Thursday, October 31, 2013

...I'll think of you and sigh...

And finally, finishing out our little "Thoughts Away from Camp in The Fall" series, here's an essay from our very own Julia Langone discussing the role of Camp Spirit in higher education.


                It’s almost cruel and unfair, the first few months after summer camp. I often found myself disoriented after camp, stripped of my freak-out and left to fend for myself.  Days are now filled with artificial lighting and cubed rooms with few exit signs. I felt boxed into endless hours of power points, and irrelevant dense readings. But I’m being dramatic.

                Camp represents the beautifully structured schedule that allows for creativity. There’s no rule without reason. It’s freedom and friendship. It’s natural and open. It’s the mud in between your toes before you hop in the lake that day. It’s a Cabin 4 boy telling a joke that doesn’t make an iota of sense, to a crowd of 100 people, and those very same 100 people clapping and laughing like hyenas, begging for more. It doesn’t hold to restrictive weirdness or arbitrary deadlines. Having experienced camp through middle school, high school, and college, I’ve had most of my epiphanies in life during the summer. And looking back, now more so than ever has it shaped the way I view my past decisions and future ones.
                Growing up in the sheltered suburbs, I had it figured out. I did some sports, could play a few chords on guitar, got straight A’s, had an extensive social web, and had the best three friends a girl could ask for. A confident little lady in the eyes of many. But most importantly, I had a plan.
                But then there were the few without them. I remember this one kid in our town who would wear old chucks and two dollar garage-sale-looking button downs. He had long hair that was slicked back behind one of his ears as he talked, and a stench of musty pants, or lack of bathing, or who knows, seemed to radiate unapologetically from him. He spoke as if it were the 60’s, always off to the next local music event, putting high school far at the end of his list. He seemed to float as he walked with long strides and would relaxingly hunch his lanky body slightly forward, as if he never had the nervousness to sit up straight before.
                He’d pop up now and then downtown, never with a notice, never a call. Pretty sure he didn’t even have a phone. People couldn’t explain him. Why wouldn’t he finish high school? Why did he not have a phone? Why he didn’t seem to have a plan? Gossip blamed it on social weirdness or even the music scene, but evidence has it that he was as kind as a peach. His plan was music, though many reject something as unstructured as music to be one. Blues beats and old riffs would flood from his fingers with whatever instrument he touched. Whether it was his bass, guitar, keyboard, harmonica – give this kid a Q-tip, a wooden stick, and a doorknob and he’d make music.
                Everyone knew him, and it being our last year of high school, everyone also knew the pressure of applying for the next step of education. Deadlines, applications, and endless recommendation letters were upon us. But these two pieces of knowledge, were held at opposite sides of the spectrum. Our options were clear: to stay trapped in the suburbs, as our musty panted friend had seemed to choose, or to move on out of our parents’ houses for a new start.
                I of course supported and identified with our long haired friend’s blues background, having always wanted to be a front blues singer for a rock band, and found myself jealous and in awe of his natural talent. I could never relax my shoulders as he did, could never nonchalantly jam unannounced at a local show. But most importantly, I could never skip class the way he could, could never miss practice, get a C, the way he could. After all, I was working for something bigger- college, right?
                As time went on we would still see him during breaks from college. My friends and I would playfully joke about him when we saw him riding his Schwinn with a ukulele on his back, or seeming to wander aimlessly downtown with a guitar. But the real joke was that we thought we had our lives figured out.  Without even actively thinking about it, or being malicious, we elevated ourselves above him. His presence of not having a structured four year plan, somewhat reaffirmed our own nervous decisions of having one.
                And of course with my three random switches in Majors later, the haunting realization had dawned on me: I had no plan. Just as he supposedly didn’t. But, this was okay. I will finish my two more semesters of overworked course loads and suffocated creativity, and renew myself with musty pants and camp spirit. Looking back on it, I wish I had the focus and gall to wear those musty pants, to fearlessly front bands and street corners, to pursue dreams of writing and music as our long haired friend did from the start of high school. He has camp in him. And this is not to say those with camp spirit are high school drop-outs. This is to say he did what he loved, and shared it with others with a big smile on his face. He has happiness. And that’s all we can search for right? Live and learn, and carry on with what you love.
                Ready for more sap? Yes. I’m ready. So, with 2014 upon me, and my last two semesters, I feel the chains slowly loosen, and an awakening coming on. Arbitrary structure and higher education are like shooting sports for me. No matter how hard I attempted to align my shot, it always went a little to the left. At least I had the waterfront to splash freely. And so I did as a kid, and I will now. I will splash freely with the mustiest of pants and a renewed sense of camp spirit not just during my summer months, but all year round.

Thanks to all those who sent thoughts our way. Happy Halloween, and we'll have more Camp News coming your way in November.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

...and as the years go by...

