The Art of Asking Questions

So fellow travelers, last week, while reserving a campsite for a trip with a good friend and her family, I came across a rare find at a favorite spot.


“Ah a day or two of beachfront camping is just what I need to help me kick off the summer,” I thought. The past school year has left me strangely off balance. Falling asleep to the sound of waves and waking to the view of Lake Ontario would be the perfect mechanism to hit my reset button.

There was a catch; the site was available as a “walk-in” only, meaning I had to arrive with my camper and book the site in person.  Now, bear in mind:

~the campgrounds are fifty miles north and my camper shudders like a dying mastodon if pushed over fifty MPH.  It would take about an hour and a half to get there even if I left immediately which I could not because

~I had not yet stocked the camper with my gear or supplies for the season. Our winters are long and the camper spends the off season in our backyard, so anything susceptible to cold or dampness like linens, flashlights, spare batteries, graham crackers, etc. gets stored in our house. As well as

~The cupboards were bare (see “graham crackers” listed above.) Not a jar of coffee, can of  soup or beans nor bag of chips to be found. No sense tempting little critters to move in during the off season. A major grocery run was required.

Never mind.  A beach site was open.  

I dashed to over to Wegmans (yes I am fortunate to live within ten minutes of not one but two of the Disneyland of food stores) filled a cart with jugs of water, enough camp food and snacks for a few meals, Delilah’s favorite dog treats and a huge bag of ice. The ice is essential because the beach sites are non-electric and I don’t have a generator (yet), so all perishables are kept in a cooler.  I also turn the little fridge in the camper into an old style “ice box”  by putting a block of ice in the bottom bin. It works to keep fruits and veggies fresh, drinks cool and chocolate from melting until it’s time for S’mores, leaving room in the cooler for essential items which need to be chilled like beer.

Back home I threw, yes literally threw, things into bags and boxes and stashed everything, including a stack of wood and my big box of kindling anywhere there was open space on the floor of the camper.  It could all be organized later, on site, with a view of the dunes.

Fortunately, I have a checklist created from years of camping and hiking which now allows for spontaneous “hit the road” trips. The list means anything left behind (and there are always things left behind) is not an essential item, like my daypack or the dog’s paperwork or chocolate or the previously mentioned box of kindling and matches or chocolate, or a flashlight and spare batteries or my hiking boots and spare hiking socks or chocolate.

Just under two hours later, after checking if the site was still open, I strapped a reluctant Delilah into her car harness. Her Royal Highness detests riding in the Big Scary Moving House on Wheels with its creaks and groans and banging cabinet doors (at least one pops open every trip, if I’m lucky its the one with the linens and not the one with the cups and mugs.) She sits on the passenger seat sideways staring fixedly at me with her “ARE WE THERE YET?” scowl and a periodic whine.

Pulling up to the park office to check in I noticed the big “Public Beach Closed” sign. Unprecedented high water levels from record setting rainfall throughout the region has caused severe flooding and most of the beaches along Lake Ontario remain at least partially if not completely underwater. But I was not here to swim, I was here for the elusive beach loop campsite, IF it was still available.

Turns out thirteen was my lucky number.







As in site thirteen, situated towards the end of the beach loop with it’s expansive view of lake’s western horizon.

Within a few hours, all the hastily packed inventory and supplies were organized, Delilah fed and given a good long walk around the grounds so we could make note of all the critter trails and I sat tending the first precious camp fire of the season. Fire is life. I believe that knowledge is deeply ingrained in the ancestral memories of our DNA. I feel it everytime I manage to bring a fire to full blaze from a little mound of kindling and sticks.


Watching the gulls diving for their dinner, as I ate mine,  simply being present with the waves and the breeze, taking in the ombre wash of colors as the sun slid through layers of clouds towards days end I felt a deep peace. A thought drifted into my consciousness.

What went right today?  

This question is one we can use as a way to shift perspective, frame an experience and break a pattern of suffering. It’s a technique I realized I had lost track of, one I needed to reclaim to move beyond survival mode.  Another piece of the puzzle to help me unravel, strengthen and reassemble the essential components of my inner gyroscope.

That night, lulled by the sound of the wind and waves, simple gratitude filled my soul. Emotions held back for months rolled to the surface and broke like surf on the the shore of awareness. Relief washed over me, tears rising and falling. Eventually I slept longer and deeper than I had in months.

Today? Today, at least, everything went right. And Today is all there ever is.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Deborah H Rahalski


  1. Things did go right! I’m jealous that you are able to be so spontaneous. Spontaneity is not a trait that is in my gene pool. I however have a friend who is trying to teach me to “fly by the seat of my pants” on occasion.

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