Despite the late nights, I’ve woken long before breakfast every morning, struggling to fall back asleep like someone whose lungs are full of air struggles to swim to the bottom of the pool. But today I am flung from sleep by the clanging of the bell. Stumbling through the clutter, grabbing my camera, another camera, another camera, coffee mug… ready to face the world.
But once I step outside, I am immediately aware of a difference from the previous days… It’s hot out here. Even in the shade, there’s a distinctive difference. Sweat comes to call.
Well, no matter. It is summer after all. And a further discovery, upon entering the dining hall; it’s pancakes for breakfast! Thus begins the eternal quest to try and achieve the perfect balanced ratio of pancake to syrup. Not too dry, but not saturated. I fail, of course. By the end of the meal, my plate is still swimming in the stuff, and I valiantly try to scrub it off my plate in the dish line. The bell gets to clanging again, and I make my way down towards the morning meeting.
Today’s schedule is structured differently than most, with longer, open-ended blocks of time devoted to various different adventures, including the one I’m leading, up towards the old cabin on the side of the valley overlooking camp. There is also a hike up past the swimming hole, a game of prisoner’s base (like capture the flag, but better, is how it’s described by Team Sanderson), and a spot to cut the rug and partake in some partner dancing. (Others too, no doubt, but your esteemed author is working without their notes today, and their memory isn’t what it once was…)
The morning passes, and it’s time for the cabin hike. 13 brave individuals line up, ready to tackle the heat and the elevation to explore a revered structure many times older than we are, and to spend time walking amongst the trees that are far older still. Everyone’s here? Water, sack lunches, sunscreen, cameras? We depart!
The heat beats down upon us as we make our way up the trail, stopping to point out particularly majestic trees, or to snack on blackberries warmed in the sun. Lizards cross our path, as do fallen trees. There is something so awe-inspiring by the sight of a massive trunk blocking our path, imagining the force with which it smashed to the ground, pulverizing smaller trees and rotten stumps, digging a deep groove into the earth where it landed. It is amongst these giants that we are truly reminded that we are small.
Eventually we come across the fork in the path, and split off to the left, past the tree growing up through the tire, and the rusted bedspring with the single child’s shoe. A short distance down this shaded path, and there is the cabin.
It was built in 1926 (according to the guestbook inside), and is slowly collapsing into the forest. We spread out and explore, examining the names carved into the wall from the past century, taking photographs of the rusted old chainsaw chains draped across the porch. We sit and eat our lunches, speculating about how much blood and sweat went into the creation of the cabin.
It’s calm and peaceful up on the side of the valley, but soon enough, it’s time to return. We hike back down, past the spiders and flowers, and arrive in time for siesta. Siesta is later in the day than usual, and with the oppressive heat, it’s well needed. I stumble into the staff cabin, and am quickly invited onto the back porch, where several of my fellow staffies are sitting and snacking. It’s alway nice to catch a few quiet moments with them when we’re not running around working.
But wouldn’t you know it? Time for gender discussion groups. I head to the “gender funky” group, as Autumn describes it, and pass the time listening to the nuances of identity, and the ways in which these various campers and staff define and struggle with their own perception of gender. It’s always fertile ground for discussion, and the bell rings signaling dinner with much left to be said. We agree to meet again over breakfast tomorrow.
Tonight is the Seeing Seen Circle, an opportunity to express things we are struggling with, and support our friends. It’s a fairly new event, but well received, obviously on it’s way to becoming a treasured part of the camp culture. Afterwards, as people mill about and talk about how the event was for them, I am filled with empathy for everyone, and appreciation for the fact that this space exists, where we can safely share with each other the heavy parts of our lives.
The mood lightens, however, as the night progresses into the silly hours of the a.m. Before long, my esteemed colleague Margie and I are being educated by the meme masters of nbtsc, and we learn just how deep a hole the internet can be. By the time the dining hall closes for the night, we’ve barely scratched the surface, but our knowledge of frogs on unicycles is vastly expanded. We patrol around one last time, and head to bed.