Writing

A Week At Camp

  • July 30, 2020
5 M.P.H.

My dream of returning to the summer camp where I spent the summers of my childhood was finally granted.  My plans were made suddenly, on a whim in fact, though taking this rare opportunity to return to this place I have always considered to be magical has helped me to realize just how truly lost I was.

I stood in the middle of one of the large open athletic fields, all alone and listened to the sounds of nature; the singing birds, the wind blowing gently through the trees, surrounded by my own thoughts, and because it is natures poetry, forever shrouded in mystery.

I walked up to the door of my old cabin, where I had spent my first year as a camper, and the last three as a camp counselor.  I walked to the spot where I stayed when I was kitchen staff at age 16, remembering the tree that shielded my first kiss.  Then it was off to the more secluded part of camp, known as Wilderness, where I spent the best two summers of my childhood.

Walking back to Wilderness flooded me with emotions and memories, as if the decades that have passed were moments ago.  Passing the gate brought me back to a place I held so near and dear to my heart, where I spent two summers living and having the time of my life with some of my closest and dearest friends, many of whom are closer than family.  But this time was different.  I returned all alone to the place where I truly felt accepted, appreciated, and loved.  A place so special, yet whenever someone asks me about it, to me the feelings I have regarding it are truly elusive and indescribable.

It was especially heartbreaking to see that the names written on the walls had finally been covered over; my name, along with the names of my friends were now gone and lost forever.  Especially heartbreaking was the loss of the handwritten names of those friends who have been lost and will never return.  Those friends whose souls have flown are those who truly deserved to have had their handwritten names preserved.  I suppose it might be better this way, as reading their names in the handful of times when I have returned over the years brought up fond memories of happier times, and realizing that their souls have flown has only made those memories bittersweet and sad.  I much prefer to remember people being special not for how they died, but instead, how they lived.

I slowly made my way to the waterfront, where I sat alone by the lakeshore. It was there that I began to stare at the waves, thinking about my life this far, where I was going, and at that critical moment realized that the dreams I made so many years ago had all come to beautiful fruition, and if I wanted to continue having an interesting and productive life, I need to start making those picture-perfect maps of how the rest of my life would be. I told myself that I needed to be brave, take my place, I’m safe, reveling in the feeling of peace that surrounded me.

I then cast a single stone into the lake and observed the tiny ripples that spread out across the surface, remembering the time that I did this decades ago when I once showed a small child how their actions affected those around them. I like to think that my actions in life were motivated by good intentions, and that I indeed made a difference in the lives of others, despite the doubts that are often abounding.

There have been some people in my life whom I have truly liked, though very few people whom I have deeply cared for and loved, whose loss is irreplaceable and will be mourned for the remainder of my life.  I often remind myself that it is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.

So much time has passed, yet the truly important things in my life have remained mostly the same.  I was talking to a friend of mine who has been an integral person at camp ever since I can remember.  We caught up on the things that have changed in our lives since we last saw each other, talking about how time has changed us both.  We shared a few beers in the living room of the main house at camp, commenting on how time is a precious and fickle thing that changes everything. It would be grossly reckless for one to subscribe to the notion that there is anything that time will not touch.  Mitch is older now, has a wife and children, and as for myself, the child he met at the age of 11 is now older, too.  Besides Angie, who knows me better than anyone, there are very few people in my life that truly know me for who I really am, and Mitch is one of them.  I’m reminded of the Walt Whitman poem called Among The Multitude, where Whitman says, “some are baffled, but that one is not—that one knows me”.

In life we have many friends, but a true friend is someone who truly knows you for who you really are.  Someone whom is truly special, and despite the years spent apart, will come back into your life from across the miles as if there was not a single moment lost.  I am truly blessed and lucky to have a handful of friends who I can confidently call upon in times of need, like a small boat often lost at sea, these friends have always been the safe harbor, for after my body has been washed and beaten against the rocks after setting sail in the midst of a heavy gale, I have always been lovingly welcomed back to crawl upon their shore.

