Everyone loves summer camp…
School has been out for a couple of weeks now, and here in the Pacific Northwest nature’s gift of summer has conquered her lingering stage fright and made an appearance.
Ever since I was a kid, just old enough to appreciate what treasures a quiet summer morning like this one might hold, such times have been magic for me. Early enough that the dew had not yet lifted from the grass and those impossibly bright green leaves still hung motionless from the trees and the air was pregnant with the warm, rich smells of life, my world became a place of wonder, or maybe reverence for something more vast than I could have described with any of the words a very bright ten-year-old boy had already learned to use. It was all of that and more. All I wanted was to be left alone with it for a while.
That did not always happen. It probably never occured to any of the adults around me to question whether YMCA Day Camp with softball and organized swimming and regimented “nature walks” truly would be a better way to keep me occupied than all those precious summer day things I had in mind. Just walking along the crumbling pavement at the edge of a woodland road…without being part of a line of boistrous pre-adolesccent boys doing their best to sneak a sly punch or spit or show off a new swearword without the counselor’s noticing…would have been a fine way to experience the afternoon. Just sitting in a sunny spot beside the pond, challenging myself to identity the creatures that revealed their presence to me…not worrying that I’d be mocked for being able to explain why the Banded Northern Water Snake could not possibly have been a poisonous water moccasin… might have left me feeling richer for the time I’d spent there.
You need to learn to get along with the other boys, just be a regular guy, the camp counselors advised me. You’d be happier if you could just have fun and not worry about things like that, my mother scolded me. They were right…I knew that. I also knew that there was more to it, but I didn’t know what that might be, and it was going to take a very long time for me to figure it out.