New blog post: Mailbag

Mailbag

We wanted to know what you! Our readers were interested in knowing more about. Here are the first ( of hopefully many) questions answered. Do you have a question you want answers too? Email them to Trine@Wayfinderexperience.com and check back here!

1.I’ve been to a couple different Larp camps/games, and a lot of them run more like DND than improv. What made you guys decide to run your system the way that you do? And secondly, who invented said system?

Wayfinder grew off a similar organization called Adventure Game Theater, which has since been absorbed into Wayfinder. Our programming grew directly from the systems and work that AGT did. Many parts of our system were built around DND spells and other systems that people were familiar with, but as with many LARPs our systems have evolved to reflect the people in the community and the ways in which we play our games. The Adventure Game as a LARP system started in 1986 (before Magic the Gathering for some nerd street cred) and has been being updated, tweaked, and adapted ever since. There is no one person who created our system (which contains a base system of 5 classes and over 100 abilities, with other auxiliary powers and classes available for use in less standard game settings and several variations on improv magic instead of our class based system). There have been a number of people who have worked on it over the years. The current system that is in play was largely developed and updated by Conor Gillespie, Griffin Johnston, Jack Covell, and Brennan Lee Mulligan in the mid aughts, but it has since been updated by our administrative staff and is undergoing regular updates and reworkings to keep it feeling fresh and in line with the way that games our played today!

2. I know this isn’t a question you can as easily answer on your own, but I love to hear what people’s favorite adventure games are and why.

I can’t speak to everyone’s favorite games, but my two favorite games growing up were the original run of Finals and the 80’s Horror Game from Decades camp. The first Finals gave me, personally, a new experience of being central to a lot of the flow of the game and getting to be a part of big scenes, while delivering an intense and emotional storyline. Everyone was very invested in the game and the world was fun and exciting. I loved getting to play Solomon, get dragged along behind Tiriel all night, and getting to be an accessory to the (almost) end of the world. Getting to replay that and play Tiriel the second time was a very special game for me, and one of the rare chances to have a new experience in an Adventure Game as someone who has been doing this for over two decades. The 80’s Horror Game was just peak camp (both the place and the genre). The game was scary and ridiculous and fun. I got to be the Apprentice for it so I had a peek under the hood as to how everything would work. We spent the night running from Clown Zombies (Clombies for short) and one Clombear (Clown Zombie Bear). It was simultaneously one of the funniest and scariest games I have ever played and will stay with me forever (it was a big inspiration when Corrie and I were writing Prom of the Living Dead a few years ago!).

3. Why do you think sword games became such a big part of Wayfinder as a whole, when in reality, we don’t even use them nearly as much in game?

The swords are central to what we do. It is the easiest way to grasp LARP for an outsider. It can be hard to take on a character, to tell a story, to invest in the small details of a world that isn’t your own, but it is very easy to understand that getting hit with a sword is bad and getting a chance to swordfight is fun. On top of the access to different types of play, swords are a hugely appealing thing to many participants (new, returning, young, and old). There aren’t that many chances to safely hit each other with things or to simulate battle. As purely an experience, it’s a fun and fairly unique one (not a ton of drop in LARPs that are easily accessible for kids). For many of us who want to be active but are not necessarily the most athletic, it provides the chance to get to play in some athletics with some leveling in the reality of there’s always the chance to fight your way out. Add on top the ability to scream and die together, live out the epic battles you’ve seen or read in so many books, movies, and video games, and the list of reasons to love swords stretches on almost endlessly.

4. Who is the REAL Horatio Wayfinder?

Privacy, especially in today’s digital age, is a difficult thing to attain and an easy thing to destroy. As such, I can’t speak today to the REAL Horatio Wayfinder, our mysterious benefactor, but I can say that the people who are putting the time and effort into making these spaces the safe and fun realities that they are have all of their hearts and minds invested in our campers and the spaces that we build for them. It’s not the same people every time. It’s not the same story every time. It’s not the same Adventure every time. It is an act of love every time though, and does Horatio, or anyone, owe us anything more than that?

Written by Judson Easton Packard May 2024

Campaign Style Play

Campaign Style Play

At Wayfinder, the majority of our Adventure Games are written as One Shots. We imagine worlds that we visit only once, stepping into them to shape the course of monumental events, before moving onto the next, carrying those stories and characters only in our memories. We do, on occasion, delve deeper into worlds and engage in campaign style play, returning to the same world across multiple camps or One Day events and allowing player choices, and the stories that they shape, to run their course. 

