Sunday, June 8, 2014

Camp at My House

At the end of the day yesterday, as we sat in the glow of the citronella candle, I said, "It's like we've had a day of camp here at our house."

We had several swim times, but no hikes.  We ate a great meal of a giant Salad Nicoise-like creation; we ate it in the dining hall we call our front porch.  We had a long arts and crafts period where we got ready for my project at our hands-on worship service; we ended up with a bucket of supplies and a new wind chime.

My spouse pointed out, "But we had no FOB."  Ah, FOB, flat on bunk, that time after lunch, in the heat of the day, when campers take a forced break.   You can sleep, you can read, you can write letters home, as long as each camper remains on his or her bunk.

We sat around our campfire of a citronella candle at the end of the day.  We reeked of bug spray and sunscreen.  We had the satisfaction of a good day.  We talked about art projects that we might want to pursue as the years go by.  We heard an owl hoot three times.

Today is the first day of camp at Lutheridge.  I must confess that I didn't always like camp.  I began life as a camper by being severely homesick.  Yes, I was one of those weepy campers.  My mom packed a copy of The Little Prince as a surprise.  It made me both more homesick and comforted.  It was a lesson learned early, the refuge of a book.

My later years at camp were better--no homesickness.  But they also came with their own challenges.  I always felt like the strange camper, the one who wasn't good at physical activities, the one who was convinced that she couldn't sing, the one who was striking, perhaps, but not pretty.  In short, it was like much of high school and middle school:  I found a few fellow travelers, but for the most part I felt out of place.

Now that I'm older, I simply don't care.  My body is far from perfect, but it's healthy, which is more than so many of my friends and colleagues can say.  I have the luxury of doing the arts and crafts projects that appeal to me and leaving the others alone.  I sing and hope that I hit most of the notes.

When did I get comfortable with singing?

I think back to my time as a Girl Scout camp counselor.  It was at Girl Scout camp that I learned to sing without worrying about being perfect.  I was raised in a Lutheran family of people with amazing musical gifts.   At Girl Scout camp, I discovered that a normal voice was good enough.

It was the summer after my first year of college.  I wanted to work at Lutheridge, but they filled their quota of counselors before they got to women my age.  Girl Scout camp was profoundly transforming in its own way.

The backpacking weeks were the ones that changed me.  We took everything we would need on our backs.  We were dropped off at one point and would walk to the pick up site:  three counselors and a band of girls.  We had no cell phones, no easy way to get outside help.  But it all went well, even during the trip with a ferocious thunderstorm that lasted most of the first night.  It gave me a sense of self-sufficiency and the knowledge that I was capable that has been invaluable.

I do wonder if the days of sleep-away camps are over.  Will we transition to some kind of camp-like experience that involves the whole family?  Are the days of rustic accommodations and no Internet or cell phone access already gone?  Will anyone head out into the wilderness with 30 pounds of gear and supplies on their backs and hopes for the best?  By anyone, I mean normal, every day folks, not the extreme athletes of today.

At least the campfire should survive, right?  As a species, we won't get tired of singing songs around open flame, will we?

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