My girls came back today after a week at sleepaway camp in the mountains. The camp is run by an exuberant camp director whose father was a camp director and whose cousins and friends help put on the week’s activities. The counselors are young, hip (some have goatees, others wear pink hair and striped leggings for pants), and wise beyond their years. The instructors teach African dance, world beat drumming, a form of martial arts I’ve never heard of done with sticks, a writing method called Wild Words, sketchbook art, yoga, and “medicine trail” hikes to learn about the healing powers of plants.
This is Dee’s third year attending, Em’s second. After spending an afternoon watching my girls and their camp-mates read their own poetry and play “Here Comes the Sun” on guitar, after hearing the rhythm of their drumming and seeing their dances and yoga poses, I am once again blown away by what an inspirational experience this camp is. Every child there, it seemed, was glowing.
This is so unlike my own childhood camp experience. The one and only sleepaway camp I attended was a Girl Scout-sponsored event in the mountains. I went with my best friend, Lori. Being that her sister Nita was a camp counselor, we felt heady, like we had an “in” with the staff. My main creative memory was of Nita teaching us the words and dance moves to a ditty called “Chiquita Banana.” It went:
I’m a Chi-quita ba-na-na and I’m here to say
ba-na-nas are grown in a special way.
Ba-na-nas are grown in the south e-qua-tor
so don’t put them in your, umph, umph (here you thrust your pelvis)
My most vivid other memory is of the camp head, a woman with set-and-dry hair who dressed in an adult version of the Girl Scout green jumper, admonishing me and Lori for cutting up during mess hall duties. She told us we were not welcome at camp again, nor for that matter to Girl Scouts, period. (We might have done a bit more than slop around food; I think we got caught smoking cigarettes with Lori’s sister, although I’m a bit fuzzy on that part.)
How things have changed! The camp director today explained that the theme for Dee and Em’s camp this summer was “Look to this day.” He said the phrase came from an old Sufi poem. The spirit of the poem, he said, had been woven into each facet of camp teachings. Tonight I looked it up so I might better understand what he meant. I found this version on oldpoetry.com:
Look to this day
For it is life, the very life of life.
In its brief course
Lie all the verities and realities of your existence.
The bliss of growth,
The glory of action,
The splendour of achievement
Are but experiences of time.
For yesterday is but a dream
And tomorrow is only a vision;
And today well-lived, makes
Yesterday a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well therefore to this day;
Such is the salutation to the ever-new dawn!
I asked Dee and Em if there was anything from camp they would like to post on red Ravine. Dee picked out something she wrote in Wild Words. Both also wanted to share a couple pieces of art, which I’ll do this week under separate posts. For now I’ll sign off with Dee’s poem:
Look to this day
Live in this moment
Now is all yours to own
Then is but a memory
When is still to come
Control what you have now
Now is all that matters
Look to this day