Dianne Russell Kidder Word Count: 723

4 Gayton Road, Lisbon, ME 04250, 207-353-5891

[email protected]

Singing some sweet sleeping bag blues

A sleeping bag is just a sleeping bag. Utilitarian, nondescript, prosaic. Right?

Well, not in my case. I’ll start at the beginning.

When my son and I camped our way to Maine in 1980, I don’t remember what we slept in, but it wasn’t anything special. That was all right, it was summer, and everything was taking a real beating. I hadn’t done much camping up till then, but loved it and planned to incorporate it into my life from then on.

As our camping extended into autumn, in Maine, I realized that we really should invest in some sleeping bags that would insulate against the increasing cold. But I couldn’t afford them. They were way down on the priority list.

During our first year in our Augusta apartment, good sleeping bags rose on my priority list as we did more all-weather camping, as we stayed overnight with friends on their couches and floors, and as my son had slumber parties with his buddies.

The day finally came when I could take my tax refund and go for it! We looked all over Southern Maine, comparing prices and quality. We agreed on two matching, first-rate bags. They were good down to 30 degrees, very comfortable, looked and felt yummy and nurturing, comforting as well as comfortable. And they were ones a boy could be proud of.

Choosing carefully

Fast forward to five years ago. An insightful friend told me how she had learned to redo her bedroom into a place of beauty, a place of aesthetic self-expression that would nurture her soul. This is the place you spend the last hour of every day and the first hour of the next day, she explained. It must not be a catchall, where you stack things you don’t know what to do with. It should reflect your highest self.

OK, good idea. I went to work. All the stacks and clutter had to go. Out on display came the stereo, CDs, loving cards from my husband, spiritual books, my kaleidoscope collection, the most beautiful of all my rocks, colored glass window hangings and crystals, mounted posters . . . and my sleeping bags!

I surprised myself. Now, why did I choose these 18-year-old sleeping bags that were never technically beautiful to begin with, have been used and used, washed and washed, and have aged down to a state just short of disreputable?

It’s what these bags mean to me. More than anything except my car, these bags mean freedom. I can grab my bag and very little else, and be off on an adventure. They represent my absolute love of travel. They represent my love of nature. They represent youth and vigor, which I still have enough of to make good use of these bags.

On the road again

I have more spare time than my husband does, Canada is so lovely and so near by, and my sweet husband doesn’t mind if I take off for a few days every now and then and go on a road trip. I have fashioned myself a bed in the back seat of my Saturn that is very comfortable, and convenient if I pull into a campground and don’t want to put up my little tent. I think of my car as a small RV that gets 45 mpg. And of course, my sleeping bag is permanently right on the bed the whole trip. It has an old bedspread over it, to protect it from the sun and dust, and because I’m quite convinced that if anyone saw my beautiful sleeping bag they would break into the car to steal it.

So now our sleeping bags do double duty. They each are rolled into a large, flowered laundry bag and in the winter are stored in the trunks of each of our cars, so if we break down we can retrieve them through the fold-down back seat, wrap up in them and not freeze to death while waiting for help.

Then in the summer they come into our bedroom, right where I can see them, last thing at night and first thing in the morning. They remind us daily that we want to do some peaceful local camping as well as vacation travel camping. They definitely represent a facet of my higher self. And to me, they are still very beautiful.

Dianne Russell Kidder is a writer, consultant and social worker, who is based in Lisbon. She is a regular contributor to this column. She can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]

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