This past New Years’ Eve, Jonathan and I drove to the very southern tip of Illinois to camp in Shawnee National Forest. We spent a very brisk winter night sleeping under in the Garden of the Gods Wilderness Area, a landscape of layered forests and hidden limestone cliffs. It was a mild January. We had almost no company at the modest campsite, which accommodated about a dozen parties. To start, we had one neighbor, two spots over from us. Later on, as it grew dark, another camper pulled up. They backed their truck into the spot on the far side of our first neighbors, then proceeded to set up camp.
As darkness fell, they turned on their generator. A roaring, thundering beast from the pits of hell. A slobbering sound machine of death, calling on the demon spawn of ten thousand lawnmowers, a hundred and fifty chainsaws, a host of jackhammers, the rumbling baritone of diesel engines idling in a Midwestern parking lot. They turned this thing on, crawled inside their tent, zipped it up and, allegedly, went to sleep.