A Week At Camp

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.

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

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


    • Prince

      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.

      • Daniel Becker

        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!

  • Sophie Harriet

    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.

    • Thomas Slatin

      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.

  • luisa pete

    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.

  • esgyll

    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.

  • jolly555

    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.

  • Alex

    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.

  • Wilson Jake

    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

  • conrad pranze villas

    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.

  • Baraka

    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.

  • Janet

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

  • Susi R

    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.

  • David Tjoe

    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.

  • Brain

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

  • Oyeyipo Oladele

    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.

  • Daphne

    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.

  • Louis

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

  • Sylvia

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

  • Andrei Ross

    I think it was a great idea for you to visit the camp you had many great memories in. I do agree, not everyone is blessed with a friend who ultimately feels like a brother or sister. They will stand the test of time regardless of how many people you meet along the journey of life. Thank you for sharing this with us readers.

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