The morning sun is peeking through the windows, and the birds are chattering outside. I roll over in my sleeping bag and tug my blanket closer around me to fight off the biting cold at my toes. There’s shifting in other places in the room as other campers begin to wake up. The soft tones of mandolin dance through the air as Claire comes, singing, through the door. My partner Raven is still sleeping softly nearby, their red hair curling from the humidity.
Wake up call is my favorite way of waking up when I sleep in Uncle Joe’s. You begin to see people moving more and more as they begin to become conscious. I drag myself out of bed a little bit after most of the people in the room have left already, taking their sleeping things to their cabin or getting ready for breakfast. I zip up my sleeping bag, throw it and my blanket over my shoulder, and run to my cabin to put on clothes in time to circle up in front of the lodge for breakfast.
Meals at camp may be one of my other favorite things to participate in. There’s something amazing about having three huge meals prepared for you a day; it makes the days so much easier and worry-free, especially for someone who worries about buying and making food every day for myself at home.
The morning wizzes by in a flash: I devour the breakfast burritos that have been set out for us and spend my time talking with Nathen about my emotional state before it’s time for advisee. Advisee meeting takes place back in Uncle Joe’s and we play “Hot Seat” in order to get to know each other more. Advisee is a wonderful chance to learn more about specific campers, and I find myself recognizing more names and faces each year during advisee. We wrap up quickly, however, before I get a chance to be in the middle (but my advisor assures me that I’ll get a chance tomorrow).
At this point, the sun is coming out full force and the day is getting hotter. I spend my time talking and mingling with other campers and our Jr. Staffer, Robin. We get to reminisce together about our first years, our first times meeting each other, and all the good that has come in our lives because of camp. After all, this is my last year, why not remember all the good times we’ve shared together?
When the lunch bell is rung, our conversations stop and we hurry to circle up and get in line for salad bar (one of my favorite camp meals). I wolf down my meal, still hungry from running around, even after our big breakfast. Since I’m an Eeyore, my superheroes shift is today! I meet Matt and my other superheroes at the library and help them to sanitize doorknobs, pick up trash, and move art supplies to Uncle Joe’s. After that, I’m free to be during Siesta, so I find my friends and begin to talk again. We sit around a table in the dining hall.
My partner restrings their guitar, and other musicians gather around to compare techniques, talk about their instruments and music in general. A table nearby is making “generalized positivity” notes for every camper’s clothespin. I walk over to join them, and spend the next little bit coloring small pieces of paper with uplifting phrases on them to give to every camper and staff person. Once the clothespins are all full of these tiny notes, the table cleans up and I join Raven again as they finish stringing their guitar to work on my pastel drawing of a dragon.
When siesta and pool time are finished, workshops are opening up again! I join Dandy in the corner of the dining hall to learn about cyanotypes, a 19th century printmaking technique that uses a photosensitive solution and objects in order to create a sort of print. We are told to go outside and collect different objects to use on our pieces. I excitedly run around the site picking up lichen, moss, leaves, and other things. I also decide to use a couple of my crystals to make beautiful shapes. When we get all our objects laid out, Dandy instructs us that we must lay them in the sun so the reaction can begin. We carefully carry our papers and objects out to the table when all of a sudden-
“It’s raining!” says one of the members of the workshop. We hurry to take our papers inside (the solution will react to water) as the rain slowly begins to come down. In both of my years at camp, I have never seen rain; this is a new experience! The thunder that has been rolling in the past two days is finally becoming rain.
My partner and I run to the front of our cabin to clean up the small alter I have set up there so our crystals don’t get damaged. The rain is really coming down now, running off the roof of the dining hall and pouring down on the roads. Campers are rushing from everywhere to see the rain, laughing and screaming as the drops pour down on the hot day. I see a group forming at the road, where there’s no tree cover to block the droplets.
Willoughby is dancing with bubbles in hand, blowing them through the group of ecstatic campers who are all tipping their heads back, stretching out their arms to experience the rain coming down. Soren is jumping, whooping about the bubbles and the rain. I dance around myself, laughing at all of the boisterous reactions. It’s invigorating to have the rain wash away all of the heat of the day.
When I’ve finished basking in the raindrops, I feel myself start to shiver. I decide to watch the rain calm down from inside the dining hall, where I will be warmer. Other campers join my partner and I as we sit down again to do tarot readings. I pull out my goddess deck and give two readings, one to my partner and one to Kay as River looks on. By the time I’m finished explaining the cards and talking about the readings, the smell of stir-fry is wafting from the kitchen. We run to wash our hands and get in line for yet another big, healthy meal, with pudding for dessert.
The sun is beginning to set, and all of camp is making their way towards evening meeting. Everyone is pulling out their hoodies as the air chills further, cooled down from the rain. Evening meeting rushes by, and we learn that water may be low tonight (the filter has to be changed), and then the talent show is next. Everyone gathers in Uncle Joe’s to listen to campers’ music and other performances. Other campers kick a lit up beach ball with Yared, and still others practice for other talent shows in the dining hall.
We are all waiting for the big event of the night: bonding night. Bonding night has to be one of the most connecting and grounding experiences I have enjoyed at camp. When the time comes, we circle in front of the dining hall with hands outstretched for hand sanitizer. We hold hands around the circle, and begin singing…
“Spiraling into the center, the center of the wheel. We are the weavers, we are the woven ones, we are the dreamers, we are the dreams…”
The circle slowly is pulled into the dining hall, which has been cleared and softly lit. Our voices echo like a choir of spirits around the room. I feel my breathing, soft and steady as I relax into the event. We circle around the room and close our eyes while the bonding night committee leads us to different places in the room, sitting us in pairs.
Eye contact is the first activity. There’s something deeply personal and connecting about just staring into someone’s eyes without speaking. In our regular society, connection isn’t necessarily a priority; not here at camp, however. I find myself staring into King’s eyes, and feel that same profound connection of staring into someone’s soul that I get when I look into my partner’s eyes, or anyone else’s, for that matter. People say that eyes are the windows to the soul, and there’s something to that saying.
When the soft chime rings, we switch to questions. With our partners, we discuss what a safe place is, and what love means. This is a listening exercise, so we sit and listen while the other talks, then switch back and forth. It was so amazing to learn more about those that I was paired with, especially about such personal and deep concepts. When we finish talking, it’s time for my absolute favorite part of bonding night: unconditional love.
We circle the room again and wait for the committee to split us in half for the next portion of the event. Half of us spread out across the room, at least an arms length or so apart, while the other half backs against the wall. The people who have spread out close their eyes, and we are all set loose to hug them. Each hug is anonymous, and every person tends to hug every person on the other side of the room. The room is quiet, except for the shuffling of feet and the sound of crying from some individuals. The experience is entirely beautiful, and brings up emotions of relief, happiness, and love. When we finish, the space is used as a soft, cuddly area for those who are still feeling everything from bonding night. People continue to mill around, still hugging one another, sharing snacks and laying together on the tiles.
I find Raven after the event with tears running down their face. They hold me tight and tell me how beautiful this event was for them, and how much love they’ve felt here. I hold them on the ground in the dining hall and let my own tears fall down my face, feeling the same love coursing through my body. I remember that this may be my last bonding night, but I’m not sad at all. I feel like I’m right here, right now. This is finally the night that I feel like we’re really here at camp, and everything is perfect.