Coming back to the place where I attended summer camp has made me realize who my true friends are; these people whom I grew up with, grew close to, and eventually tried to push away. Resistance was futile in the end as they all saw my inner glow, while almost everyone else perceived my glow as see-thorough.  When I was truly lost in the sea of life, these people all jumped the emotional barricades that I built myself and headed for the sea to save me from drowning in my sadness and sorrow.

Taking a break from daily life has given me a lot of time to think, to dream, to evaluate my life, and to breathe; a welcome and overdue reprieve from my daily fears.

Then there are the changes that I am going to make when I leave camp.  Challenges I will soon face, and the only thing I know for certain is that my life is always subject to change; as humans, we are always subject to change. I realize now that I need to take life less seriously, as there are people who truly love and care for me, who would gladly and without question, put their lives and plans aside if it meant my success and happiness.

The most wonderful people I have known in life are those who have forever occupied a sacred place in my heart, for they come with a love that is both flawless and eternal.

Colophon
The header image was taken of a speed limit sign during my visit to summer camp.

Asides
Belong| The Changes That I Need | Everything Changes | Desideratum | Maybe | Will The Memories Die? | Enigmatic | When Is It Time To Let Go

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35 Comments on A Week At Camp

  • Pingback: Author Kai Beck Reads A Week At Camp by Thomas Slatin – TomSlatin.com

  • Daniel Hoz says:
    August 3, 2020 at 7:39 AM

    Thomas, you know how to write words that touch the soul.

    Reply

  • Marc Maurel says:
    August 3, 2020 at 7:39 AM

    this was wonderfully written. thanks for sharing.

    Reply

  • Jamie Lamb says:
    August 2, 2020 at 8:12 PM

    Beautifully written

    Reply

  • Sylvia says:
    August 1, 2020 at 10:41 PM

    You have created some great memories in your time. It’s great that you can recall them in such vivid detail.

    Reply

  • Storm says:
    August 1, 2020 at 10:40 PM

    Camping is something I never got to experience much in my life. In retrospect I wish I had ventured out more.

    Reply

  • Anderson says:
    August 1, 2020 at 10:39 PM

    I want to be able to write this well some day. It’s a long way to go but I believe I will get there.

    Reply

    • Thomas Slatin says:
      August 2, 2020 at 11:02 AM

      My current writing ability has taken me decades to achieve. Nothing worthwhile will ever come quickly in life without blessings of patience and hard work.

      Reply

  • Shantel says:
    August 1, 2020 at 10:38 PM

    You depict nostalgia beautifully on this piece. It’s a great piece of writing.

    Reply

  • Louis says:
    August 1, 2020 at 10:37 PM

    “It is better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all.” Those words are truly insightful and strike home.

    Reply

  • Teddy says:
    August 1, 2020 at 9:47 PM

    Summer camp is usually the fondest memory I have. Thanks for sparking those old memories for me 🙂

    Reply

  • Daphne says:
    August 1, 2020 at 9:45 PM

    This write up has made me appreciate a lot all the people that I hold sacred in my life. It’s a very sobering write up.

    Reply

  • Oliver says:
    August 1, 2020 at 9:43 PM

    This is a very moving piece. I like how you put a lot of emotion into your writing.

    Reply

  • Patricia says:
    August 1, 2020 at 9:42 PM

    I would give anything to experience the beautiful days of summer camp again. Oh how time flies!

    Reply

  • Meg W says:
    August 1, 2020 at 9:41 PM

    It is always a delight reading your experiences. They are so authentic and relatable.

    Reply

  • Roy says:
    August 1, 2020 at 9:40 PM

    This takes me back to my childhood. Those were truly my best days.

    Reply

  • Oyeyipo Oladele says:
    August 1, 2020 at 4:00 PM

    Camping is the experience I haven’t had. But hangouts is something I love so much, most especially when you are wit the right person.

