With much excitement and great anticipation, we packed up our camper to head down to the Carbondale, IL area to view the total eclipse of the sun. We planned and plotted. We found a nice little campground in the Shawnee National Forest called Turkey Bayou. It is staffed by volunteers and free. There are no facilities so we bought two solar panels to trickle charge the battery on our camper. We were going to stop off at Lake Murphysboro State Park to fill up our fresh water tank. We were going to use our camper facilities for the first time. To use the over used, ad nauseam phrase, It was going to be epic, totally epic.
However as Perma Chodron discusses in her CD The Truth of our Existence: Four Teachings from the Buddha to Illuminate Your Life, which is a weekend workshop taped live in New York, life is impermanence, always changing. By wrapping our mind around change, going with the flow, or relaxing “our minds enough so that we are one with the fluidity of our situations we can actually bring about the cessation of suffering. So, like, if I have a fixed idea of how things should go, that generally may not match up with the way life unfolds. If I hang onto my fixed idea and don’t move with the change, I could become frustrated or angry. I can cut myself off from life what with the very nature of life being ever in flux. What happened with our trip to view the eclipse is a case in point and a real lesson for me on moving with the impermanence of life.
We drove down to the bottom of Illinois in one day. It took about 10 hours, what with stopping, getting gas, filling the fresh water tank. We were tired and ready to find our spot at Turkey Bayou and relax into nature while waiting for the big event. We found the turn off to Turkey Bayou.
As I drove down the long gravel one lane road, we kicked up one hell of a dust storm. Stones knocked and clicked under our pilot and camper but we were giddy as all get out because we were almost there, our adventure was about to begin.
We finally pulled into the campground and it looked just like the pictures on the internet, peaceful and isolated.
As I drove into the circular drive of the campground going about 20 mph, we eyeballed the area. We noticed yellow signs nailed to a tree at every site. There were also, two dumpsters and a number of porta potties. That did not look good. There wasn’t supposed to be any “facilities”. Puzzled I pulled ahead and a guy approached our vehicle. He was tall and thin with sand colored hair sticking out from a dirty, battered, red ball cap. He bent and peered in the passager window.
“Hey,” I said over MIke. “We want to camp.”
“We are booked solid for the eclipse weekend.” he said.
“How can that be?” I asked. “This is a free campground staffed by volunteers.”
“It is, usually but they told us to book all the sites.”
“Really, who’s this they?” I asked
“The government. The Feds” he said. (BTW, it wasn’t the government that made the decision to books the sites it was the Friends of the Bayou. They are the ones keeping this little campground open when the government wanted to shut it down.
“I do the mowing here and I was told that every site is booked.”
“Every site is booked? I don’t get it. How is someone suppose to make a reservation anyway?”
“On the internet.” he responds.
“Really, I was looking at Turkey Bayou’s web page days before we came down here and I didn’t see anything. It said it was free.”
“Listen,” he said and moved closer to our pilot and lowered his voice conspiratorially. “All I can say is set up camp and see what happens. If someone comes, what are they going to do? You’re there?”
“Really?” This seemed kind of crazy.
“Yeah, just pick a site.”
Mike and I looked at each other and the back at the guy. We shrugged. We’re tired. We’re done. What are we going to do? “Okay,” I said. The guy turned back to his campsite. He had an enormous old travel trailer set up with five trucks parked in front of it. A few tents behind his camper.
Mike guides me as I back into a site, which I might add I am getting better at. We discover that on the picnic table is another of those yellow notices. Besides being nailed to a tree, they are taped to each picnic table. The notice read, to reserve this site call Norm blah blah with a phone number. We decided to give this Norm guy a call and see what’s what.
Norm answered the phone right away. He told me that they were double and triple booking the sites. That 150 people would be on the 14 sites. That we could stay where we were if we didn’t mind people.
We were going to stay that night anyway, it was getting late and where would we go. We’ll just deal.