bringing camp home
As I upload my manuscript into Amazon (waiting on final cover for release into the world), I have mixed emotions.
1. I am pleased that after six years of writing about my favorite moments (and rewriting) the book is FINALLY ready.
2. I am anxious that my attempt to convey the message of thriving humans and community that is found at camp will not come across as hoped for.
3. I am sad for this feels like goodbye.
I let the tears fall and I breathe deeply. Allowing myself the bittersweet emotions that crack open my heart, I'm reminded of that last day of camp when we all say goodbye.
Then I realize that the act of writing this particular story is over. Who knows what lies ahead? And I've never been good at saying goodbyes, anyway. Why did I think this time would be so different? I usually opt for the sneak out the door when no one is looking.
I decide that I will allow myself twenty four hours of all of this mixed up mushy stuff in my head and heart (and stomach). I guess that is the way it is when you love and cherish something like camp, your memories, your book.
Until next time...
When the world shut down and I was stripped of the distractions of modern society, dining out, entertainment, and shopping I was left with my true essence. And ouch, I didn’t like that person. I laid around feeling sorry for myself. I thought of all the things I was missing because of a virus. Like not visiting with my dying father and a canceled girl’s trip. I couldn’t shop for my friend Kim’s birthday, I had to give her a roll of toilet paper. It was like anything that I wanted to do, even if I hadn’t wanted to do it for years, I NOW couldn’t do. More mental than anything, but what to do?
That’s when I realized we had to live like we did when we went to family camp for one week every summer. We chose to vacation where you didn’t have to buy a special travel wardrobe, there were no entertainment expenses, and we ate home cooked meals in the dining hall all week. Another gift that camp has given to me and my family. Unintentionally, but once again we were blessed. So I started to live like I was at camp.
The kids came around for family meals. They didn’t have anywhere else to go and we were happy to have that time with them. We were fortunate to be able to eat outside in our Arizona warm weather to keep our social distance. We ended our meals with a s’more over the firepit, just like at camp. After a week of that and a conversation with the bathroom scale, I tapered that treat to once a week.
Our meals focused on all our comfort foods. Thanksgiving dinner, grilled cheese and tomato soup, hamburgers, and fries. All meals that we love at camp, too. A bonus of eating at home was that I recognized how much food we purchased and didn’t use, and how much went into the garbage. I started composting, another practice from camp. Now, I purchase less food, use it up before it spoils, and have less waste going to the dump. The composting company that picks up my weekly bucket uses it to grow more produce. What a win!
Mike and I started a running card game of Gin. We played every night and kept a tally of wins. He beat me in 2020 and beat me in 2021. But really, who is keeping score? Not me anymore, unless I start winning in 2022, but it’s not looking good. Anyone have some strategy to share? While playing, we remembered our friends that play Euchre every night at camp on the snack bar patio.
Crafts and creativity came back into my world. Megan and I made a wine cork wreath for her grandfather. And then we realized how many corks we had from our covid daily happy hour and decided we needed to table that new habit alongside the s’more practice. So to wrap up:
I hope to keep these moving forward. It’s a challenge with new restaurants beckoning. I need a slightly larger wardrobe due to covid 10 (that is not a type, not covid- 19-that is for the 10 pounds I gained) so I must shop soon. And there aren’t enough corks for a new craft. Plus, how many years can I let Mike beat me before he catches on that I’m throwing the Gin tournament.
Twenty Ways Life is Different Now
1. no work travel
2. dogs get groomed by a van service
3. hairstylist built a salon in her home
4. one grocery store visit per week to minimize exposure
5. more time for writing
6. made spaetzle
7. lots of bird watching
8. super tomato plant showed up
9. subscription to a coffee service
10. lots more baking-cookies & waffles
11. wrote a blog for Rosetta Stone
12. gave TP away as a birthday gift
13. started writing handwritten notes
14. Drinks in the driveway with neighbors
15. virtual theater tickets
16. vivid dreams
17. more phone conversations
18. at home yoga and HIIT workouts
19. kids visited more
20. was unable to fly to be by Dad's side when he died
For the last two months, I've been focused on my IronMan/Woman training. (half Ironwoman or 70.3 miles) and not on writing. Now that I finished! whoot whoot, and very proud of myself, I'm looking forward to rest. (can you tell by the look on my face)
I always think of camp as my happy place to rest my mind when stressed. And when I'm lucky enough to get to the mountains I incorporate my favorite activities. How do you rest at camp? My list is probably different than yours: swimming, running, reading, napping. That is what makes camp so appealing. Some enjoy the hubbub of the craft room, snack bar, and happenings around the lake. Others seek out some alone time.
