“Camp Magic”

14063550_313580182322235_418209987_nAt the summer camp in Oregon where I’ve spent my last two summers, there’s a big, green bridge over the Sandy River that you cross just before getting to the camp. When we take kids over it, we count down from three and all say together “THE BIG GREEN BRIDGE!” When solely among counselors–crossing the bridge listening to blasting music and swerving around forest-highway corners in the fuck-all-invincible fashion of dealing with our own lives–we yell in unison “THE BIG GREEN FUCKING BRIDGE,” as an act of some sort of adult-y rebellion.

All of camp is kind of like that. Pure magic on the kids’ side of things. Something else for the counselors. Magical still, of course, but not in quite the same way.

I grew up going to a religious camp from when I was eight-years-old to eighteen. If the amount of time I spent there wasn’t an indicator, camp was my shit. I was a painfully shy kid growing up and didn’t have m(any) friends. Especially during Phoenix’s long, hot summer breaks, I was almost completely isolated and, even more, kept inside from the 100+ degree heat. Summer camp, for me, meant friends, belonging, sharing ideas in a safe space, getting to go outside. Camp, without even fully knowing it, was everything I would grow up to love in my post-Phoenix evolution into the trajectory of my adult-self. While I didn’t know this at the time, I knew that camp was right; camp was the week I was happiest all year.

Taking the next step into being a camp counselor was a transition, though, to say the least. My first summer as a counselor was not at the same camp where I was a camper because they considered nineteen too young there; I went to a YMCA camp with no standards instead. Really, laughably, no standards (I cooked meals for the camp sometimes without a food handlers card, etc., etc., etc.). Being a camp counselor–especially at this camp–was hard fucking work, the hardest I had ever yet experienced at that point in my life. Initially, it devastated me. I mean, not necessarily because it was hard, but because each struggle was an exposure to the cracks in the perfect camp picture I’d held in my head for the majority of my life. Over the course of the summer, though, I learned to get over these cracks and love being a camp counselor anyway, in an accepting an imperfect world and growing up kind of way. I learned that year that, as a grown up, magical moments have to be created a whole lot more often than they were received as a child.

I was a camp counselor for two more years after that, and I have loved spending my summers outside with kids perfecting (or at least trying to) that art of creating “camp magic” for others. This past summer, I moved up a bit in the camp world and became a Unit Director, or, as I’ve been telling my friends, a counselor for counselors. Unexpectedly, I have discovered that being one more level removed from camper, at least for me, actually takes away a considerable amount of even more magic. There are more cracks in the picture. The structure of things feels more real world. I am forced to be more like my school-y outside world self than the separate camp entity I seek to inhabit during my summers.

13597629_1744558289091897_1193940994_nIt is too recent for me to put my finger on what exactly it is, but I am stuck wondering how far this removal from magic will go? Is there a limit where camp doesn’t have any more joy? I remember Walrus, my boss’s boss’s boss, saying at the end of this summer that he tried to come to a closing campfire, where we were all crying and emoting like crazy, and he could only pay attention to the fact that a tree was going to fall on one of us and hurt somebody. He sees camp through a different lens now, he says.

I have, in the past, toyed with the idea of summer camp-ing forever and permanently existing in a world where my happiest week of the year can last for fifty-one more. But, after this summer, I know that I am done. Camp has made a world of difference in making the person I am today and I owe it more than I can articulate. But I do not want to enter a time where I’m far enough removed from a camper to loose all the magic. To overwhelm my bridge with a little too much of the FUCK.

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The Completely True Story of my Last Winter Break

I start school again on Tuesday, and I’m realizing this is my last winter break for a while. “Break” this winter has only been a term relative to school and tutoring, but it’s still strange to imagine that this month-long period next year may not differ at all from the rest of the year.

I started this break by going to my favorite town, Jerome, Arizona, with one of my best friends. Originally, the trip was only to consist of reading our respective books (for me, Zoologies by Alison Hawthorne Deming, and him How Winter Began by Joy Castro; both are incredible, by the way) while taking in Sedona’s red rocks and the San Francisco Peaks. Typical of ghost towns revived by aging hippie artists, though, we quickly ran into a man made mostly of beard–accompanied by his dog– in a saloon who convinced us to join him on a naked bike ride marathon through the town. He said they were raising money for the prospector ghosts who were demanding the town build them a mansion, or they would keep pushing Jerome off the hill an inch a year. The bike ride was alright, and my friend and I managed to raise five hundred dollars for the mansion between the two of us, but the ride was a little cold, and it was a relief to get back to my parents’ home in the temperate, climate-change fashioned winter of Phoenix.

