August 12, 2020

Roses and Thorns

It’s been a summer full of emotions, challenges, silver linings, and learning, and today I experienced the rose of my summer. As I was in the office working on updating the 2021 camp application I was roused out of my screen-induced stupor by the kind of high-pitched emotional cacophony that could only come from one thing: a gaggle of JC girls. They had come to pay their tearful respects to their beloved summer home, and to extend an invite to Cabin Circle on their campsite across the lake.
After dinner I got in my canoe and paddled out and was rewarded with a magical experience – this group of 17 year olds had organized and executed an entire canoe trip by themselves. After getting over my shock that the Portage Store would rent tripping gear to “kids” I realized that these girls were far more capable than most of the weekend warriors who paddle through. Their site was beautifully set-up, they had a roaring fire going, and they were sitting around an upside-down canoe table enjoying the meal they had just made. I don’t know if I’ll ever stop being amazed by the skilfulness and resourcefulness of Arowhon folks…
Without any prompting by me, they led a Cabin Circle straight out of a pre-camp session (which of course they’d never been to because they had to miss their first summer on staff). They took turns talking, listened attentively to each other, and respectfully held each other accountable for getting carried away. Some highlights of what I heard:
  • “Sign me up for next summer – I’ll pay to work at camp!”
  • “There’s nothing like the feeling of Tepee Lake water”
  • “I didn’t know how much I needed this until I arrived”
  • “It’s like coming home”
  • “It must be so hard for you being at camp without us😉”
I often think that my connection to this place is so strong because of my personal history with it, but moments like these make me realize that Arowhon magic belongs to everyone. That there are so many people whose hearts and lives have been permanently touched by camp, who carry it with them everywhere they go, and who feel the same sense of coming home when they catch their first whiff of Algonquin air. It’s these bonds with each other and this place that will carry us through whatever the rest of this year brings us, and will call us back to our Tepee Lake home no matter how far we stray.
On my paddle back I breathed deeper and noticed the smells, sounds, and colours around me a little more than before. Thank you girls for helping me appreciate the extraordinary in every day at camp.

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