Retiring of the Tent May 11, 2019

Retiring of the Tent

May 11, 2019

Amy Lynn Reifsnyder


Part of my income is derived by editing academic essays for students in colleges and universities throughout the United States. One assignment for students in Developmental English classes was to write about an object – identify the object and explain what it represents, and why. I am going to write about a tent.

This tent is a three-person (or one person, two dogs) tent made by Academy Broadway. The walls are hunter green; the mesh used to be white. The rainfly is the color of lichen, trimmed in red. I have already cut off the toggles used to keep the screen flaps open. I’ve already removed the rings which (theoretically) fastened the fly to the sides of the tent. After I find my scissors, I will remove the pouch that held my keys, my glasses, my inhaler, the pepper spray.

I considered setting it up for the dogs to use as shade, but the cross piece snapped through the sleeve. Yes, I could duct tape the sleeve together, but there is duct tape elsewhere. Sometime along the way – probably in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts – a hole developed in the floor of the tent…hence, more duct tape. Add to this the broken zipper of the front door (thank you, hasty dogs), and the reality that Scotch Guard only keeps out some water – not necessarily the River of Life that seeps through the walls in a rainstorm – it is time to retire the tent.

I feel a need for Ceremony. This object, this tent, has sheltered me and my dogs mile after mile after mile. Morgen and Duncan at Savoy, Pachaug, Hopeville Pond ; Maeda and Nala across the United States from Connecticut to Arizona and back again. I bought a larger one for Maeda, Freckles, Hannah and Molly. But Maeda and Hannah are no longer here; neither is their tent. (Mae was incontinent for her last few years. You understand it was easier to send that one away.)

Freckles, Molly, and I have recently been camping in New Mexico. In New Mexico we slept more often in the car than in the tent. Wind and storm require sturdier stuff than my ancient green tent has left. The hail was something else altogether.

A friend kept admonishing me to just go and get another one.

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

I will, I told him, knowing this would be logical. Nevertheless, I’m not ready to retire this tent. It’s nurturing capacity has supported me through a divorce, multiple deaths, ignorant accusations, ridicule, and other basic forms of stupidity.

It has kept mosquitoes at bay, provided privacy, and let in the stars on moonless nights.

This tent held Mr. Morgen – the other half of my soul. Duncan lay beside me on nights of darkness. Maeda preferred the open sky, but would sometimes come and keep me warm after midnight. Nala got over her claustrophobia. Freckles and Molly dragged me through the broken flap one starlit morning when some grumbly animal was too close.

This tent shares a hundred stories, thousands of miles, the love of my canine family, the beauty of all creation – worn, torn, and faded though it may be, it is not ‘just a tent’. And, yes, I did buy a new one. But what to do with this old one?

I have it laid out on the ground, drying from yesterday’s downpour. Freckles apparently, has her own ideas. She’s stretched out on the collapsed fabric, soaking up the morning sun.

This makes me happy.

I can’t possibly get rid of the tent now.

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