Saturday, July 25, 2009

rain reflections of camp.....

I had a short catch up kind of conversation with my daughter last night on the phone. She's busy at her camp in the counsellor in training program, and is having the time of her life. So much so, that I think she's almost oblivious of how crappy the weather has been all summer long.

We have yet to have a string of sunny days. The temperatures are cool. The skies have been grey. The land is soggy. It feels more like early spring except everything is so lush it looks juicy. The flowers in the garden are bent over in surrender, too damped down by the wet lashings that they havent the energy to spring to attention. Instead, the blooms cower in anticipation of another downpour.

I asked my daughter how bad it was there in dampcampland..... Upbeat and perky, she admitted that she doesn't have a dry towel left, but they were all coping with it. In fact, she had just been swimming in the river to clean up after sliding in the mud. "It was great Mom. We put our bathing suits on and ran around the camp looking for mudpuddles to slide in. We were coated in it! It was a blast!!" Fun? WOW!

After we said goodbye, she was off to the Lodge to hang out with the rest of the CIT' doubt in front of a big blazing fire in the old fieldstone fireplace. No doubt someone would have a guitar in hand. No doubt there would be wishes and dreams, and plans aromatically floating from their comfort of belonging. No doubt they would offer up their hopes and bits about themselves into the communal basket of growing kindredness. Relaxed, unhurried, content, my daughter and her friends sprawled out on the wooden floor of the old lodge in front of the fire most likely spent an evening of broadening their connections through conversations, cardgames, music, and comraderie. I could envision it like it was something I had experienced myself. Why? Because I have and those memories I hold dearly.

Rainy summers working at a children's camp conjure up very different nostalgic scenes than the hot sunny long hazy day ones. Regular activities are often swept aside for different open ended adventures where you learn to live within the elements and have fun. Mind over matter always wins! Though it was hard work to push past the expectations of sunny paddles and blue sky sailings, you learned different skills by recognizing that rainy days offer gifts of deeper friendships. If you let it happen.

I remember summers when the rain was unrelenting, when moods were attached to short fuses, when pushing through the elements took a lot of energy. Leaders couldn't whine no matter how consistently dour the skies were. They were the backbone of enthusiasm. But it would take its toll. When this happened.....when there was a shift to a sense of surrender, our number one much loved leader, Skip, would decide to change things up by allowing his staff to sleep in a bit and along with a couple of his senior staff, would take every single camper, usually 120 or so on a long rainy day hike. Sounds like drudgery doesn't it? Far from it!!! Those hikes were ADVENTURES.....SKIN SOAKING FUN.

But, here was the catch. While he entertained the troops....taking them through the woods, down untravelled paths, away into the mystery of the forrest to a long forgotten old logging road and a haunted house called Blagdon Manor ..... while he led them in songs and chants and quick stops to check out new fauna, the rest of the staff had the morning to stretch, work together drink coffee and plan. Why? Because when the troops returned, swampy, muddy, happy, hungry and a little played out, they would be expecting a full out camp experience like no other. Planning consisted of working as a team to conjure up a whole slew of activities, usually under a theme, and usually ending in a dance in Squamish Hall. So many of those fantastic days swim out of my memory bank this morning that I feel upbeat just remembering them.... Staff talent nights (always hilarious!), capture the flag marathons, water baseball in the rain, Skit nights, Indoor games.... Guys and Girls, Counsellor hunts, Kangaroo Courts.... and theme days!

One year, we turned the camp into a Pirate's Training Den. It all began while the kids, then clean, dry and finishing a hot hearty lunch when a group of Pirates sailed around the point, right onto the shores of Camp Kawabi...... We had decorated one of the old outboard boats, The Stable Mabel and turned it into a sailing vessel.... A group of the most "vicious" looking staff dressed in their very best pirate rags loudly announced their invasion. Within no time, the whole camp ran down to the lake to find out what was going on, only to realize they were all held capture, thrown into groups, given pirate family names and promptly introduced to the idea that in order to become pirates themselves, they had to pass a bunch of "matey" tests, which had been set up in various spots all over the camp. If they passed the tests, they would be given their own head scarf and eye patch (all created that morning by a busy bouyant group of leaders).

