Summer is drawing to a close, dear ones. With the approach of fall comes that looming threat of school starting up again, of the infinite blanket of gray clouds descending upon those who don’t live in the gentle caress of 70-degrees-in-December SoCal, of packing away your sundresses and flip flops and resigning yourself to the fact that you’re pale enough to make a beluga look tan by comparison.
I’m not knocking autumn. I’m just saying: change is stressful.
In times of stress (which, let’s be real, is most times,) I practice mental escapism. I go to my happy place. A place where the internet can’t tell me about crazy cotton-candy-hair business tycoons turned politician. A place where I’m not admonished for not having an “indoor voice.” A place where eating utensils are optional on spaghetti days.
A place called Camp Zanika Lache (located in beautiful Leavenworth, Washington.)*
Going to camp every summer was my saving grace from the tumult of home. I’d go there for a week, free from all that gross real-life stuff. I didn’t have to worry about anything at camp. Plus, they let me, an uncoordinated second grader, shoot a bow and arrow. That was pretty rad.
It’s a real shame some seven-year-olds are never given the opportunity to do archery.
But seriously, if you have kids or you’re planning on spawning sometime in the future, please send your progeny to camp if you can afford it. Heck, you should go to camp. It’s never too late. Camps are always on the lookout for people who aren’t afraid to look a little goofy and appreciate the rustic sophistication of log cabins without electricity.
By skipping out on camp, you’re depriving yourself of all of these wonderful experiences:
1. Engaging in serious debate over lyrics to camp songs. Friendships are torn apart, innocents are dragged down to the deepest depths of depravity. Ne’er again shall we speak of that, the greatest controversy: Did the Princess Pat sail the seas with a rig of bamboo or a Ric-a-Dam-Doo?
2. The strange feeling of spending a week with someone and feeling closer to them than to anyone you’ve ever met in the “real world.” Something about getting bitten by 7,000 mosquitos in the course of one evening must really unite people.
3. Getting bitten by 7,000 mosquitos in the course of one evening.
4. Learning that you can pull off that “completely-covered-in-calamine-lotion” look.
5. Communing with nature, up close and personal. You learn how to respect nature, to leave no trace when you’re in a deer’s personal space. You learn that we are all connected in a beautiful, overwhelming, Elton John singing “Circle of Life” kind of way. And then you crawl into your bunk at night and realize a mouse has had babies in your sleeping bag.
6. Discovering how to best remove mouse amniotic fluid from your sleeping bag.
7. Learning survival skills: How to hang a bear bag without giving you or your camping companions a black eye. How to filter water correctly so you don’t come home with beaver fever. How to build a proper fire so you can burn some marshmallows and impress your non-camp friends with your mad pyrotechnical skills.
8. Having so much fun you don’t feel homesick.
9. Ugly crying on the last night of the session, after you’ve sent your wishboats into the lake, sang “Barges,” and gathered on the playfield to hug everyone.
10. That feeling you get when you’re sleeping outside, staring up into a sky so full of stars you can’t help but wonder if there’s some higher power, some universal good that brought you to this place. The waves sing on the shore of the lake. You cuddle up in your (now amniotic-fluid-free) sleeping bag, and a warm August breeze coaxes the trees to whisper a lullaby written just for you. Maybe for the first time in your life, you feel safe.
11. Driving back home and counting the days until next summer.
WoHeLo, friends. Happy Camping!
*www.zanika.net I swear they aren’t paying me to advertise.