Archive for June, 2011

Photo by Vipal.
We spotted the ocean at the head of the trail
Where are we going? So far away.
Somebody told me, that this is the place.
Where everything’s better, and everything’s safe.
Half an hour later
We’d packed up our things
Said, we’d send letters
and all of those little things.
And they knew we were lying, but they smiled just the same,
Seemed they’d already forgotten we’d came. 
For most of the summers of my childhood and teenaged years, I went to summer camp. Even now, sometimes on a summer early evening, I recall exactly the schedule: Sunday afternoon, swim test. Sunday night, s’mores. I often dream of being there, hiking from the lakefront to the dining hall, doing dishes in the steamy kitchen [as a teenager, earning my free stay.]

Many of my happiest childhood memories took place at camp: I felt loved, I felt smart and good, I had a routine that I craved. On the night of my seventeenth birthday, I saw seventeen shooting stars. I sang and learned to swim and build fires and sleep in a quiet forest.

When I got older, and then became a counselor, the coolest people I met were other counselors. Sometimes they came from England, or New Zealand. Often they were college girls from the big college town, the cultural capital of my region of the state. They listened to R.E.M. (my own #1 band), to crazy bands I’d never heard of, wore cool tee-shirts and had traveled.

The summer of this song, by Toad the Wet Sprocket, I had my own car, and had this album, and was a counselor. I listened to the entire album– it’s one of those great albums where nearly every song is good, and they sound “right” in order. It was intense, golden-hued, nostalgic: just like my feeling of being at camp.

One Friday, after the kids were gone, and we counselors were packing up our tent (for the weekend break, and then to move into another campsite for the next week), a fellow counselor backed her car into the campsite, popped her hatchback, and put this tap on her tape player, car battery fueling the music for us to pack by.

We were silent as we packed, and at age 17, it seemed so darn appropriate. “Packing our things.” “Said we’d write letters.” “Forgotten we’d came.” The sun was setting, I imagined I could see or sense the lake through the trees, and I already felt sad and bittersweet about getting older. I’d be going away to college in the fall. My parents were getting a divorce, unbeknownst to me at that moment. Things were changing.

Honestly, for me, camp was a place where I always did feel better, and where I was always safe. Now, listening to the song, I can so easily conjure my platform tent, the green plates we used in the dining hall, the sweaty grit of having cooked over a campfire, the spookiness of the woods at night, the gorgeous glimmering of the lake in late afternoon.

I felt old that summer, strangely.  I had never kissed anyone, had not yet experienced depression, had never been on an airplane.

We don’t even have pictures,
Just memories to hold,
that grow sweeter each season,
as we slowly grow old.

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Photo by Tasayu Tasnaphun

“Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light.” –Helen Keller

Sometimes, we feel the shatter.  Oh, the breaking, the sudden sharp sound, the numb eye-widening.  Faith can be hard to access… in such times, I know I go into “me, me, what am I going to do?” a self focus, a collapsing of a telescope in.

I am stronger when I remember I am not alone.  Actually, I have never been alone.

How many times will I have to learn this lesson to remember it for real?  God, help me remember the strength that I forget, and help me to cast out to my community when it seems all I have is sherds in my hands, sherds that make no sense.

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