Sunday, April 26, 2009

I spent a weekend camping with the boy scouts -- and came down with a malicious head cold.

April's blackflies gave the forest a relentless flicker and my head was over-stuffed with an intrusive pulsing.  For reading, I'd brought Kosinski's Being There, a satire that plays on the charisma of Chauncy Gardiner as an archetypal wise fool.  Sexless, without ambition or self-regard, Gardiner perplexes and seduces the strivers in the story.  All in all, a strange book to read amid the clangor and striving and violence of camp with four men and 17 adolescent boys.  I envied the calm, cool, dewy emptiness of the fool's mind.

We hiked five miles in sudden mid-80's heat, which I guess kept the mucus from settling too much in one place.  Leafless trees gave only pale striation of shade and the boys were quickly out of water.  The Scoutmaster lets them make their mistakes and learn from them, but we helped them plot a shorter route back to camp.

The scouts cooked their dinner with a clamorous mix of hilarity, recrimination and greasefire.  I slouched off to sit on a rock and watch a pair of chickadees homesteading in a stump.  The bird would enter the old woodpecker cavity, vanish for a moment, then flit out to a nearby hemlock.  If you looked close you could see it drop a fleck of sawdust from its beak before it flicked back into the hole.