August 20, 2017

#summer2017 is coming to a close…..

Last night, after a triumphant day of high class awards, Brent and Whitney trip returns, and our final activity periods of 2017, the Camp Arowhon staff of 2017 – minus night duty of course! – gathered to bring our season to a close. Before entering into the ML for a late night banquet and awards ceremony honouring this summers staff MVP’s, the entire staff was addressed by the management team.

Here’s what I said;

“When I sat down to think about what I was going to say this evening, two quotes from one of my favourite musicians, Dan Mangan, popped into my head. He has two songs – both are haunting, and sad, about loss and endings – that make me shiver, and sing along,  every time. The first quote that came to mind was from his song ‘Road Regrets’;

“We’ll drive until the gas is gone…..

We’ll walk until our feet our torn……

Crawl until we feed the soil…..

And film the whole thing!”

Why does this make me think about this past summer? I suppose it’s because, like most years, at this point in the summer, I’m tired; I’m worn down; I feel like I’ve given it my all, and all that’s left to do is sleep.

Maybe you feel this way too?

The second song – ‘Basket’ – sprang to mind because it repeatedly references puzzles. I think this is fitting. As you may have noticed, what we do all summer in the Tripping Program is one big puzzle – a crafty balance of trips, staff, resources, special days, travel days, day’s off, busses and too many other things to name.

If I can, I’d like to tell you about the puzzle we’ve been piecing together.

First, the numbers.

This tripping season, which really only lasts 6 weeks (or 59 days) we, a rag tag squad of savvy talented individuals 24 strong, ran exactly 100 canoe trips.

We spent a total of 281 nights in tents, under tarps, or burritoed under the stars; as a group, we spent more than a year – 377 days total –  paddling and portaging our way across Ontario and Quebec.

We sent 891 people out on unforgettable adventures, from long trips on the Missinaibi and Noire Rivers, to Brent, the Whitney, to Burnt, and back again.

We travelled close to 4,000 km (3,917km by my count) by canoe alone – not counting on the times we got lost, changed our routes, took ‘shortcuts’, doubled back, tripled back, or otherwise wandered astray.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is an incredible laundry list of achievements.

The puzzle we’ve been building is nothing short of life changing – for campers and staff, and potentially, the planet. We’ve taught others to appreciate and enjoy the incredible natural beauty of this great country. Whether you feel it now, or not, know that YOU have changed lives.

To stretch this metaphor a little further;

I’ve mentioned some of the pieces of this puzzle – the buses, the places, the stuff – but the most important pieces are you. As any successful puzzle builder will tell you, the best way to start a puzzle is from the outside edges in. They define the shape of the picture being formed, and lay the groundwork for all the other pieces in between.

You are the edges – the defining foundations of this incredible picture we’ve been building. You’ve provided the kind, caring instruction and support our campers need to feel safe out there in the wild. Each one of you has given your time, energy and love to making this summer a success. You’ve built this incredible picture.

But (and there’s always a but)

Summers, like puzzles, have a limited lifespan. In the same way a puzzle, once completed, get put back in the box and shelved for another time, this summer is coming to a close.

And like puzzles, which always loose pieces along the way, can never be fully put back together, so too this summer will never be reconstructed. Some of you will get ‘city jobs’; some of you will move on to other camps, to bigger trips, to international study abroad programmes or summer co-ops.

What we’ve built, this puzzle we’ve crafted, will exist now only in the hearts, minds, and memories of the people we’ve impacted.

And in the sick Go-Pro footage I’ll be posting to Facebook all year round.

To close, another quote, this time from ‘Basket’;

So I’ll go but I’m telling you I don’t wanna go

Could be stuck here and happy

So there’s a puzzle I work on endlessly

And I’ve got the sides and all the corners

But there’s a space

Yeah there’s a space

Lost some pieces I can’t replace”



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