Campaign play allows us to spend more time with a particular character and story line, to carry our characters forward through a series of events and construct singular narratives around the different stories they find themselves at the center of. Characters always provide us a reflection of ourselves, a vision into another way that we could be and interact with those around us. Returning to a character can feel like coming home to yourself. Characters can share a lot with us, they may be good, they may be evil, but whoever they are, the distance they provide from our everyday selves brings a newness into the body that can be very welcoming. The longer you play as a particular character, the more of that character’s life you will hold in your memory.

We often talk about the opportunity for self-exploration that is afforded to us through Live Action Role-Play (LARP). One Shot play doesn’t afford us less of this, but it is simply different. For years, our One Day Adventure Games have offered linked storylines, allowing players to continue the same character across multiple games for as long as that character survives. It provides us with a personal stake and investment in a storyline that is different than may be offered to us anywhere else. Anyone who’s played in a tabletop campaign may have experienced this kind of character play. I have found that there is a difference when I am physically embodying the character. The stakes feel more personal, the intensity more immediate, and the joys more personal.

Last summer we returned to having linked Campaign style Adventure Games as a part of our summer offerings. Over the course of two weeks of camp players were introduced to a world that our staff had collaborated to build the mythology of. People built characters that had to face off against an ancient evil, a lich who had found a way to once again crawl out of death. In our first week characters fought an increasingly desperate battle to stem the tides of undeath, to hold this evil back before it swallowed the world. They were successful, but at the price of a large number of their own, including some heroes they had grown to care about. In the second week we opened with a funeral for one of those characters who had passed. Campers and staff alike gave impromptu elegies that brought a solemn warmth to the scene, and made it all the more upsetting when the character rose again possessed by the lich. Playing in the same world over the course of multiple weeks, made everything feel more familiar, more lived in. Campers were able to share stories and lore with one another. The world became truly collaborative. 

After the summer we had two opportunities to return to our campaign world. At our Adult Retreat we played a prequel that took place in the same world, giving a perspective to characters and storylines from the summer. Many of our staff, having worked over the summer, found themselves getting the chance to play as PCs in earlier storylines that tied into their experiences over the summer. A number of them found this deepened their experience, they already felt connected to the mythology and the chance to build into that world in its early days provided a unique LARP experience for them. 

We also returned to this world for our Winter Game, bringing a new problem that arose directly out of choices that the campers made in Games over the summer. Demons arrived, ready to claim the world and lay waste to it, having been given the power to do so inadvertently by a deal the campers had made this summer. Once again the forces of good had to rally to hold off the certain destruction of their world. Before the Adventure began though, I saw campers teaching each other lore and mythology that they had built this summer, telling stories about their characters, helping to ensure that the players who were joining this campaign for the first time would share in that same depth of experience and mythology as the ones who had already been there to be in the world. 

Take it directly from Finn, one of our campers who played in all of the Song of the Dead series except for the adult retreat, “I had a fantastic time playing the three Song of the Dead games, each addition to the trilogy adding a unique level of depth to the world that I already knew and loved. Being able to play on the same PC team numerous times gave us the time to add our own little details, like a few words of a language, and it was really cool to see the new players of that same group change up bits and pieces and use it as their own! (OSIMALNI HOO HOO HOO)”

This summer we will be having two more linked games. Building out these games is a fun design challenge. We have to craft two games that are stand alone stories, but played together they show a full story arc, and as with all of our Adventure Games, the storyline that we play wraps up, the campaign does not stretch forward forever. It is a hallmark of our Adventure Games that we build these worlds and these characters, inhabit them, and continue into the next story. This summer at our first two weeks of Overnight Camp we will be playing linked games and hope to see you there! What will you build with us? Where does your story lead?

 

Written by Judson Easton Packard. Jan. 2024

Always Coming Back Home To You

WFE1Always Coming Back Home To You

In all of the Where Are They Now interviews the interviewees (members of our community who have been away from the physical space of camp for some time now) have brought up an important facet of the Wayfinder community. The idea that you can leave camp for any amount of time, and you will always be welcomed back in. The way I have always pictured it is to see camp and our community within that physical space (even though we’re not always at the same location the physical space when the community comes together for an event) as a circle. No matter how long you step away from that circle, we will always have a spot for you to return to. There is no guarantee that you will come back to see the same faces as when you left, and more than likely there will be more new ones than familiar ones. I can promise though that you will be welcomed with the same warmth, the same love that you had when you left.

