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Rain and tents - nhpeacenik
Rain and tents
Friends in England are getting excited about the start of the festival season, especially the Sunrise Celebration  which is being held on an organic farm in Somerset this year. Last year the festival was rained-and-mudded-out and had to be combined with another festival a month later. One of my MySpace friends commented on the upcoming "in-tents" experience and hoped for a sunny week. I find it encouraging that all the festivals in Britain seem to be competing to be the greenest festival ever!

A couple of nights ago I went to sleep with the images of rain and tents dancing in my head, and found myself dreaming realistically and in detail about a rainy night in Alaska that I spent in a world-war-II-vintage "mountain tent". My family had several of these tents that we used on summer archaeological expeditions. They were made of a flexible rubberized canvas, a foreshadowing of the plastic tarps we use today, white on the inside and olive-drab on the outside, with amazing little elephant's-trunk portholes at each end and a snap-closed two-piece mosquito-net door at one end. The floor was also meant to be waterproof, made out of the same substance as the roof, but thicker. The portholes were like little eyestalks; you could put your hand inside them and move them from side to side to look at anything outside the tent that sounded interesting. Walking past one of these tents, you could always tell if the people inside were awake by watching to see if the eye-stalk followed you.

As these tents got old, the rubber coating of the roof cracked in little hairline cracks, exposing the delicate canvas underneath. When it rained, these cracks let water simply pour through. We had cans of clear spray-paint with which we treated the tent surface every week or so to restore some degree of waterproofness, but the paint usually cracked in the same places as the rubber had cracked, and on the night of which I speak, hundred of tiny rivulets of water poured into the tent over my sleeping body. The water tended to roll down the inner surface of the tent rather than falling as drops onto my sleeping bag. The floor, being waterproof and thick, didn';t let the water pass back out of the tent, so that by midnight, there was six inches of water in the tent, forming the source of a lazy rivulet  running out the door. I was asleep on top of a rubber air mattress, sleeping quite peacefully until the rain ended and the sun came out at about 4:00 a.m., when I awoke to the gentle rocking of my little boat on the inland sea of my tent. I had to move gingerly to open the mosquito-net door and step out, haul the little boat to "dry-dock" outside the door and upend the tent to drain it.

It was a relief to join the Inuit family in the white canvas cook tent where they had slept the night without incident on sealskins on cardboard "floors". The cookstove was warm, and there was hot cocoa. The white canvas tent, a model which had been used since the days of the '49ers in California, was not waterproofed, but when the thick canvas roof became saturated by rainwater, as long as nobody touched it with a finger, it repelled rain a good deal better than my little mountain tent did.

The dream also got me reflecting on the fact that in the 1950's there was little or no plastic. It's been such a short ime that this petroleum-based product has been "essential". Is it really so essential?There are probably very few places where plastic is actually superior to other substances, and maybe we should remember how we used to do things and evaluate our use of plastic in terms of ecological soundness, functionality, and actual labor saved.

Current Music: Tent by Jeff and Benares from the album "Broken Things"

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From: sonoran_scrawl Date: May 23rd, 2009 09:05 am (UTC) (Link)
great post. i love festivals like that and tents. i miss that and i want to go to alaska. i went to a greens festival in britain. it was great, all sorts of festivals. i miss camping. sometime maybe i will post about the time i got caught in the highest elevation ever recorded for a tornado, backpacking and camping in the tetons, quite an experience. many don't believe me about my experiences, the good ones and the bad ones, it's just been that way with me. i see a lot of animals in the wild too. i have some good luck too sometimes. i dream about camping a lot and mountains and nature. i get a little of it in my backyard. but i have to dream to go out there cause i can't really get out there yet. i think i will tho eventually. maybe i needed to learn this dream stuff somehow, with love, nancy
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