Time moves and changes and swirls us about the place.
It creeps up and passes slowly, but it is always moving.
Camp reminded me of all of the above
– how fast our pace of life can be, how quickly my own mind can race, and how we can manipulate time to get the most out of a situation.
First off, at camp the campers do not have watches and we have no clocks available to be watched.
As I say here, the pace of life at camp is slow yet productive.
During the school year kids have a timetable consisting of dentist appointments, family time, visiting people, and after school clubs etc etc. Even weekends are no longer slow as the Sunday football game takes priority over making pancakes.
Scheduled time defines the purpose by which our kids live.
The alarm starts the day for School run and breakfast on the hop. It is consuming and energetic and envelopes us to keep our kids in line, on the right track with life.
If we teach them time management, they will breed efficiency as opposed to complacency, right?
Or at least that’s what we think.
Camp is an escapism from time travel and time restriction.
It’s a good place to be for this reason.
Don’t get me wrong, as a programme head and someone who worked at the barn most days with horses at the break of dawn, I had times to stick to and a watch to look at.
But the campers rock on blissfully unaware of the minutes or the seconds or the half hours that pass.
The bell rings in the morning to signal “waiters bell” which is a signal that breakfast is on it’s way.
This bell sound also later signifies period one, period two, period three and period four, and all the other waiters bells that come with three meals a day.
It’s not an aggressive siren that fires to shock the kids into action, but more of a church bell rhythm which awakens and reminds.
The other time the bell rings during the day is to remind us that ” work jobs” happen.
As I talk about in my last post, the sense of community at camp is rife and real and almost tangible.
All of us take on a job to keep our homegrown tight knit community thriving. This can be collecting eggs from the “layers”, picking horse hooves, sweeping the weaving shop, collecting wood for our ‘late late’ fire (a fire that burns brightly with a loving counsellor seated next to it in Junior and Senior camp until very late in the night so kids can call upon for help with a flashlight or to receive a reassuring hug in place of a parent or loved one), chopping vegetables, tidying our costume closet that is used often for ‘silly suppers’ of dress up time and skits by our “Supers” (the eldest group of campers in their final year of treetops).
Each and every hand is useful.
Like the saying ” time with you is time well spent” , I think of work jobs at camp as time used wisely so time on the other side can be well spent.
A fire built and ready on a rainy night saves wet limbs and soggy starters, eggs buffed and ready for early morning hiking trips make for happy campers stuffing faces with scrambled eggs at the top of a mountain.
We all have a purpose and a time to fulfill it. Our time is not wasted.
My last thought on the timing of camp involves the running of events from the start of a seven week programme to the end of it.
I appreciate that our camp has had many years to hone this list of events to a fine art.
I myself observed this cycle of events unfold through the eyes of a parent to my two boys.
The beginning of camp is about learning new skills- woodshop, craft shop, weaving, riding, swimming,canoeing, making and creating.
We focus largely on this and make it as enjoyable an experience as possible.
Then come the trips out of camp and the overnights, some as simple as a visit to the famous lake placid horse show or a tent overnight spent somewhere on our woody campus. O the more adventurous night under the stars after a day of kayaking Saranac lake with five of your buddies and two counsellors.
Amidst all of this subtle progress from one step to another in our programme we introduce the campers to our square dance tradition with live music and sunset twirling and do-si- do. They learn how to cook their whole dinner on the fire they built outside of their canvas tent, and the Sunday shower routine settles into practice followed by a handwritten letter to a loved one.
The timings are just right.
I feel like my words symbolise those of an over expressive day dreamer, but I really am in awe of this well oiled machine.
Did I tell you I first worked at camp when I was eighteen? Fresh out of high school, duke of Edinburgh hiking award gold under my belt and a competent horse rider who left her horse Twilight out to the pasture for three months.
I only worked one Summer at Treetops and yet my friendships are solid (I have visits from camp friends throughout the year, I visit NYC annually where many of them reside and keep in touch daily with many), my memories are fading of 2001 but the smells, the breakfast breads and the pace of it all remained as captivating as it did all those years ago.
I was sold all over again this Summer at Camp.
The hopeless romantic in me was reminded of why I wanted/needed to be back there with my three beautiful boys.
To be one with that time machine and enwrapped in the love and pace and timely moments that are fed into these campers lives was worth all the walks back and forth to the barn and late night meetings with colleagues perfecting the timing of our fun and wistful events in this child centered paradise.