all, thereís something about gathering around a campfire, everyone staring into the same orange glow and feeling itís warmth that makes people not strangers anymore. Once youíve shared a meal roasted over that flame youíre more like family.
The past few nights have been calm, so Iíve done alright. But tonight, I hear a rumble. The air seems pregnant with storm. I scrunch over to the less holey side and hope for the best.
No one has tents like this one anymore. This is the real dealóthe kind old boy scouts remember fondly. The kind that leaks like crazy if you touch the sides when theyíre wet. The other campersóowners of shiny campers and pop-upsólooked at my tent with pity today. One gentleman came over with a roll of duct tape. A woman offered me her sewing kit. I could see in their eyes though, that they knew as I well as I that this tent is done for. Itís just too old (not I-could-get-a-lot-of-money-for-it-on-ebay old, but time-to-burn-it-in-the-campfire-along-with-the-logs-and-paper-plates old.)
Itís a good tent, though, and the only one I have.
The mosquitoes thatíve been darting freely in and out have suddenly disappeared. The campground is eerily quiet. Itís hot, yet I shiver in my sleeping bag.
CRACK! The lightningís flash and the resounding boom are simultaneous and when I open my eyes, I canít believe Iím still alive. The rain comes on all at once, not warming up with a drizzle and working its way up, but pouring heavily like the water I pour from a bucket on the smoldering coals before bed.
Water streams in through the holes, just like it must have into the Titanic as it sank. The wind shakes the tent, lifting it clear off the ground on one side. Fastened down by only a few tent pegs, the few I havenít lost or broken, it canít hold its ground. I spread myself into an X to try and weigh it down, but the wind is too strong. The sound of ripping fabric cuts through the storm as the biggest hole expands, leaving a gaping door through which the storm gladly enters.
I feel as if Iím caught up in a tornado. The poles flail about. My shelter is no longer a refuge. Leaving my sleeping bag, compass and clothes, I struggle through the sagging and shuddering tent, blinded by the darkness. Groping I find the hole on the tentís side.
And then I am out. Naked and utterly exposed to the storm. Homeless.
I see a glow, hear the crackle of burning wood, and see rising smoke.
In the rain.
Forgetting my tent and my nudity, I move towards this oddity until I can see clearly. A man sitting by the fire, motions me closer.
Tears, as well as rain, streak my face. ďMy tent is gone.Ē
He reaches out and pulls me closer. It isnít raining here. All around, but not here. There is a cloth in His hand and He uses it to wipe my face clean of water and tears. I look down and notice that I am not sweaty or wet or naked. Iím wearing a white robe.
ďI made your tent,Ē He says. ďIt wasnít meant to last forever. Just until now.Ē
I nod, not missing my tent at all, just happy to be here with this man.
ďIíve made you a new place,Ē He says. ďWould you like to see?Ē
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