Writing, singing and loving in the Woods By Iris
Sunday was our first campfire of the second session, and the bleachers were filled with dozens of old campers, a sprinkling of new campers and a dedicated and determined staff.
The sun was setting, casting a rosy orange glow on Blue Lake, as we all sat – one community – around a roaring and crackling fire.
After we sang the traditional songs that Agawak campers have been singing for generations, I introduced our weekly Agalog readings with this message: “Soon, you, too, will have memorized these songs of love and friendship and the empowerment we get from the camping experience.. Soon, you, too, will be making new friends that will become friends for your whole lives.”
Or, in the words of one of our 11-year-old Agalog writers, a returning camper of three years: “My camp friends make me laugh harder and love deeper than any other friends.”
I feel that power and love of my camp sisters more than a half-century later, and stronger than ever. We gain so many virtues in our weeks at Agawak, from tenacity to bravery to sportsmanship. Yet, the most profound takeaway of all is the enduring bonds that are rooted in these woods and grow from tiny sprouts to towering and indestructible relationships.
Aside from the students in our Zoom classroom (and I had them, too, as an American University professor), who did we Zoom with most of all during these dark months of a pandemic? It was our camp friends who kept our spirits high, who kept us going, with whom we lamented (and cried) when we could not be together during the summer of 2020.
We could not be together at camp in person though our need for togetherness never stopped. And never does stop.
I connected with a camp friend from the 1960s and 1970s nearly every day of the endless months of social isolation, by phone, FaceTime, Zoom or text. That’s the beauty and gift of summer camp that keeps on giving no matter the season. As an OLD camp girl, I know for sure that the new girls will discover the beauty and that gift within days of being here.
It's a magic that never fades; a magic that is simply in the air – in laughter, in the hugs, in the cabins at night when the girls share their deepest thoughts.
Many of us Agawak veterans have blood sisters, like me. Though when we sing our songs with lyrics like “sisters are all of us” we know this to be true; We ARE sisters, borne not of blood, but of love, history and loyalty.
So as one bus pulled out and another pulled in, we realize that the first session campers have left us in person though no on every leaves us.
Once a camp girl at Agawak – always an Agawak girl.