At home, I am currently taking slow dog walks, cooking nutritional meals, and taking epsom salt baths. As I recover and prepare to wrap up the year, I am reflecting that this, this time to rest, is perhaps the most important thing that I've accomplished all year.
I hope you make time to rest over the next few weeks!
When I was pregnant with Michael and paying for my groceries, boxed Mac & Cheese, Cap’n Crunch cereal, and candy, the clerk asked me why I didn’t eat healthier for my baby. I was living in Canada at the time, and everyone has a vested interest in people taking care of themselves. When a country has universal health care they tend to want to focus on prevention of disease. Huh, I thought to myself, why don’t I become the grown up that Michael will need me to be and learn more about food and nutrition?
So, I did. Michael Pollan and others became my favorite bedtime reading. I think we read one of Pollan’s books at camp one year? I learned all about buying organic and local produce, eating more plants than animals, and minimizing sugar and processed foods. What was interesting to me was how industrial agriculture has changed how we grow our crops. It’s a little disturbing to learn about the chemicals from WWII that we are putting in our ground and thus in our foods. Not to mention the harm to the farm workers, our bodies, and the earth that derives from this practice.
I tried to grow my own produce. We had luck with citrus trees and basil but never grew anything else well enough to sustain us. (Rosemary bushes are used in the landscaping in Arizona-so we have plenty of this herb) I continued with my practices of visiting the farmer’s markets, deliveries from CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture), and attempting a garden. I kept reading and studying.
Learning our food system is wasteful and contributes to greenhouse gases, I wanted to know more. Prevention and not buying too much is the first behavior that I tried to change. I create a meal plan and only buy the ingredients for the recipes. We all know that some cookies and peanut butter make it into my basket! (and chocolate) Next, is donation, when I get too much of something I share with my neighbors. In Arizona we have the habit of leaving boxes of extra citrus out for whomever drives or walks by. Finally, composting the scraps.
I forgot about this step. Visiting Evan Laughlin, who is a temporary Arizona resident, reminded me of this important part of the cycle. And where did she learn this? I’m going to assume – camp.
My city has a composting service that is only $25/month. They come weekly and use my scraps to create healthier soil. Healthy soil captures more carbon and water. This reduces the food going into the dump which creates methane. I didn’t even have to read the list of what can go into my bucket. I already had this knowledge from sorting after meals at camp. I wished I had remembered this part of camp and brought it home earlier than now. As for Michael he has survived my former eating habits. I’m pretty sure he’s a huge fan of Mac & Cheese, though!
Note: if you are interested in this topic-the film ‘Kiss the Ground’ is wonderful. And some books that I have reserved at the library are: The Waste-Free World by Ron Gonen, Planet Palm by Jocelyn C. Zuckerman and How to Avoid a Climate Disaster by Bill Gates.
Shout out to Megan Warner for being a sustainability major and keeping me focused on these small difference that pay out huge rewards!
One of Mike’s first experiences at camp was a bird walk (to learn more, you’ll have to read my book, when it prints). His experience and subsequent excitement opened us up to bird identification. We often trade stories and photos of what we’ve seen with friends and family. And while we’re not as serious as the birders in the 2011 film, The Big Year, we do like to pause and take note of our avian friends.
I’m sure many of you have become avid fans of birds, especially while stuck at home the last year or so. Here are a few of the touches with this magnificent creature that I’ve had recently.
Deciding to sit quietly after eating lunch outside in the sunshine, I was pleasantly surprised to hear humming in my right ear. I turned my head slightly to see Anna’s hummingbird buzzing right off my shoulder. It’s ruby head and green body was at eye level. I held my breath and enjoyed the show.
One evening while enjoying the setting sun, I again quieted and sat in observation. As I tried to discern the stars from planets, I heard a swoosh overhead. Looking up, I gasped as a great horn owl flew low buzzing me. Its wingspan was as long as I am tall (5 feet and a few inches). I watched as it landed on the neighbor’s roof. We stared at one another until the dogs were let out to join me and the owl flew away.
Our desert native birds are really cool, Gamble's Quail with the little bobber on its’ head, the Roadrunner that is very elusive and has a black crown, and Cactus Wren, with its bold brassy call. While I expect to see these birds at my feeder, I was surprised when a crew of rosy faced (some call them peach faced) love birds flocked to my backyard.
This feral population of these parrots, native to Africa, have flourished in Phoenix. They are beautiful and special, as there are no other known sightings in the rest of the country. For some reason they are thriving in the desert. While their coloring is striking, their call is harsh and unmistakable. As I was tiring of their noisiness, I was reminded of how fortunate I was when they took off in flight. Their coloring of green and peach blush on their cheeks was overshadowed by their aqua blue rumps.
Mike’s morning with the birds at camp has sparked my own interest. I look forward to the quail’s gobbling in the morning to wake me up. The rare sighting of a Roadrunner makes my heart sing. But most of all, I’m grateful for the reminder to slow down and notice.
