It’s that time of year again. The sun is getting warmer and if I close my eyes I can almost hear waves sloshing against the dock. But just as I think about how nice it would be to go down and jump in the lake, I open my eyes and my annual heartbreak hits. Summer is starting and I will not be spending it at camp.
For a long time I lived a dual life: camp and non-camp. I had camp friends and non-camp friends. Camp clothes and non-camp clothes. Camp Meagan and non-camp Meagan. Camp Meagan was known as Tumbles. In fact, there are probably a few hundred people in the world who know me only as Tumbles. Camp people, regardless of what camp they attended, get it. Non-camp people think we are weird.
I can’t blame them. For a long time I was a non-camp person. I went to camp as a kid and I did not love it. I loved being outdoors, but I wasn’t really that interested in cooking grilled cheese over a juice tin, nor did I understand why I had to wrap multicoloured yarn around Popsicle sticks. Not all kids will love all parts of camp, but I believe that all kids should have the chance to try it out. If I hadn’t gone to camp, I would not have found canoe tripping as a teenager and without camp or canoes, I would not be the humble and amazing person that I am today.
Camp taught me the meaning of mind-over-matter and how to find the line between respecting boundaries and pushing limits. It taught me to see the beauty in the little things and in imperfection. Because of camp I know that the quality of a leader has nothing to do with the volume of her voice. I learned that the best adventures are rarely the ones planned. Perhaps most importantly, I learned the secret to a consistently perfect high-five. (I would share the trick, but this is the internet, and it’s a secret!)
Of course, camp isn’t all perfect high-fives and sunny days on the dock. Those portages that teach you the meaning of mind-over-matter, they hurt. A lot. Sometimes the wind blows so hard that your perfectly engineered tarp shreds. Those unplanned adventures? Well, sometimes they involve sleeping on haunted islands, paddling in the snow, or protecting your campsite from a herd of … cows. The reality is that you have to lose a few marshmallows to the fire before you find that sweet spot above the coals.
However, mere weeks later, you won’t remember the pain in your shoulders during the portage. You will remember the sensation of floating when you put down the canoe after a 2.8km trail. You’ll remember the sunsets, the campfires, and the jokes that will only ever make sense to you and your cabin-mates.
Today, years later and on the other side of the world, I no longer remember all of the jokes but I do remember the belly laughter they caused, and that’s just as good. Camp will always stick with me because whenever I am stressed I can close my eyes and imagine the sound of rain falling on my tent, or the feeling of the sun on my face as I lay back in a canoe. Bliss.
If you happen to be reading this from Canada, please remember that June 6th is Camp Day at Tim Hortons. All proceeds from coffee sales will go to the Tim Horton Children’s Foundation and will help send a deserving kid to camp. (If you are not a coffee drinker there are usually plenty of other ways to donate in-store.)