Staff Orientation (Joshua Tree 2016 ~ By Reanna A.)

Reanna – Advisor. Photo by Emi M.


This is my 8th year working at NBTSC, but my first year doing it as a mother (to 5-and-a-half-month-old Margo).

I was offered the opportunity to advise at the Joshua Tree session back in the spring, before my daughter was born. I knew I wouldn’t be doing the summer sessions, as she would be too fresh and the travel too far, but Joshua Tree seemed do-able since the site is less than 5 miles from our house. I eagerly accepted.

So, here we are on the first full day of staff orientation.

Staff have been trickling into town over the last couple days. Director Evan is sleeping in my husband Nathen’s office, logistics goddess Matt is in the travel trailer next to Maya’s house. Cook Rosa and her brother Amandla are in the dome, and so on. Between the four adjoining properties of Lester Flats (where Damian, Maya, Oliver, Nathen, Margo and I live year round) we have an impressive array of tents, trailers, tiny houses and guest rooms in which to sleep people.

Yesterday’s meetings (or “word parties,” as we propose to rename them) were mostly about we staff connecting and re-connecting, catching up on each other’s lives and what brings us here–again or for the first time.

Today we get down to the business of the session. We review the schedule, assign roles (song leader, games leader, field trip leaders), talk about what’s new and remind ourselves of what is important.

I am careful to volunteer for nothing extra except this blog post (you’re welcome) because I can already tell that doing camp and being Margo’s mama at the same time is going to kick my butt.

(For one thing, Margo is curious about the world now and I am already having trouble settling her down to nurse and nap at our usual times, with all the extra people around. What will it be like in a new place with 40 teenagers? For another, I notice that all camp’s evening events start after our bedtime. Thirdly, I will be carrying her a lot more than usual this week, and my back is already aching. Fourthly… well, you get the idea).

Now that I have a child I find I have subtly shifted from identifying with the campers (I was one myself, many moons ago) to identifying with their parents, who love these mostly-grown-up babies of theirs so.

I am also thinking about what has changed since I was a camper, 20 years ago. The campers seem the same, honestly. The memes are different (radical honesty and bike touring then, gender pronouns and consent now). But today the staff, rather than being a random group of fun adults gathered by Grace, are now mostly former campers themselves, or anyway people who have been involved with camp for ten or twenty years and had our lives changed by it. I wonder how the weight of our history changes the camper experience.

Rosa and the kitchen team feed us exceptional food, including a savory mushroom soup with wild rice she harvested herself in the wilds of Minnesota, quiche, and an apple-blueberry pie served around the camp fire in the evening, for Jr. Staffer Zoe’s birthday.

And then we scuttle off for an early bed in hopes of meeting tomorrow’s campers well-rested and lively.

Photo by Celina Dill
Photo by Evan Wright


Photo by Celina Dill




Photo by Celina Dill
Photo by Evan Wright