I was there for one day, my mom’s birthday, and then was off on another adventure.

Vegas

Photo by Cassandra Leone

For another friend’s 21st birthday celebration (the actual date was a couple months ago), I joined her family on a trip to Las Vegas for a few days. That story stays in Vegas (hint: a miniature pony was involved).

I was home again for Christmas day, where I played a dirty game about the bible (my Christmas gift to my family) with my family.

The next day, I volunteered at Camp Sky-Y in Prescott for a week of winter camp. Although I’ve been a counselor for every age group before, most of my experience has been with jr. high and high school age campers. This session, though, I was put with three eight year old girls who transferred their youth to me through some camp-magic form of osmosis. Ever since, I cannot stop listening to, and being in love with, this band called One Direction. I have an overwhelming desire to throw snowballs at trees, and then hug them and tell them I’m sorry. I’m obsessed with building blanket forts. If any camp people know a cure, I’d appreciate it. My roommates are getting annoyed with all my stray crayons and glitter.

I was home for a day, packing, and singing a duet with my mother at our church in Tempe. Then I came back to Flagstaff. I haven’t done much since then, but I did watch the entirety of Peaky Blinders, start this blog, finally practice my ukulele, and go to a punk concert where someone mock gave birth.

Rio de Flag

Rio de Flag, Flagstaff

Although this is the busiest winter break I’ve ever had, I’ve still in loved the opportunity that a hiatus from school affords: the opportunity to travel, to make music, to spend copious amounts of time with friends that homework usually steals me from. I don’t know where in the world I’ll be next year, or what I could possibly be doing, but I know I’ve enjoyed this month and I’m ready to start finishing my undergraduate life on Tuesday.

New Year’s Resolution: 2016

 

IMG_2824This past summer, I spent a night in a “chuck wagon.”

It was at a camp in Oregon, while working  as a counselor,  near the end of the season. We’d caught wind that our campers (of Jr. High age) were planning to sneak out of their cabins and go down to the river that night. Boys and girls. So I slept in the chuck wagon–a makeshift pioneer wagon with a long picnic table in it–in the middle of the cabins to catch and stop any mischief.

Skinny dipping has been a pretty steady ritual throughout my three years as a camp counselor: the body of water ranging from the natural waterway of Oregon’s Sandy River to an irrigation pond, stagnant with sunscreen and bullfrog shit, on a ranch in Arizona’s high desert. Skinny dipping, however, is a counselor right. Permissible only by the arbitrary stamp of some “adulthood” that comes in caring for other people’s children.

For some reason, that night, the fact that the summer was coming to an end and that I would start my senior year of college in a few weeks, hit me. In the middle of acres of nearly untamed, and completely dark forest, I couldn’t sleep for fear of the unknown beyond graduation. A condemnation to “adulthood” beyond counselor rights and our invented  superiority over adolescents trying to enjoy puberty.

Now, I can’t stop looking at 2016 as if I were approaching The End that Henry Ward Beecher’s last words, “Now comes the mystery!”, invoke.

One of my good friends (found here) has been urging me to start a blog for quite some time now. I’m not a stranger to blogging. Inspired by The Clothes HorseConfessions of a Female Drag QueenCali Vintage, and Hannah and Landon, I had a “personal style blog” in high school that, when I checked today, has well over 25,500 views (which is weird?). I did a couple of posts for a blog when I studied abroad in Denmark, but promptly gave it up to, you know, study abroad. And last semester, my boyfriend started a blog making fun of me called Lizzy Does Wine.

The Lizzysaurus, now, is my 2016 New Year’s Resolution (even though it’s the sixth) (and has nothing to with my embarrassment when I published a blog article a few months ago, and when the woman asked for a link to other work, I had nothing). So, here is my totally-necessary public platform for recording this (maybe?) great, post-graduation mystery that will be 2016.

And who knows? Maybe it will help with my chuck wagon insomnia, which is all I’ve ever really wanted.