• Roberta Rathert

Sleep Outside.


It's 1:30 a.m. and I was having a deep and peaceful sleep in my tent a few feet from the river edge. One of my favorite parts of paddling the river is the outdoor sleeping. I have three items of camp equipment I hope I'll never do without.


The foundation that makes the other two pieces more worthy is Big Agnes, an insulated three-inch thick orange sleep pad that reduces to the size of a pop can when packed away. I bought it used but didn’t appear opened before.


The next best thing is an Enlightenment Revolution sleep quilt of the lightest down. Sewn in is a big down foot pocket and a hood with drawstring that lays flat unless a cold night. Its eggplant color helped me want it from the dent-and-bent section of a Winona-based sleep equipment company. It weighs twelve ounces but keeps me warm below fifties and cool even when too humid for covers. Big Agnes and the eggplant quilt are plenty just the two of them. But I added a 9x12 Wise Owl pillow, too bulky to be practical for kayak travel and when stuffed away may be larger than Agnes and the quilt together. But the three are welcome after any day, paddling or not.


Tonight I was in deep comfort, feeling grateful while I slept in this almost wake-filled dream of the rare planetary alignment I'd read about the day before. Visible to long distance paddlers through the weekend, it said, made it extra interesting. During this last week of June were Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter & Saturn all in the morning sky. The same alignment will not happen again until I'll be too old to sleep on Big Agnes, in 2040, when I'll be 86 years old. Who knows what I might be doing? It would be funny if I was 86 and reading this blog about not seeing the planets lined up because I'd be too old to sleep outside on my pad. But I was out there old and crickety anyway.


So while I'm thinking about this in my sleep, something started hitting me on the head, not too hard but like an angry cat's tail. I wondered what it could be silently tapping until I awoke. Then I knew. The wind, near 20 mph wind, causing my tent to tremble rhythmically like a tail thumping me out of sleep. Could it be the planets aligning that caused this wind to rattle? My thoughts switch to the strength of my tent. This cheap little Night Cat is a fave but awkwardly designed too tall for a pod shelter. I got it half-priced when the full-price was already a cheap tent. Tonight, it caught the wind while I slept until I thought we'd go sailing into the air, up over the river where the water surface was full of rollers and white caps even though it is too dark to see. I wondered some more, should I leave the tent before it elevates? But staying weighs it down for me to turn in my quilt and return to sleep.


In the end, I missed the planetary alignment because I was so comfortable. Suddenly I feel concerned I won't be able to kayak tomorrow in high winds. This will mess up my five-day plan on the river and I felt the onset of rumination. Will I be too old to sleep outside in 2040? Am I going to levitate in my cheap tent under my quilt and soar over the river in the darkness lit only by a rare planetary alignment? Should I have bought this clunky pillow? And what about tomorrow, can I even paddle down a river?


Now it's 2:21 a.m. The winds are letting up. Is it enough to experience what it might be like to stay just in the moment, for the first time ever, and go back to sleep. There is a big Spirit in me and all around, one I can leave things to while I rest. I hear bull frogs are moaning and a train in the distance.




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