Guilt Grout


Morning at Murphy’s Point Provincial Park

“When did we ever lock our tent?” said my husband as we unrolled our sleeping bags on the sturdy pine bed.

True, I thought, but our tent didn’t have a door with a latch and the yurt we’d rented at Murphy’s Point Provincial Park did.

“Doors should be locked,” my city-girl brain reasoned, but I nodded.

We had returned alone to this campground after 14 years absence. The last time, our daughters were with us, then 6, 9 and 12 years old. That outing ended at dinner time in rain with a sputtering campfire and stone-cold, tinfoil wrapped potatoes.

The children huddled in their tent while I shoved more newspaper and kindling into the flameless fire pit, blowing hard to revive embers. I gave up and instead stormed around spewing verbal misery.

“Why on earth do we trek into the woods and make cooking a struggle? I don’t even LIKE potatoes.” Wisely, my husband did not reply. The children zipped the flap of their tent closed.

My vision of a happy family, like all those around us cooperatively building fires, chopping vegetables on picnic tables under tarps strategically strung tree to tree protecting them from the persistent drizzle, went up in fireless smoke. Why didn’t we think of bringing a tarp?

“We’re leaving. Now! I refuse to cook dinner in the rain.”

The children, quiet throughout my rampage, perked up when we pulled into the McDonald’s in nearby Perth. McDonald’s delivered what I couldn’t – a Happy Meal for all.

I gave myself a “D” in camping, a “D” in mothering and an “Unsatisfactory” in attitude with no chance of remediation.

Then the “A” I had earned for resolute refusal to ever camp again was erased when I learned Murphy’s Point rented cabins and yurts and provided gas barbecues for cooking. Maybe I could try once more? But would my husband be willing to risk a rampage? And was this yearning to camp merely the peachy glow of nostalgia? In the intervening years, I’d become an enthusiastic kayaker, a happy hiker, a born-again birdwatcher – but never a camper. I questioned why, suddenly, after 14 years I wanted to camp.


The happy hiker’s husband

All five of us are together again. One daughter returned home to finish her final year of studies after 12 months of out-of-town co-op work. Another boomeranged after wrapping up a master’s thesis in southern Ontario and is figuring out her next step in life. The third and youngest had enjoyed a year of being an only child. My husband and I had relished our new freedom to explore our lives and our 40 year marriage with minimal child-care responsibilities. But now, once again, we are five adults in a tiny townhouse.

People say “Oh, you must be happy to have everyone home.” Well. Yes, kind of. Um, not really.

(Now, dear reader re-read the above lines. Do you see the grout of parenting guilt between the words?)

I craved solitude. I ached for space. I didn’t know I would experience camping redemption.


My husband and I stood together on the yurt’s wood deck. Wind grazed through the pines and rattled dry autumn leaves. A loon ululated.


A tradition: Cheese O’Clock

Memories blew in with the first whiff of wood smoke. I remembered the whine of children and mosquitoes. I remembered feeling helpless when a marshmallow on a stick blackened and turned into a tikki-torch and the child holding the stick howled in frustration, eating it anyway and burning her tongue. I remembered the horror of the child princess who hates the smell of pee and who cried in agony when she realized the outhouse was the ONLY option.

When the rain came the next day – Murphy’s Law at Murphy’s Point – my husband said “Let’s not bother with a fire. We can enjoy everyone else’s.” I swooned.


Rainy Murphy’s Point

We sipped wine inside the yurt, breathing second-hand campfire smoke, and listened to families around us making supper. Pots rattled. Dogs barked. An axe thunked and split wood. A mother scolded. “Stop fighting. There’s plenty of Kraft Dinner for everyone.”

Dry inside, we ate our barbecued steak and crunched our salad. Later, when the rain stopped and the sky cleared, we walked to the outhouse in the dark, finding our way by smell. We stopped in a clearing and gaped at the stars and, for a moment, I wished our daughters’ were with us.


Fired up writer in yurt


38 thoughts on “Guilt Grout

  1. Oh wow. That was so good. I was right there with you, wasn’t I? Wasn’t I smothering in the needs of others? Wasn’t I seeking to make idyllic instead of being present? Wasn’t I living with four other people in a tiny bungalow? Camping requires all participants enjoy it, which is why we seldom go now. #3 is 100% City Princess despite her raisin. But The Boy, he’s got his own apartment again. With fire.
    Excellent post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Congratulations on The Boy getting his own apartment again, Joey. A little more breathing space for one and all and advancing the mental health of the mom.