It helps this idea (both the circle I picture in my head, and the reality of returning to camp) that we put a lot of practice into doing this. At the start of every camp, and then again each morning, we open with a circle. During this time everyone is invited to share how they are feeling, what new experiences they have had since the last circle they were a part of, whether it has been hours or years since they held that space. An exercise I’ve always loved in our circles is when we take a silent moment, look around the circle person by person, and smile at every face that we see. It doesn’t matter who they are or how well you know them, every face you come across is returning that feeling to you.

WFE2Due to the setup of our community around a summer camp, there is always going to be some change in the people who are attending. People’s lives move forward. They go to college. They get jobs. They move on to whatever the world holds next for them. Spending summers at camp you get used to the rotating nature of the people around you. Every time someone new comes to camp it’s a chance to bring someone new into the fold. It’s always exciting to see what they bring into the space with them. New games. New ideas. There’s also, almost guaranteed, to be a friend who has been long absent. Someone who wasn’t able to be at camp for whatever reasons, or you two just haven’t been at the same weeks. Every camp is a chance to reenter these friendships. The function of being a summer camp means that the majority of the people at camp will not see each other maybe nine months out of the year. The friendships we have suspend in time, they tie to the space we hold at camp. It’s why it’s so easy for us to come and go in each other’s lives, to maintain relevance, as Marika put it so well a few weeks ago. We have grown use to coming home to each other.

It can be hard to understand making your home in other people. The idea of home we are always sold probably attaches to a specific structure or town. My home is Wayfinder. It has been since I was 13 years old and came to my first camp. Since then I’ve spent time with Wayfinder at upwards of twenty different lands and locations. No matter where we go, no matter what difficulties that land possesses (everything from giant mosquitos to non-potable water) I know I will be home. Home is the place where you can be yourself, whatever the most honest version of that looks like. Camp is a place where not only are we encouraged to be our real selves, we take time to work on that piece. I talked a couple weeks ago about how characters help us build ourselves so I don’t need to go deeply into it again here, but feeling at home in that space is a big portion of being able to do that work.

WFE3I’ve lived in six states and three time zones. I’ve told myself more springs than I’d like to admit that the coming summer would be my last one at camp, that it was time for me to grow up and move on to a new home. In 2014 I didn’t go to camp for the first time since I started in 2003. The year that followed was one of the hardest, most isolated of my life. There were a lot of external strains that led to this throughout the year as well, but I would be lying if I didn’t notice the weight of not getting to come home to camp and be me. Not having the time to put my stress aside and sit in a circle and fall asleep in the grass when I’m probably not supposed to (OK I’m definitely not supposed to and am probably supposed to be running the circle). Camp is my home. Who knows how long we get to call any one particular place home? If you get the chance to, come back. We miss you.

Written by Judson Easton Packard.

Published 4/7/2017

Life is an Adventure Game

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Camp’s Magic Circle

Camp’s Magic Circle

0K6A8668Recently I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about play and what it is. I’ve been taking a class on play theory (one of many reasons my writing of this blog has lagged so heavily) in which we have been looking at different definitions of play that people have had throughout the years and the implications of each one. Wayfinder is the reason I signed up for the course. Seeing as we talk about and engage in play so much within our community, I wanted to get an idea of what the broader view on the topic was. As we’ve progressed I’ve also been looking at my own beliefs as to what play is, what role it holds in this community, and what play has done for me. I’ll probably write more of the personal responses to play as time passes but for right now I want to look at some of the ways play applies to camp at large.