And here's some lovely thoughts from our friend, Kayli Ziolkowski. 
Camp is not just a summer camp. That little bit of camp spirit that lights our campfires is what camp is, year-round. Admittedly, for me, it was just a place for a year or two, but six years later that spirit is with me into the fall and then for the rest of the seasons. I find myself living by asking myself, and others, whether actions are kind or respectful. I think before I speak ‘Keep it CA; what if the cabin 7 girls or the cabin 4 boys hear me?’ And then there are the little things I picked up like calling my friends ‘Child’, which has gotten me into trouble a few times, or singing the ‘Toast!’ song whenever the topic of baked bread slices comes up. I have found that a moral story about cute forest creatures and delinquents is not always appreciated by my peers; High School is a scary place but a round, or three, of baby monkey can lighten that up in a jiff (for me, at least). My CIT training is always with me and it has made me a better person. I volunteer whenever needed and I am first in line to help anyone who could use it. The Camp spirit that I’ve taken with me carries me through my year and has even inspired my future as I hope to carry on in the program as a volunteer and a counselor and, even farther in the future, become a teacher so that I can work with kids and make a positive impression. Camp is an amazing place but it is the memories made and the people who bring those back that keep the sun shining on it.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

...our camping days and friendships true...

In my last entry-posty-whatever thing, I invited you to share any thoughts you may have on how Summer Camp went on to shape your fall, so I thought I'd share some of my favorites.

Here's one from a long time camper/CIT/volunteer who wished to remain anonymous but had some wonderful words on their camp experience. 


Hey Ben and the rest of the camp staff that might or might not be reading this.  First, let me say that this blog is a great idea, I love hearing about camp away from the summer, its great! But to the story: Every year us campers (and now volunteers) get ready and prepare for camp, hoping for the best week of our lives. We are never disappointed. But that's not what this camp story is about. Every year the worst day of camp comes, saturday, and every year as a camper I would hug my summer time camp family goodbye, hold back the tears, and leave with my rest of the year family. This is usually succeeded by a day or two of trying to contact my friends from camp, the usual camp reunion, yada yada. But summer ends, and the sadness of leaving the mountains dims down again, and we all move on to another year of school. However, camp is still always found with us. Many of us learn things about ourselves at camp, and go on to use these things in great ways. Camp spirit has this special attribute, it never dies. Camp spirit has gotten us through test after test, through the hard times and the worst times. Camp spirit affects everyone differently, and I do not want to say any specifics for this is a post from everyone. However, I will admit this, if I stop for long enough and close my eyes, I can still smell the campfires, still hear the laughing children, still taste the amazing food, and still submerge in the cool waters of Lake Shawanni. Most importantly, however, I still manage to smile at the friendships I have made and the lives I have hopefully helped as a Volunteer, CIT, and camper. This is fall camp. This is winter camp. This is spring camp. And I cannot wait for summer so I can return to the mountains with my fellow 4-H campers, volunteers, counselors, and coordinators. Camp is for one, camp is for all. Hope to see you all next year internet land!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

...and come September.

My Autumn Office.

Okay. So I know it’s well into October, but I’m borrowing the title of this post from one our favorite camp songs, and using it in a slightly less-than-literal way.

When we get to that part of “Linger”, I never think of right after labor day and the first days of school when everything is still warm and green, I think of right now. To look around Camp there is no doubt that it is no longer summer, and fall is here in full force.

What’s different about camp in the fall? Well first of all, camp is like fall all over the rest of New Jersey...only more so. Way more so. Fall shows up here a little earlier, and goes a little slower, a little bigger and a little brighter. The trees that all summer long live as a reliable and uniform green have went their separate ways and now live out there last in vibrant yellows, oranges, reds, golds and every shade or color in between. None choose exactly the identical color and you can spend all day looking tree to tree without every seeing the same thing twice.

There are leaves in the spillway. There are leaves on the road near the craft-shop, on the porches of the cabins, the roof of the rec hall, surrounding the flagstones, on the ground around the White-House. This is to say, there are leaves everywhere. If you were for a moment to forget what season it was, you’d instantly be reminded every step you took by the fresh and crisp crunching and crackling beneath your feet.


I mean. Everywhere.

In some ways, Camp is a wholly different place in the fall.

And yet.

Yet, if you stand just right, out of the shade where the sun can quickly warm you, stay still enough to hear no crackling, and squint past the dull autumn rainbow concentrating on a spot that remains pure green, it is summer still. You can hear the shouts and cries of Octopus tag (fishy, fishy, come into my...), smell the smoke (too much smoke, sometimes) of opening campfires, and see the cabins lining up in eleven not-so-straight lines in front of the dining hall porch.

Fall is beautiful here. It’s the very first step toward it being summer once again.

In the same way Camp seems to keep part of summer at it’s core as the seasons change, I hope that as your seasons change you’re able to keep what you love about camp close as well. I hope that if you stand just right, you can hear, smell and see the summer still.

Anyone out there (in internet land) have any good tales about how your time at camp changed, shaped, or affected your Fall or first few months of school? If you do, how about you type it up and email it over to me at  Maybe I’ll pick a couple of my favorites and post it on this here internet-bloggy thing. Cause that seems like the kind of thing it’d be good to do if you happen to have an internet-bloggy-thing.

Which, conveniently, I do.

Happy October.