As the skies threatened above, we were able to ignore its menacing ways and band together in a day of fantasy and imagination. How cool is that? Fun? WOW! A rainy day..... and I bet it was one of the highlights of almost every single person, no matter what age, of their summer. Laughter and song shared with 150 people is hard to ever forget. I loved rainy day activities..... I loved finding those mudpuddles and showing my group of campers how to slide with glee. You can always get clean..... You can't always find the mudpuddles...

After a long energy spilling day, which always left everyone smiling in exhaustion, we'd tuck our campers in and head up to the lodge. In quiet small groups, we'd form around the fieldstone fireplace. No doubt someone had a guitar in hand. No doubt there were wishes and dreams, and plans aromatically floating from our comfort of belonging. No doubt we offered up our hopes and bits about ourselves into the communal basket of growing kindredness. Relaxed, unhurried, content, and closer than ever..... rainy days can do that.

Ah, I now want to go find Blagdon Manor again. And why do I all of sudden want to wrap a scarf around my head? Arrrrrrrrr..........matey.........

ps.... what do you know? I finished this piece and the sun came out.... for a little while. :)


Gilly said...

We don't have a tradition of summer camps in Britain, though there are various Activity and Adventure centres children can go to. But they are very expensive and cost an arm and a leg!

But I love reading about your remembrances, and your daughter's activities. It all sounds a lot of fun!

Oh, I did go to Girl Guide camps when I was a Guide. Bell tents, camp fires and smelly latrines!! Sleeping bags hadn't been invented (well, not for the general public, we are talking 1945-50 here!) and there was a way of making a bag with two (or was it 3?) blankets and two large safety pins! We practiced that before we went!

Nick Phillips said...

I sure wish it would rain where I'm at. It's been a consistent stretch of sunny days that it gets uncomfortably hot in the afternoons.

And would you believe I never went for any camp retreats when I was young? Simply because it wasn't something that we did in this country back then. Reading your post sure makes me long to feel what a camp retreat feels like ...

Awareness said...

Gilly..... that is a hilarious story!

I don't know where summer camps originated from. Most likely the United States. Some of our "camps" though have been around for a very long time, many of which are tied to Scouts and Guides, various churches and the YMCA. My daughter is at a Y sponsored camp (and it's expensive....but worth it in my biased opinion. :)) The camp I attended was a privately owned and operated one, which is also quite common. I was involved both as a camper and a camp counsellor for 12 summers. My dream for a long time was to own and run my own, but that never came to fruition sadly.

Bell tents, campfires and smelly latrines (commonly called outhouses or Kybos here, which stands for "keep your bowels open" haha!) are still in existance.

Nick.... Today, the sun is struggling to peek through the clouds. We're hoping to get to a beach! I can't believe we've only been able to go once this summer.
I will bottle up the rain and send it your way.
I wish everyone had a chance to experience a camp retreat. Camp holds a very special place in my heart as it impacted many of my values and interests and most definately is the foundation to the career path i chose to follow. As well, I'm still in touch with many of my camp friends despite the long distances between us. The internet has been a blessing for these connections to continue to blossom.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

LOL, LOL...You forced the Sun out with this GREAT essay on the Beauty Of Rain....! You make "camp" sound so very wonderful, Dana. My two expereiences of Camp, unfortunately, were not good ones and so for me Going to Camp was being Banished and 'sent away' like to a foreign country.
BUT....your own experiences and now your daughters, too...make it sound like the Greatest Summer one could possibly have---Rain and all!

murf said...

Great remembrance blog! I was one of those senior staff one rainy day (after 11 days of rain) who took 120 campers up to Squamish Hall with Fid. We ran them ragged with line games, contests, relay races, you name it! Did we feel hard done by that our fellow staffers were having the morning off to recharge their batteries? Not a chance! We had been entrusted with 120 campers at the age of 20 or so. The camper director had chosen us! At the end of the morning we got an "atta boy" from Skip, the director. In those days, it was payment enough!!

Awareness said... husband had similar experiences as you did!

It's still raining here!!!!!!! It's driving me batty!

Murf...Funny, I can remember that day when you and Fid took the kids! Heck if I can remember when it was my turn. !! They were fun weren't they? I also remember a sunny day when Skip and Fid took us all down to the picnic grounds to swim in the rapids! They had a rope the width of the river at the end of the rapids to catch us all!