One summer staff made a game out of camp clean up. A group of two or more walking through camp could play. The rule was that if someone spotted a piece of litter, they could point at it and call it out. Someone else in the group would have to pick it up. Everyone wanted to be the ‘spotter’. It was easier to point than to bend over and pick up. This idea has come home with us.
When Mike and I hike or walk we are often looking down for sunbathing snakes. This makes it easy to see garbage. The Arizona sunshine makes many items shiny enough to catch the eye. There is no silver foil gum wrapper escaping our attention. With Mike’s two recent knee replacements, I’ve noticed he’s a better spotter and more diligent about seeing things that I need to dig out of a cactus. I’m game. It’s easier for me to bend down and I can’t imagine if one of his knees locks up and he goes down that would be a good use of our time. Although me trying to help him back up would make for a good story.
Michael Jr.’s girlfriend, Dani, works for a company that organizes clean ups. They provide clean up kits for public sale and the last time I checked, they were all sold out. That is a lot of people doing trash duty. The company also coordinates events where folks show up to volunteer their time to clean up! And time off for its employees to pick up trash one day a week during the workday. Keep Nature Wild is making the earth a better place and providing an opportunity for their folks to be out in nature.
Dani posts her photos of what she finds, and the items become a topic of conversation. We wonder how someone can eat a protein bar and the wrapper ends up on the ground. Kleenex that misses your pocket? And the balloon advertising a dentist office that is twenty miles from home? Most are probably incidental, but empty beer cans? That is someone that doesn’t feel ownership of their environment. Keep Nature Wild is trying to instill this love for the outdoors, restoring a spot’s beauty, and creating a sense of community.
There are other groups around the world creating communities and making litter collection fun.
Sometimes, it can be disappointing to clean up the same stretch of trail every week. However, when I’m out the next week and see a few more of my fellow hikers with their own collection bag, I’m filled with joy. And I’m reminded of Gandhi stating ‘you must be the change that you want to see in the world.’
This take away from camp that I practice at home comes courtesy of Josey Laughlin. I loved that she was always running around barefoot, and I’d find her shoes all over camp. It reminded me of growing up next door to her mother and how we’d toughen up our feet for summer by walking on Jenni’s gravel driveway. Here her daughter was doing the same thing, at camp. How liberating and free she looked playing with her exposed toes!
Well, it turns out that walking barefoot outside has a lot of benefits. It’s called grounding or earthing. The research, thermal images, of subjects before and after grounding show better heart health, muscle healing, pain reduction, and mood improvement. No wonder Josey always had a smile on her face!
I’m guessing this is why walking on the grass or sand is so pleasant. We are absorbing energy and healing from Mother Earth. Who hasn’t spent a pleasant day at the beach digging their toes into the sand at the edge of the water? You get the additional benefit of healing from the ocean.
At home, I stand in our teeny tiny patch of grass, in the early morning. The dogs take care of their business and I wiggle my toes into the blades. Firmly planting my feet to balance myself, I look up at the sky and clouds. Reaching my arms overhead, I join the dogs in a stretch. I bend at the waist, bowing to the mountain, and plant my hands down. Now, I’ve doubled my contact with the earth.
Some other healing benefits are stress reduction, better sleep, and more energy. Moving between a few sun salutations, I start to wake. The dogs roll around on their backs and start to paw at my hands. They are ready to be fed and go for their walks. I step off the grass appreciative that I had a few moments to get grounded before I face the rest of my day.
One of my most favorite parts of the day at camp is my morning run around the lake. It’s a great start to clear the cobwebs, converse with a friend, and do something great for my body. The trifecta of spirit, body, and mind.
While running on the lake trail I’ve noticed that there are lots of likeminded parents having their own quiet start to the day. Many campers have attended Morning Watch which has quiet time, sharing, and learning. I’ve seen other parents walking around the lake or reading on the patio. Recognizing that some of these mothers and fathers have little ones that can’t be left alone, I knew that one spouse was at the cabin providing this coveted time to their partner. What a gift!
However you’ve started your day at camp, it can be difficult to carry this gentle entry into the busyness of work and school schedules outside of vacation. The fight with the alarm clock has lead me to turn back over and hit snooze a few times. But then the day never seemed to get going with the same gusto. It’s just a little off. Here are my favorite ways to bring that slow, silent start to the day home with me:
How do you start your day? Please share a favorite practice in the comments.
August 10th is National S'more day!
What better way to launch my blog about bringing family camp home with you than to dedicate the first post to this little treasure. I found these kits online and the founders' story resonates~
From their website: "life is best spent making memories with families and friends"
There isn't much else to say, other than, fire up and enjoy!