The Problem With Paradise

PathwayThe American humorist Garrison Keillor once said, “The problem with paradise is that it’s temporary: You don’t belong here and the neighbors are nobody you care to know, so it’s only blissful for a week or so.”

We lost count of how many blissful weeks we’ve spent camping at Loyd Park this season, but one thing we can say with some certainty: we don’t care to know the neighbors. Most are loud and unruly, and many turn their small slice of the park into more of a compound than a campsite.

The word “compound” has always had negative connotations for us. Prisons, manufacturing facilities, Chinese sweatshops, seminaries, and monastic communities immediately come to mind. We’re also reminded of those remote, out-of-the-way places where people go to hide from the world as they prepare for a world-shattering nuclear attack.

Technically, as human habitats go, a compound refers to a collection of dwellings in an enclosure–all having a shared purpose. We call it living large in a small space. A couple of campsites down the road is just such a compound, one that could easily be mistaken for a tent city. At the center of it all is a tent with a domed main section and two wings–sort of a nylon version of Monticello. It even has an air-conditioner! Surrounding it are other small tents and even a cocoon-style hammock with mosquito netting. One guy at the compound had one of those “truck tents” that turn the bed of a pickup truck into a makeshift camper. Talk about multipurpose! We never cease to be amazed at how many people can actually occupy a 50-foot site.

But you don’t need a compound to live large. This weekend’s neighbors occupied a travel trailer similar in size to our own, but rather than housing two adults and four chihuahuas, it sheltered four adults and four children. They brought along bicycles for everyone, as well as various pieces of sporting equipment. Adding to the clutter was an assortment of those hideous, polyester camp chairs–you know, the ones with mesh cup holders in the arms and an array of pockets for gadgets and gear.

The problem with our little paradise is also a perk: it’s temporary. Neighbors come and go, and almost anything can be endured for a few days.

Because we purchased four homes in the last 16 years, a friend asked us if we had any advice on buying a house. Without hesitation, we said “consider the neighbors.” We never did and, in some cases, we lived to regret it. As the saying goes, “good fences make good neighbors.” Unfortunately, no one has yet come up with a temporary fence for campsites.