Camp wrapped up last night and now reentry into the world beyond camp begins once again. Last night was one of those late nights as the staff extended the kiss and cry and lingered, not wanting to turn the page on this thing that we had built together over the last few months. It’s a tough thing, leaving a community of intentionality and love and support and reentering a world that is… less focussed on these things. As usual it is the newer staff who hang on the tightest and as this was my 17th such event and my 8th here at Valaqua, I find myself just trying to be patient and gracious and waiting for everyone to go home.
Don’t get me wrong, I will miss this group (they were excellent) but there comes a time when you recognize the transition as one of many and sadly it looses some of the magic it once held.
I teach a session to my staff about the stages of staff progression. It begins with the excited staff with few skills but lots of enthusiasm and progresses all the way to the Natural who is a camp person all the way to the centre of their being. The thing I try to highlight as I teach this is that the camp community is built on the backs of those staff with raw skills and bundles of energy. We need our stage one and two and three staff to carry us old tired guys along.
I like to use the image of a campfire. As anyone who has been through my fire-building session will know, you need three sizes of fuel to start a fire: tinder, kindling, and fuel. The tinder is the small stuff (smaller than your finger) that catches a spark and holds it and you need a lot because it burns very, very fast. Kindling are the small sticks (finger width-ish) that cary the flame on and you need a fair number of those as well. The fuel are the larger logs and once ignited, they hold the flame for a long time, giving the fire longevity.
In my imperfect metaphor of camp as campfire, campers come as tinder, we need lots of them and they burn fast and go home tired. The counseling staff take on the role of kindling, taking the spark of excitement from the campers and making it into something bigger. The leadership of the camp acts as fuel, taking the flame and helping it to burn and give light and heat over a longer period of time.
Staff party is this afternoon so we are not done saying goodbyes yet, but the hope is that these goodbyes in the light of day hold more hope and joy. We will enjoy some time together at the beach and linger in one another’s company one more time before we part ways for the winter. Then it is back to the reentry plan as fall becomes a fast reality.
Thank you to everyone who helped make Valaqua a great place to be this summer. To the staff, countless volunteers, and to the parents who trusted us enough to drop off their children: thank you. I hope you join us again next summer!