One thing that play requires, as defined by the theorists, is a set of parameters which play exists within. Of the different terms used to describe this, I think the best I’ve encountered is the “Magic Circle.” The Magic Circle is essentially a space that we agree to enter that, once inside, everything can be understood to be play. This is a broader concept than the most active and named construction of space that we have at camp, we call it the “Play Space.” While a “Play Space” generally comes with a set of physical boundaries and a time limit (they usually exist for the duration of specific workshops), camp is a collection of different Magic Circles, the most obvious being everything that happens within the Adventure Game, which literally starts with a circle. From the very minute you show up to camp though, you are stepping into a much larger magic circle. Play is a way we all get to interact, to learn about each other and ourselves, to remind ourselves that we have stepped out of the world at large and into some place we can let down some of our boundaries, a place we can really trust each other in. That space only exists because of the play we have done to create it.0K6A0886

The very first thing that you do when you show up to camp is play. Literally the first workshop on any camp schedule (and every morning at day camp) is called opening play. So from the very second we all arrive into that space we step into that kind of circle, a place where we know that we are safe to play. Important to this is that there is an ability to opt out of the games that we play (very important to the idea of play is that it’s voluntary). Even with the Adventure Game we have an “out of game space” where you can go should things be too intense and you need to step away. Even within the games themselves there are chances for people to have different levels of intensity. We have systems that allow for people to say when something has become too much for them, when it has become unsafe, and we talk a lot about playing to our partner’s level, making sure that we are calling people into a kind of play they are comfortable engaging in. None of this should be viewed as taking away from anyone’s experience. Our magic circle, the one we build that holds camp inside of it, has space inside of it for you to play (or not) at your own level of comfort. Having that kind of space, which allows for a variety of needs, is integral to building the community that we have.

Through the space for people to play or not play in specific games as they need, we show our community at large that this space is a safe one for them to engage with when they’re ready. While, by the nature and needs of supervision, you aren’t given free reign over the physical spaces you may always occupy, you are allowed to set your level of engagement. The same can be said of the community. Our community provides a lot of opportunities for personal engagement. There are regular trust workshops, morning circles, and story circles which allow for different kinds of semi-guided sharing. When these come up, the kind of play that we’ve been doing (and specifically the idea of playing to your partner’s level) allows for community members to decide on any level of participation they may feel comfortable with. When you see everything we do at camp as included in this magic circle, the same rules that dictate play dictate every interaction. Relationships built at camp are built around play. Conversations between us then, by nature, have some of these play elements woven into them. There is no place at camp where you can look without seeing that play is alive and well.
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There’s a lot more that I could (and hope to) say about play at camp, in the world, and in my life. For now let me close by saying that as I’ve been learning more about how the scientific community views play, (they’re pretty shaky on why it exists but they’ve distilled some things it’s capable of and some good guidelines as to when something should be defined as play) one thing has been very clear to me. Play is alive and well at camp. We play everyday, we play hard, and we have a strong idea as to the importance of play within our community. Thanks for playing with me.

Written by Judson Easton Packard
11/9/17

Take It Home With You

Take It Home With You

21017471_10155575641123698_1641010195_oClosing circle at camp almost always includes a specific message and call to action: the things we do at camp can be brought out into your regular life. This isn’t to say that you’re going to get everyone you meet to break out into LARPing games at school or in your day to day lives, but instead that much of the work we do on ourselves at camp can be applied to ourselves outside. Personally the comfort and confidence I have found in myself through Wayfinder has allowed me to navigate social situations for the past 14 years of my life. It’s taken a combination of the different types of skills and knowledge I gained through camp in order to be able to cultivate those qualities in myself.

Maybe the simplest (and the easiest to overlook) is the work we do with improv. The rules to improv games form a great set of conversational guidelines. If you go into social situations with them in mind (accept and build, make your partner look good, go with the flow) it can be easy to get a conversation going. Many Wayfinder attendees over the years (including several of our alums from the Where Are They Now series) have talked about the ways that they just treat uncomfortable professional or social settings like they were roleplay situations. This is the same kind of guideline. You decide upon the version of yourself you want to be playing that day, and then put it into action. Improv and Status workshops at their cores are essentially a form of low stakes social training that we engage in together.

WFE1
Another way I have found myself able to bring camp into my daily life (and thus keep alive some of the feelings of connectedness that I get while I’m there) is to try and bring as much of the trust work as I have done there into my daily interactions. Again I’m talking about the core tenets of what we do in those workshops not the actual exercises (though I have sat with non-camp friends and done a session of the stare into each others eyes and take turns sharing workshop when I really had a need for that kind of guided sharing). Consider the ideas that we work on: establishing and communicating clear boundaries for yourself, being a safe place for people to share their personal business, and relying on the people around you for support. If you move through the world guided by the work you’ve done in those spaces, it can allow you to create the kinds of bonds you have made at camp in the outside world.

