This past weekend, I went on a camping trip to bucolic Russell Pond in New Hampshire. I’m happy to report that they weekend was surprisingly fun. I gleaned some important insights including:
1. Bard Owls are endangered – It’s not a mystery to me as to why they are endangered. If I had a shotgun I would have put an end to those two suckers who were either practicing their mating calls or playing a marathon game of Marco Polo until 3:12AM every night.
2. Air mattresses are scientifically designed to leak at the optimal rate so as to guaranty that your backside hits terra firma at precisely 3:16AM.
3. Our new tent doesn’t leak – even under torrential downpours…a test that was endured upon our arrival and again at departure. My pleas to abandon the thing went un-heeded so I scurried around like a chinchilla on amphetamines, battening down the hatches.
4. Interesting things happen when you unplug.
With no cell phones, televisions, computers or electronic devices of any type, we were left to entertain ourselves. Hiking, boating, and singing songs around the campfire replaced Jersey Housewives and Biggest Loser. We rediscovered the art of conversation.
I hesitate to use the word ‘art’ in the context of conversation. Whenever something is labeled as an ‘art’, people begin to view it as a talent or gift – not something that can be learned. Some people have the gift and others…not so much. As with all forms of art, conversation can be learned from the masters. My best example is Robin (Perry) Palaima from #SVB. Robin is striking at 5’ 12” (girls don’t say 6 ft) with blond hair and blue eyes and she has mastered the art of conversation. She shows a genuine interest in other people and talking with her is a real pleasure – partly because she has put in the effort to be good at it.
On our camping trip we had several conversations. Some occurred while hiking, others around the campfire. Still others occurred as we wrestled a tarp the size of Wyoming into position – just high enough off the ground to comfortably accommodate a midget if he crouched down a bit. Regardless of your starting proficiency at conversation, it improved over the weekend. It had to improve because there was no other way to entertain yourself (unless you’re our beer-guzzling neighbor who as sh*t-faced by 10AM every day). I try to remember to take one simple test to see if I’ve been part of a good conversation. I ask myself two questions: 1. How much more do I know about the other person post the interaction? and ; 2. How much do they know about me? In good conversations, everyone has learned something about the other person – their thoughts, fears, sense of humor, history, etc. A good conversation is as invigorating and refreshing as that post-camping, well-deserved shower. Thanks to Michelle for making that massive pot of Chili – it was a great conversation-starter for the car ride home.
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