Weeds in the Garden
April 16, 2019 – Penrose Point State Park, Gig Harbor, WA
Ranger Rick caught up with us. We thought we could extend our stay beyond the 10-day high season maximum by registering under a different name, but he was wise to our antics—gave us two more days at Dash Point, then we’d have to leave for 3. We found a beautiful site to the southwest called Penrose Point. The campground is less than half open and there are no showers, but the majestic trees and relative isolation, combined with (limited) phone service make it an ideal alternative to Dash Point.
Our neighbors across the way look like they’re in it for the long haul. Their beat-up car, contrasted with their upscale tent setup, suggest to me they’re homeless. The campsite includes two tents, a bunch of tarps, and a portable shower/outhouse. An inverter converts power from their car battery to AC, so they can run small appliances and the lights they keep on at night while sitting round the campfire. More than just lamps, they are spotlights, illuminating an ever-changing tableau of mother, father, and two kids, invoking a Christmas nativity scene. “Maybe they’re filming a reality show,” I suggested to Brent last night, only half-joking. These days you never know.
When I told our neighbor we were going to Arizona, his eyes lit up. “You know, you can get a free trip there from the State of Washington. They’re happy to send homeless folks back where they belong—give ‘em a free bus ticket or train ticket.” I remember friends in Hawaii complaining that much of America’s homeless population had been given free one-way tickets to Oahu by states anxious to get rid of them. They didn’t mention that these folks had ties to Hawaii—now it made more sense.
The raccoons here at Penrose Point are the size of lynxes and aggressive as hell. They emerge after dark, their eyes twinkling like miniature stars as they catch the beam of our flashlight. Loki keeps them at bay, standing at the base of whatever tree they’ve chosen, pacing nervously, wishing he had bear claws. The other night, Brent climbed partway up a tree, engaging with the raccoon, daring it to come down. For a while it looked like he would comply, inching closer and closer to Brent’s head, but at the last minute he took a detour, clinging to a low out-of-the-way branch, then dropping to the ground.
The nearby beaches provide us with an unending source of food –most notably fresh clams and oysters. Yesterday we collected a couple dozen and I steamed them up, then fried them in butter and garlic. As I proudly served them up to Brent, I could tell by the pained look on his face that “These are amazing” just wasn’t going to happen. “I don’t mean to be negative, but they’re kind of gritty”, he said tentatively. I popped a couple in my mouth and they tasted wonderful, but he was right. The copious amount of sand clinging to the clams was hard to deny. Brent quit after 3 or 4, but I proceeded to down the rest, ignoring the grit.
We’re alone in the campground now. The family across the way disappeared a few nights ago, following a loud argument with their teenage son. They took off in the car, a rickety convertible with roof half-eaten away by Washington drizzle, the rest coated with slimy moss. We heard movement that first night they left and we saw lights. Apparently, the son had stayed, but by the following night, everyone was gone. This morning, a different car pulled up and a man emerged, grabbed a few things then vanished, leaving me to wonder what was going on.
Camp life is starting to wear on both of us. It’s not just the day-to-day hardships—I’m used to heating up water to wash dishes, cooking over a camp stove, going to the laundromat. I love living under the trees, especially now that the warmer weather allows us to spend time outdoors. It’s not the day-to-day routines, but the uncertainty of everything that gets to us. Our end goal has always been Arizona, but obstacles pop up like weeds in a garden. Tomorrow we move back to Dash Point. There’s a lot of work involved in moving and Brent doesn’t do anything half-way—he’s constantly proving that not only can he do it, but he can do it better than anyone else. Each time we move, his shoulder suffers.
Last night his doctor called with the results of the MRI—a significant tear in the rotator cuff requiring surgery. So now we’re faced with decisions. Assuming the hearing goes as expected this Friday, we’ll be free to leave. But is that the best thing to do? Wouldn’t it make more sense to get the surgery done here, then go to Arizona where Brent will be free to work, free to do his carpentry? But if we stay in Washington, it’ll mean more tent living and, since it’s high season now, we’ll have to move every 10 days. I’ve heard the recuperation from this type of surgery is slow and painful. How can he heal his shoulder camped out in a tent? Alternatively, we could go to Arizona and get the surgery done there when we’re more settled.
As I sit here writing, I’m watching Brent building storage compartments under the canopy of the Ford Ranger. In the few months I’ve known him, I’ve never seen him more content. He’s obsessed with this project, something that will make our life easier, allow us to sleep more comfortably. He’s told me more than once, “I think we met for a purpose” and I think he’s right. For Brent it’s a chance to pull together the fragments of his life, carve a new path. For me, it’s a chance to heal old wounds.