We went to dinner and to the orientation meeting held in huge wooden lodges built in the 1930's. The whole place was set up with manageable walks through the woods between the main lodges and the units of cabins. A knee-high canopy of ferns covered the forest floor all around. During our stay we saw fat scurrying beavers, charming chipmunks and spotted fawns like Bambi grazing in the meadow.
On the first night the capable and inspired staff gave us a brief overview of the week, our responsibilities and what to expect. The unique thing about this camp is that it is a family effort. Most summer camps are places where parents drop their kids and make a run for it. At this camp parents are the counselors, cooks, and staff. One mom created an incredible menu and acted as camp cook, which she and her helpers carried out with great aplomb. Families sharing the work both cut the cost and gave families a summer camp experience together.
At the orientation, we were warned not to keep food in our cabins because of bears. The previous year a boy had stepped in a marshmallow and awoke in the middle of the night to find a bear licking it off his foot. (His parents probably don't have to push him much at bath time anymore; "Rodney, you remember what happened last time you didn't bathe...")
I lay in bed the first night, sure that I heard bears snuffling outside the cabin. I held my breath in a half sleeping state, waiting for the cabin door to fling open and a thunderous invasion of growling black bears to burst in grabbing toothpaste, shampoo and throat lozenges - and maybe bending down to give our toes a quick lick, hoping for a marshmallow. So works the mind in the dark, insect-loud woods.
We experienced campstipation, a camping phenomenon for those who eat too many marshmallows and not enough fibre. When will someone invent a whole grain marshmallow?
In the dead of night I walked to the communal bathroom (nervously scanning the bushes for bears with my flashlight) and then sat there, watching daddy longlegs climb over the bodies of other daddy longlegs on the wall, wondering if they were mating, fighting or merely saying, "howdy do". There is meditation and pondering in the throbbing, chirping, darkness of crickets, the snoring of campers, and the lonely flushing of camp toilets at 3am. Sometimes there is snoring on the toilet as one awakes sitting there, dreaming that one is snug in bed.
Our boys spent the week dipped in dirt fondue, dirt clinging to dirt, dirt begetting dirt, dirt embedding its dirty self into shorts, socks and unmentionables. In the motel shower on the way home, they discovered the recipe for cajun blackened towels.
Our daughter maintained her feminine poise without missing a beat, twisting threads into necklaces and dream catchers. She managed to arrange sleep overs in the cabins of other girls. She is woman, hear her roar.
During a morning lesson which I assisted, the teacher placed sheets of paper on the floor in front of the six year olds: a white page, a white page with a black spot, a white page nearly covered by a black spot and a black page. She said, "Does anyone here know anyone who is pure and sinless like this white page?" One little girl raised her hand and said, "I know, I know! My mommy is!"
One of my favorite moments of the whole camp was when everyone sang a song signifying the end of the days' activities, written by one of the fathers, a singer/songwriter named Stefan des Laurier. It was such a great song I want to post the lyrics here.
"Time to Say Goodnight."On the last night of camp I was sitting behind two teenage girls whose parents had founded the camp 8 years before. As I watched them do the hand movements along with the song, I could imagine them as little girls doing the same thing. I saw the full circle of their childhood reaching from the camp's roots to the brink of adulthood.
"It's time to say goodnight, the day is almost done, hello to Mr. Moon, goodbye to Mr. Sun.
Let Mr. Sun shine on distant shores, may the world turn a little more green,
May children who are not yet born live to breathe air that's clean.
Mr. Moon moves the seas around, and makes all life continue on,
Let God's creatures all abound, from the toads to the graceful fawn.
Please answer every human need, children grow up much too fast,
Heal the broken heart that bleeds and may the time of wonder last..."
As we drove away on the final morning, there were people I wished I had gotten to know better, and prayers I wished I had prayed more deeply, and ways of serving I wished I had gone more out of my way to offer. The net result was a week in the glory of creation, with wonderful brothers and sisters under God who created the Family Camp experience for our children. The value of that probably won't be measured for them until they grow up and look back on it. For us it was seen in their inspired faces on the long drive home.
Written in 2002
Kim lives in Maine, which is lovely, and where she continues her enthusiastic relationship with Art, Music, Nature, Books, Animals, Humor and Trees.