Camper clutter

Shikata ga nai

After 27 days of nomadic life in the Scamp camping trailer, many of our former criteria for a happy household have been revised to conform to the new normal. For example, the definitions of the terms “organized,” “cluttered,” “tidy,” “neat,” “clean,” and “orderly.” We have found through experience that all these concepts are to be regarded as subjective. Highly subjective.

Falling back on my college days studies of Japanese history and culture, I have accepted that these shortfalls in domesticity can all be attributed to the Shinto philosophical belief in shikata ga nai – loosely translated as “It cannot be helped,” or “It is fated.” Clearly, there have been some misfortunes that were fated, that could not be helped: a sand storm, a plague of grass burs, snap freezes in the middle of the night, a faulty valve in the camper’s fresh water tank, a dog that has reacted to the onset of springlike weather by shedding her winter coat.

But there are several that have can have only one cause: our tyro status in the itinerant life. Who besides the most clueless of neophytes would put all the clean underwear and socks in the lowest plastic tub in the stack?

Or –

Put into one large plastic bag all the electronic device cords that have become a tangle that rivals the Gordian Knot?

Fail to familiarize himself with the procedure for replacing a propane tank?

Place unsecured items in overhead cabinets?

Forget to pack dog boots for a trip into the desert Southwest?

Not realize that a broadside wind would blow water heater exhaust back inside the camper, thus triggering the carbon monoxide sensor (which required 15 minutes of reading owners’ manuals until the piercing, maddening beep-beep-beep of the alarm could be shut off)?

Neglect to pack an extra supply of hearing aid batteries?

Think that the wind would not be a daily torment in the mountains?

Expect drivers to hold their speed under 80-90 miles per hour on Interstate Highways.?

Trust Google Maps to show construction zones on secondary roads?

Think that state park campground site reservation policies would be consistent?

Or expect the camper’s small refrigerator would hold a sufficiently large supply of canned beer to deal with these annoyances?

We are learning important lessons. Good decisions are based on experience, it is said, and most experience is based on bad decisions.

Years of drought in the Southwest and irrigation water drawn from 15 impoundment dams along the river’s course have combined to make the Rio Grande a series of pools — muddy puddles, in fact — along the valley below Elephant Butte Reservoir.

I end this blog post with a comment on the fabled Rio Grande, the legendary river that winds its way 1,900 miles from its headwaters in the mountains of Colorado, provides irrigation on its course through New Mexico, and forms the border between Texas and Mexico. Years of drought in the Southwest, which will almost certainly worsen as climate change extends the range of these deserts, has reduced the Rio Grande to water flows lower than a typical creek in the upper Midwest.

The15 water impoundment dams along the river’s course have effectively eliminated the flow in the lower 1,000-plus miles of the Rio Grande Valley. The largest, and penultimate, of these impoundments is the Elephant Butte Reservoir, which has a campground where we will be staying the next several days. We have seen that the reservoir’s water level is significantly lower than on our visit two years ago, probably 5-10 feet lower.

Since the domestic water rights claimed by downstream cities along the Rio Grande in New Mexico and Texas almost certainly hold sway over irrigation agriculture rights, expect a violent political war in the next few years. I can imagine most of these flood-irrigation orchards of pecan trees and row crop fields of peppers, onions, and alfalfa reverting to desert, and thousands of people in small towns that are ag-dependent being displaced.

For now, this section of the river below Elephant Butte Reservoir is a dismal series of mud puddles, but still the wintering range of thousands of sandhill cranes. Our French spaniel Abbey also found two coveys of resident bobwhite quail along the riparian hiking trail. With many dozens of other migratory species that winter here, it is also a popular Birding Trail for birders who tote 10-power binoculars and cameras with long telephoto lenses. Odd folks, but who am I, a Crazy Old Coot, too label someone as odd?


About Jerry Johnson

Curmudgeon. Bird hunter and dog trainer. Retired journalist and college public relations director. Former teacher, coach, mentor. Novelist and short story writer. Husband, father, grandfather.
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