The canvas tent sat in a grove of cedar trees where I spent my summers. The tent had been my Grandfathers that he had obtained during the Great War. However, he hadn’t fought in the war because loggers were asked to remain and harvest trees that would build air planes. So the tent must have belonged previously to one of his brothers who had been enlisted. It hovered above a platform of two by fours that my father had laid out and this served as the tent floor. Besides our old Ford pick up truck, the tent was the only solid structure for miles.
The grove of trees sat on the edge of a meadow and a forested slope. In the meadow at the top of the hill Dad spent his hours laying out stakes and string, preparing the landscape to become our home. Next to the strings and steaks stood grandly a big leaf maple that my sister and I would stand beneath with our hands stretched out trying to catch the spinning seeds before they reached the ground.
Behind the tent, the path wandered down the hill through sword ferns, trillium, and old burnt out trees from earlier logging days. These easily became forts that my sister and I would climb into as we played several games appropriate to being played in trees, sometimes five of our friends would comfortably join us. At the bottom of the hill the path crossed an old logging road covered with fire weed that bloomed pink above our heads and then wandered past a large slash pile where it ended at a beaver dam. I liked to sneak up to the dam quickly to startle the ducks that swam amid the leafless evergreens protruding from the otherwise lake. I loved watching the raft of ducks lift itself from this swamp, water dripping from their blurred wings.
In front of the tent hung the hammock my mother had macro made from some grey rope and steel pipe. We’d swing on it convincing it to flip over; the goal was to flip 360 degrees and remain in the hammock and on occasion, we succeeded.
One of my favorite activities was to lie at the opening of the tent and watch the forest through the full moon light as my family slept. Deer mice, ignorant of my alert state would scurry from beneath the platform across the path toward our temporary kitchen, but they would never find much to eat, as my mother kept all of our food in metal containers.
One summer evening a lightning storm erupted above our heads. We headed for the tent where we sat peering out into the darkness and listening to the echoes of thunder bounce off the Cascade Mountains and then, as if needing to assert its intensity, we’d hear a booming echo off the Olympic Mountains. I sat as close to the edge of the platform as my parents would let me and absorbed the light show with exuberance. My parents assured each other that the shorter trees of our little grove was a safer place to be then among the taller trees a little way off.
Suddenly light flew out from beneath the platform and the entire meadow lit up in a fireball along with a great cracking boom. I was thrilled, however the wide eyed expression on my fathers face frightened me a little and my mother calmly asked me to move more toward the center of the tent.
The next morning we began to clean up the maple tree that lay across our meadow between our grove and our future home. It laid their blackened and crisp and very little of it was in shape to become firewood. My dad took note to install a lightning rod.
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