  2. We tried camping in a tent twice and it didn’t agree with us – much as my love of nature means I should be comfortable camping, I think I was too old when I started. ‘Camping’ in a wood cabin with a proper kitchen and bathroom is definitely my kind of camping now!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Camping is a LOT of work and advance preparation, both mental and physical. You have to go into the experience knowing it will be a little hard, a little uncomfortable and make peace with that or the whole thing is a pain. Everyone in the camping party has to get this, as Joey said, or the whole thing can become an exercise in misery. Renting a fully equipped cottage/cabin is definitely the way to get your overnight nature fix.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I give you an A with bonus points for even attempting camping in the first place. I’m a clear F for failing to even try. I have to admit though that the yurt experience has possibilities … although the outhouse still causes reservations 😉

    Great last photo. I can practically hear the conversation you are having with your muse 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Most campgrounds now have “comfort stations” which include showers, proper toilets, and hot/cold running water. Ours was a bit of a hike from the yurt but do-able – just not in the middle of the night when nature called.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is so lovely, Susanne! I’m reminded yet again of the beauty of meeting *yourself* where you are – learning your own quirks and preferences well enough to set yourself up for a positive experience. Always great to turn old disasters into the guidebook towards building a happy memory. Sounds like your husband really “gets” you!

    I’ve been having a similar call towards camping lately. We’ll see if I get around to it this fall or if it has to wait until next year…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Loved reading this as it brought back memories. Not all good either. 😉 I joke that my idea of camping now is a Holiday Inn that has no room service. I enjoyed camping in a motor home (caravan)) for a while with the children but even that lost it’s allure as I aged. I’m with you on the need for solitude. When people say I must enjoy having the kids back I always agree. It is nice to have them together but I count the hours until I’m alone again. You sum it up so nicely here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m pleased to read my mother’s guilt clicked with you Marlene. I’m coming to understand that, to use the old Bible quote, “To everything there is a season…” and camping is definitely a phase of life/seasonal activity.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hoo boy! The pressure! Maybe someday, Shubha. Or maybe I’ll just keep writing here.

      As I get older, I’m more reluctant to give up on creature comforts like a comfortable bed, electricity, running water and flush toilets. The yurt provided most of these with the added benefit of being in the woods and hearing only natural sounds. It was a true respite from big city bustle, constant traffic noise and sirens. We came home thoroughly refreshed without one single bug bite.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This made me smile. We once took 8 kids, a slew of tents and an elaborate cooking set up camping. I hated it – the rain, the bugs, the dirt – and when the zipper got stuck locking me in my tent, I said “enough is enough”. Have never been tenting again, but my husband did eventually talk me into a motor home and now we ‘glamp’.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. So many relatable things here: family vacations, camping, guilt grout (maybe this explains the trend toward black grout–it hides the dirt) and, as always a perfect blend of funny and insightful, with the faintest essence of snark. I voted for the yurt as soon as I saw the reading lamp. I love this, Susanne!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Melissa. Unlike after a weekend camping in a tent and cooking over a fire, we came home Sunday feeling relaxed and refreshed.

      Black grout? Brilliant idea.


    • When you’re inside a tent – or a yurt – you think you’re in a bubble and then when people start chattering outside you realize you’ve got the perfect eavesdropping opportunity – both natural sounds and human voices – a writer’s golden opportunity to listen and take notes!


    • I, of course, love my daughters and enjoy their adult company but lordy, our house is small with five grown-ups crowding each other. The respite was so relaxing.


  8. Camping has never been my thing, either, but solitude is definitely my thing so, if I had to face 5 people in a townhouse, I think I’d be making a dash for a yurt in the woods! It all sounds quite lovely.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am definitely a convert to this kind of camping, Pauline. It was a nippy 6 degrees celcius when we woke up Sunday morning and that fire popping on with the flick of a switch was a godsend. Most of the birds have flown south but there were lots of Canada Geese honking on the lake, Blue Jays aplenty, and the haunting call of the loon. It was quite relaxing, unlike earlier experiences which left me exhausted.

      Liked by 1 person

    • The yurt was fun although it was definitely a modern version of the traditional Mongolian variety. No hide covering or fur walls. In fact the walls seemed to be insulated with bubble wrap.


Comments are closed.