I’m kneeling in front of a railing, drops of water splashing periodically onto my hand. With each drop, a little more dirt clears from the small rubber ring between my fingertips. I brush the dirt along as best I can. On the railing rest several more items—a twisted, rusty nail, a black ukulele pick, a slab of plaster of unknown origin. Each of them has been methodically wetted and scoured, the earth cleared from its niches: a separation of unnatural and natural, discovered and covering, dirt and detritus. A shrine to the found item.
And this is all I’m doing. Right now, the single point of impact in the universe, the sole recipient of my undivided concentration, is this microcosm of dripping faucet and small object.
Because this is Not Back to School Camp.
And here at NBTSC, if you want to spend an hour cleaning tiny things in the least efficient manner possible, or half an hour fishing pens and ceramic shards out of a grate with a stick and a pad of duct tape, or fifteen minutes carving a piece of rubber into the outline of a bat, well, that’s what you’re going to do. Or, at least, that’s what I’m going to do.
I arrived at camp a day early, and now inhabit a little eddy of stasis between a staff body bustling to get the place ready—you have not witnessed true thinly-veiled panic until you have seen junior counselors two hours before camp—and the influx of campers I know is impending. Yes, in this moment, nothing and no one has any higher plan for me than this.
And then the moment passes.
Flash forward, and I’m treebound, sprinting across a shaggy lawn as the first of my fellows trickle in from the forgotten outside world. Who are they? What do they want? What even happens outside this simple place? I reach the tree (you know the one) and catch the first branch, which a thousand cutoff-jean legs have smoothed to the texture of old leather, and swing my body up. In less than ten second I’m up, high enough for a good view, concealed enough for an inconspicuous one.
And here they come.
All fifty-three of them, in ones and twos and sixes, from every corner of the country and four dozen different backgrounds, and it would be overwhelming, except—except that I know them all.
Sure, I’ve never met more than a few of them in my life, and sure, there’s no one I’d approach on the street with a greeting in my eyes—but I know them.
There are bandanas. There are army jackets. There are sneakers and Doc Martens and Converse and combat boots. There are hoodies and rainbows, jeans and knee-socks, fingerless gloves and a million different duffels, and the hair! Every teenage haircut, and a few more besides, is present here in a glorious array of individuality and exploration. It’s enough to build a sociology thesis on. And maybe it’s the hair, maybe it’s the place, (maybe it’s Maybelline,) maybe I’m just giddy with height and adrenaline—but every person here looks like they’re home. And if they’re home here, and I’m home here, well.
I look forward to this week.
Heaven help anything that stands in our way.