Just before school started I took my daughter on an end of summer camping trip. Whenever we go camping I use that time to learn a basically useless skill like how to tie a monkey fist knot or if a pizza can be cooked on a camp fire (it can). One of the silly things I do when we go camping is to bring too many books. The one I am reading (this time it was A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel – recommend it) and some back-ups. Really I’m not sure what I’m thinking bringing 5 books on a three day trip. Well this trip got sillier.
On the first morning we woke to a light rain that pretty much killed the plan to hang out by the lake so we went into the local town to see what we could see and maybe find something that would not make my daughter whine about being board. In the years we have been going to this area to camp I have never spent any time exploring the town. But I knew very small towns have little to entertain a high maintenance seven year old except for shopping.
Walking out of the local grocery store with candy for her and a six pack for me I noticed across the street a small Catholic book store.
“Hey Bubbles let’s check that place out.”
“Do they have candy?”
Although this shop looked like every other small Catholic book store it had two things that set it apart from my experiences. The first was that it had a “kid’s corner” containing coloring books and lollypops. ‘Keep the kids quite so the old folks can look around in peace’ is a great marketing tactic. The other thing was that they had an extensive collection of Chesterton and Belloc books.
I bought Chesterton’s Heretics, Belloc’s The Crusades and The Path to Rome. I was grabbing more but my wallet stopped me.
When we finally left the shop the sun had broken through so we headed for the lake.
I cracked open Belloc’s The Path to Rome. Turned out to be a good choice for a camping trip sense he is has many camping like adventures on his Pilgrimage. Some have said that it is his best work, and it does contain some truly wonderful prose. I don’t know if it is his best but I do know this it has the best prologue I have ever read titled PRAISE OF THIS BOOK. The book also gives us a great example of Belloc’s sense of humor and wit – something he is neither know for or praised (just try to find a picture of him smiling) but he has a light sense of humor that floats upon a smile and a sharp wit that points out man’s foolishness without offence.
The last paragraph in his prologue sums up a great world view:
“Then let us love one another and laugh. Time passes and we shall soon laugh no longer-and meanwhile common living is a burden, and earnest men are at siege upon us all around. Let us suffer absurdities, for that is only to suffer one another.”
This book lifted my camping spirit. When I first started taking my children to this site there were only a few RVs and campers. This last trip my daughter and I were in the only tent. I always harbored a dislike for those land yacht camping people - you see I am a camping purist for goodness sake. But Belloc showed me what was going on here and it was not an avoidance of sleeping on the ground.
Through his pilgrimage he goes form wilderness to town to wilderness. He shows a respect for the wilderness and a love for the town. Unlike his contemporaries and most youth of any age he sings the praises of the middle-class. He states that when you come across a row of white houses you have come across civilization. After reading that passage I looked up at all those white RVs and knew that these people were out to build a small town, a civilization, that was not available in their own towns. They were friendly with their neighbors here, shared food, games and their beer. They wanted the town they grew up in without the fear and anxiety of their “gated communities”.
They were now beautiful to me in the action they took to salve their longings.