Fourth post, some more prelude and pre-history to this Fall’s road trip across the US.
Virtuality, the cloud and email be damned. I want to write on a tablecloth.
If road trips, camping and friends around a campfire are rebelliously old-school, then the record of these things ought to be similarly analogue; not dependent for upload where you can get WiFi and a caramel macchiato, but scrawled like a child with a new box of colors.
How about on the tablecloth? Right on the tablecloth with a Sharpie. No, junior, not the one at home, but on a tablecloth for camping trips. Take the same cloth each time you go, and be sure to pack the pens. Invite people to your site and have them sign, too. As the years pass, and some colors bleed or fade a little, the cloth becomes its own tableau, presenting the movement of time, of successive places and years, yet on a thing that is motionless, like an open graphic diary.
Since the first cloth-post in 1996 we have sharpied our presence in scores of geographies, asked friends and family to sign, outlined the paw prints of overnight tabletop visitors, drawn pictures of trees, bridges, ridges and even our mosquito zappers. And the places are always mentioned, and the dates of each.
It’s our own low-tech time machine and teleportation device. The cloth was there, then — see the signature? — but it’s here, now, receiving the marks of the present time. We have moved something of another place to here, and another time to now.
We recall people now gone (My Uncle Dick wrote “Big Daddy Was Here,” Shasta in 1998, and he further wrote large, with a flourish of family pride “Stevens Uber Alle”). Hikes (Mammoth, 2001, “our feet are tired but we love it!”), bike rides (over the Golden Gate, 2011). We note eucalyptus at Chabot, Redwoods at Portola, and rain forests at Hoh.
It signifies one more thing. There’s just something about a table, a symbol of fellowship, in Scripture a sacrament of acceptance, unity and eternity. The gnarly and dusty plank-boards of a mean and lowly campsite table, painted russet in a rush by a junior ranger last summer, comes under the shroud of our history, holding flat the story of how we got here. For this moment and this place it is our living room and our link to our past and future.