Finding The Tent


Musings / Thursday, April 9th, 2020

Nine years ago, I was backpacking in China. In the middle of the Taklamakan desert with two good friends. We had journeyed across the heart of Xinjiang Province for days together. It was summer, and although we had seen snow in the morning in Kashgar, just a few hours later, we were in the middle of swirling heat in the desert. 

Our plan was to drive into the Taklamakan desert and spend the night there, with a bottle of wine, conversations, and gaze into the star-rimmed sky. That was the plan. 

But life, as we have come to realize over the past few weeks, is not about planning. Sure, we can plan. Just don’t expect plans to work out all the time. 

A sand storm blew up as we tried to pitch our first tent. The wind howled, throwing dust into our eyes and every crevice it could find on our body. That first tent we pitched blew away in the gusty wind. And then it started to rain. How unlucky can we be, right? Rain in the desert. Somehow, we managed to pitch the second tent as night fell. The three of us lay close to each other, our bodies icky with sand and sweat, listening to the wind and the rain. The wine and the bread? Covered in sand. The star-rimmed sky? We couldn’t see two feet ahead of us. Conversations? We were too tired to even whisper. We couldn’t even fall asleep as wet sand drizzled in through the gaps.

In the morning, we saw that life was back to normal. The sun was out. Blazing away as it is supposed to in the desert. We sighed at the soggy end to our beloved picnic. Tired and itchy, we just wanted to head back to our guesthouse in the city. Enough of this stupid desert, I thought.

“We must find that tent,” one of my friends, Boy, said suddenly. The tent that blew off last evening. We didn’t care. We wanted a shower. But he wouldn’t be dissuaded. So, off we trudged. We didn’t know why he wanted to find that tent so badly, but friendship is greater than the sum of our absurdities. We walked up and down through sand dunes in search of that tent, our boots sinking in the sand. 

Sweat poured down my back. I was hungry and tired. The heat was scrambling my brain. “How are we going to find it even?” I asked Boy. But Boy had his own calculations of wind, directions, probability, and German stubbornness. We kept going. No sign of that damn tent. Finally, we told him that we needed to get back. We called our driver to pick us up. “No, no,” Boy muttered, looking deflated. The desert stretched out, seemingly to infinity. Tiny straggling bushes dotted the sand. “Sorry. We really need to go, Boy,” we told him, and turned back. 

He had to agree. But just five minutes later, we found it. That green tent. It was lying partially hidden by sand in one of the dunes. “We found it! We found it!” Boy yelled. We hugged each other, laughing.

tent in taklamakan

We got that tent back. We didn’t have wine. No stars. Sand in our eyes. But we got that tent.

I thought of that today. Our life right now is a mirror of that evening in the Taklamakan. We all made so many plans for this year, and we find our life being upended with no control over most of the things we value. We thought of wine and stars, and we are now stuck in sand and dust. But while that evening was not what we wanted, still there dawned a different morning. We found something we had lost. We found our tent. 

These days, as chaos swirls around us, we need to find our tent. Whatever it is that gives us patches of meaning in the hopelessness. We need to find what we lost – it may be hope if we lost faith; it may be courage if we lost bravery; it may be love if we lost compassion. We might feel like giving up and head back now. Back to wherever we find despair. 

But you know… there’s a tent out there. Find it. Pitch it. Shelter in. Snuggle in. 

Have I found mine? I don’t know. But I am making space for the stories. Maybe, that’s my tent.

17 Replies to “Finding The Tent”

  1. Love this post.

    The Grand Canyon is a National Park and is closed. I’m afraid where ever we went, going into town for supplies would be the kink in the plan. So, here we are staying at home, practicing social distancing, wearing masks when we go out and living vicariously through reading. Our tent is each other, staying connected with friends and family and reading.

    On a happy note. We live between 2 elementary schools, one in front of us and one behind us. They are now closed. It is heavenly to sit on our balcony and hear the birds not school bells and children screaming. Lovely and meditative.

    My wish is people will realize what is most important to them. My hope is they will find people and nature to be the most important factors in their lives.

    You are one of the important people in our lives.

  2. Speaking of tents. With national, state, and local parks closed, I had the idea of taking our tent into the Navajo Nation to camp out in the open during the plague. The idea being that the Navajo like to live in widely separated homes all over the reservation on traditional clan lands. Well, it turns out that the Navajo, for lots of reasons, are having a really bad time with Covid, making resupply trips to town dangerous.

    Recommendations for remote camping opportunities in the US are welcome. No sand dunes, please.

  3. eeee Akkaaaa—ooooo I like my nick name. Ya Zen boy is getting there. I am tired as well with his plans to kill me sooner. Cake pakka! I am also coming to roll on sand. as We both dont like to get wet in the water 😉

  4. “These days, as chaos swirls around us, we need to find our tent”
    We have got so used to rushing about like frenzied hens that it is difficult to just be. ;To live life minus all the frills and to enjoy that simplicity of living. That’s my tent and I am so happy that I found it.

    1. That’s lovely, Poodle. I am glad you find that. Haha. I love your description of us being “frenzied hens.” Makes me chuckle.

    1. Thank you, Restless. 🙂 I love your tent too. That tent is made of words and oh so many stars. I will peek in and say hi.

  5. Ohhhh I relived this storm and the desert and that joy all over again. So beautiful. Everyone has a green tent for sure. Yes I like my Panglossian view 🙂

  6. Aawww!!! Most sweetest, adventurous yet resilient post I read from your blog. Lovely one.
    Hugs and love to you from me and Spike!

    1. Thank you, Shee-tal-e-novu. How’s my Zen Boy doing? Tell him to stop scaring everyone. He has a date with me on a beach in Pondicherry as soon as this is over. So instead of running around to vets, he can run around on grass, thinking of that, ok? His human Mamma can come only if she promises to pamper us with cake.

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