Greetings from Hilltop. It’s another beautiful day at Camp. The heatwave has passed, and it’s nothing but gorgeous mid-70s San Juan Islands summer weather. Our first round of Senior Trips are off on their adventures. Carlyn stopped at Camp after completing her round-the-county leg and is headed south across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. All is right with the world.
There’s a saying at Camp – the days are long, but the weeks are short. I feel that this week, and I know many campers and staff are as well. So much happens in a day at Camp. If you try to tell someone the full story of the day in the evening, you end up going to bed too late. At the same time, it seems like maybe a day or two ago that we had our first Evening Fire. Of course, it’s been seven days. That’s just how Camp goes. I think it comes from being fully present in this space. There’s something about being in the here and now, putting the outside world in the back of your mind, and just focusing on the present and the people around you that warps your sense of time (in a good way).
Today, of course, is the Fourth of July, Independence Day. Given the year we’ve all been through, that word, “independence” carries new weight. We’ve always touted the benefits of Camp beyond just the fun, and independence has always been high on the list. Occasionally, I run into a parent concerned that spending summers at Camp won’t build a resume enough for a college-bound teenager. If I’m feeling a bit salty, I often respond, “Camp may not help your kid get into Yale, but it will help them not to kill their freshman year roommate.” The construction of that sentence may be jokey, but the point of it isn’t a joke at all. Most of the young people who struggle in college don’t struggle with academics. They struggle with being away from home for the first time. Young people with a quality camp experience have practice being away from home. They’ve flexed those emotional muscles and gained skills. They’re more likely to succeed.
After this extraordinary year that we’ve all been through, the need to flex those muscles is even starker. In the spring, people would ask me some version of, “How do you think these kids will be at Camp with all they’ve been through in the pandemic?” I would answer that I don’t think it’s melodramatic to refer to the last year-plus as a trauma. People who’ve experienced trauma often behave in surprising ways, and if kids behave in surprising ways this summer, we’ll be ready to support them. At the same time, I’d also tell a story about two boys I think of often. Several years ago, I was walking through boys’ side, thinking about kids and technology and camp and how it all works, and worrying a bit that our strict technology policies might make us irrelevant to modern kids and families. As I worried about this and walked, I encountered two Junior boys, playing swords with two sticks, as Westward Ho campers have for nearly 100 years, and as boys in the woods generally have for centuries. When you put kids in an outdoor setting with caring young adults, a sense of belonging and community, and great activities, great things happen. That was as true when the latest technology was a Walkman as it is now. It was true before the pandemic, it is now as we enter its late days in the United States, and it will be moving forward.
The truth of it isn’t as simple as my either/or traumatized kids vs. kids will revert to normal at Camp construction. It’s both simultaneously. They have been through an extraordinary trauma, and being here is healing.
Okay, off my soapbox for now. Back to the Fourth of July. We’ve got a great day planned. We had a Sunday sleep-in this morning. We had a great breakfast, Sunday Assembly, work projects, and an extra-long rest hour. Normally, for the Four of July, we parade to Deer Harbor. This year, we can’t go off the property, so we’re going to parade from the Craft Courts to Land Sports. That may seem a little underwhelming, but what the kids don’t know is that when we get to Land Sports, waiting for them there will be all sorts of fair games. We’ll have watermelon eating contests, corn hole, snow cones, a Commonwealth Corner with our British, Canadian, and Australian Friends (with tea), and lots of other fun. It should be a blast.
Thank you for sharing your children with us. It’s so great to have them here. We’ll keep doing our thing, with long days and short weeks, for as long as we can.