Joshua Tree ~ Departure Day (by Maya Toccata)

We’re (sort of) still in session. This is a guest post by NBTSC logistics goddess (and year-round camper and family liaison) Maya Toccata.

maya portrait-1107

I woke up early on departure day. There was a surreal and beautiful mist swirling around the Caravansary, the beautiful rock building that was our home for our 9 nights at camp. At 7:30 I got a call from our friendly bus driver, confirming that we wanted her to pick us up at camp and take us to the airport, and not the other way around. I’m very glad she called! Over the years I’ve had several camp logistics stress dreams that involve our buses not showing up, so it’s nice to know she’s on her way. I have one last luxurious hot shower in our private triangular green-tiled bathroom. It’s an understatement to say that the accommodations at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center are the fanciest Not Back to School Camp has ever had.

When I get up to Friendship Hall at 8:00, it’s already bustling with sleepy and teary-eyed campers dropping their luggage in the assigned piles, giving hugs, and eating a hearty breakfast before they journey home.

Someone plays “Leaving on a Jet Plane” on the piano, which makes me cry. It’s been five years since I was present for a session of nbtsc, and the connection I feel to everyone here reminds me so much of my very first one in back in 1997.

As parents and the bus arrive, we sing together one last time, then reluctantly load up. The bus driver takes a picture of Idris, our camper who came all the way from Wales, because he’s the farthest-traveling kid she’s ever had on her bus. After one final roll call, we send off the bus (right on time!) with waves and shouts of “goodbye!” and “I love you!”

There are more hugs and more tears as the remaining campers are picked up. Once most of the campers are gone the staff gets busy packing up first aid supplies, hoodies, and leftover organic food. It takes two trips in a pick-up truck and SUV to get everything back to my house, but this is partly because our workshop supplies this year included not one, but two, enormous upright basses. Luckily, my house is just 3 miles away. The senior staff has one more long meeting, and then we say goodbye until next time. I’m grateful that a handful of staff are staying nearby for a couple days so we don’t have to let go completely, yet. I survey the camp food leftovers and start plotting how to minimize waste. Moroccan preserved lemons, parsley pesto, and dehydrated celery are on the list. But first, I must sleep. I am so, very, tired. But it’s the best sort of tired. The full, grateful, inspired sort of tired that comes from 8 very full days spent with 80 of the most wonderful humans I’ve ever met.

photo of Maya by Reanna Alder.

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