    Reply

  • Brain says:
    August 1, 2020 at 12:19 PM

    Wow, I’m looking for love that’s not only eternal but flawless. I hope the universe will grant me this too.

    Reply

  • David Tjoe says:
    August 1, 2020 at 9:51 AM

    This is truly an interesting story. This has reminded me of camping with my friends in college. I can see the funny and unique characters of each friend while exploring nature.

    Reply

  • Susi R says:
    August 1, 2020 at 8:38 AM

    I have never done camping activities in my entire life. And I hope that I can take part in camping one day to be able to gain unique experiences in exploring nature.

    Reply

  • Janet says:
    August 1, 2020 at 7:21 AM

    This picture remind me of my childhood adventurous visit to the forest with my friends. They were very interesting.

    Reply

  • Baraka says:
    August 1, 2020 at 5:41 AM

    I totally agree with you. It’s better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. The memories left behind by our loved ones are irreplaceable.

    Reply

  • conrad pranze villas says:
    August 1, 2020 at 5:28 AM

    I have never been to summer camps. This is what i really want to do when i was very young. Looks like i need to allow my daughter to go to summer camps.

    Reply

  • Wilson Jake says:
    August 1, 2020 at 4:00 AM

    Having a true friend I life is really a big deal. Hardly will you see one though some are still out there. I love camping especially with that lovely friend

    Reply

  • Alex says:
    August 1, 2020 at 3:06 AM

    I Have never been to camps but I have been to out of towns. It helps me recharge. IT is good to have a break from a city life time and again.

    Reply

  • jolly555 says:
    August 1, 2020 at 12:41 AM

    You totally summed it up with these words The most wonderful people I have known in life are those who have forever occupied a sacred place in my heart, for they come with a love that is both flawless and eternal.

    Reply

  • esgyll says:
    August 1, 2020 at 12:16 AM

    I have always wanted to experience going to summer camp. Too bad (and what I know of) it’s not really something that could be had here when I was a little girl growing up; nowadays there are “summer camps” related to the arts. It’s quite unfortunate because we have a lot of beautiful places where one can get lost in the beauty of nature.

    Reply

  • Carol says:
    July 31, 2020 at 11:38 PM

    You have a really great way of telling a story. Writing is a gift. You are blessed with that.

    Reply

  • David Mureithi says:
    July 31, 2020 at 11:32 PM

    Feels great reading through. You rememember everything like it was yesterday.

    Reply

  • luisa pete says:
    July 31, 2020 at 10:27 PM

    This story Tom, transports me to imagine how magical it is to be in a summer camp surrounded by a lot of nature, I only have the privilege of imagining it because as a child I could never enjoy a summer camp. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply

  • Sophie Harriet says:
    July 31, 2020 at 3:24 AM

    It sounds like it was very emotional visiting your old camp, but helped you do some soul-searching at the same time. I never went to summer camp but I have similar feelings about my University campus because I have so many happy memories from there, but I haven’t been back there for several years now.

    Reply

    • Thomas Slatin says:
      July 31, 2020 at 7:46 AM

      Visiting camp was very emotional for me as I spent every single summer of my childhood here, and as the years went by, I was employed here for several years. This place will be special to me for as long as I live.

      Reply

  • "phoenix" desertsong says:
    July 30, 2020 at 12:08 PM

    Beautiful as always, my love <3

    Reply

    • Prince says:
      August 2, 2020 at 8:52 AM

      My last experience in camps as thought me the price of staying close with people that loves you as much as you love them. It’s always a special time of well spent.

      Reply

      • Daniel Becker says:
        August 3, 2020 at 7:38 AM

        Only those that went to Chateaugay will truly get the impact of the camp and people there. But so well expressed that I read every word. Wish you nothing but the best in the changes to come. Look forward to seeing you at the next reunion post Covid!

        Reply

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