The Adventure Game itself is rife with experiences to pull into your daily life. As we often talk about, every character you play comes from somewhere inside of you, which means it’s there any time you may need to access it. Now it may not always be necessary or appropriate for you to draw on being a demon hunter (or even just a demon), but sometimes you need a little bit of that kind of spitfire, me against the world, bravery. Everyone of us has faced down death and the end of the world through Adventure Games, and while clearly those stakes were imagined, there still is an element of having to make snap decisions with real in Game consequences. Remembering that kind of high tension decision making can be helpful when it comes to those moments in your everyday life.

Camp helps us form who we are. It doesn’t have to stop doing so when we leave the land and return to daily life. Those ways we feel empowered to be ourselves through camp can be hard to hold on to. We all live in each others’ memories as those versions of ourselves. If they can hold on to that piece of us, why shouldn’t we?

Written by Judson Easton Packard

on 9/19/2017

Hero Fund

The Hero Fund

At Wayfinder we believe in the work that we do. Giving children and teenagers a safe, playful place to explore their identity is important, and we’ve dedicated a lot of years to making sure we’re able to provide that. Every teenager needs a space outside of school and their family to explore who they are and who they’re becoming. Not every teenager comes from a family or situation that can afford to send them to summer camp to provide that kind of experience. That’s where the Hero Fund comes in. Often Hero Fund applicants come from economically disadvantaged families, families where one or more parents are undergoing serious medical treatment, or have recently lost a job. Wayfinder is the place where these young people feel most comfortable and open, particularly in moments of familial unrest like these. Wayfinder has always striven to help people in need of financial assistance since it’s inception; for the past three years we’ve been asking our community to help us with that goal.

In 2014, Wayfinder started the Hero Fund, our scholarship program. The Hero Fund is funded through donations and money made from our Frontier Adventures that we run throughout the off-season. In the end (being a company based around community), Wayfinder often operates at a loss to help get everyone we can to camp. Donations generally come from community members who feel that camp is an important space to them, and extended community members, such as parents, who have seen the benefits of our programs. One of the largest donating demographics are our staff pool, with 16 different staff members having personally donated to the fund, making the work we do at Wayfinder a priority for them. Staff have donated paychecks at the end of events, donated after they were no longer able to be involved in camp, or just donated when they could afford to (the best present that I got when I graduated from college was a Hero Fund donation).

While the money coming in from people who are already involved is important, Wayfinder is currently at a need for donations. Over the past three years we are proud to say that the Hero Fund has been able to give over $15,000 in assistance to participants in need. We are so thankful to the community for having provided this much for our members who need that extra help. For this coming summer, we have requests for almost $8,000 in Hero Fund funds. Money is allocated based upon the amount that our participants are able to pay to be at camp and the amount of money we’ve had donated and raised throughout the year. We do everything we can with the donation money to provide a space for as many people as possible. We also take the privacy of our applicants very seriously, and never share even the fact that someone has asked for assistance with the community at large.

We’re calling on our community to help us raise this money with the summer fast approaching. The Hero Fund supplies campers with access to a space that meets a certain kind of need in their lives, one that can be particularly hard to meet. Wayfinder as a community and an organization offers people acceptance. At the age at which people start coming to camp this may be something they have never experienced before. Countless participants have talked to me about the ways in which Wayfinder has saved their lives (and a couple of weeks ago I wrote about how it had done that for me on this very blog). So often kids come to camp shy or nervous, only to leave by the end of the week glowing. I could never possibly list the number of parents who have told me that Wayfinder was the time their child was happiest. This summer we’d like to offer that to as many participants as possible; some of them need a little help to get there. Please help us be the difference in those children’s lives.

Written by Judson Easton Packard

Published 6/22/2017

Transformation

Transformation

transformation 3While there has been a lot of discussion of “creating space” on this blog (and generally is at any Wayfinder event), little focus has been given to what kind of space Wayfinder is to begin with. It may seem kind of strange to try and diagnose a space which has no connection to a specific location (our office and storage facility notwithstanding, there is no one place which contains the Wayfinder Experience), but for the purpose of discussion space refers to whatever space we occupy together as a community and not the land itself. Wayfinder exists as a transformational space. The nature of this movement, combined with the variable make up of community members (both staff and participants) at any event, and the type of personal, introspective work we do allows transformations from community members to go unquestioned.

Transformational spaces are necessary and often produced accidentally. Wayfinder has something special in that we conscientiously produce this space. The transformation aspect of camp would be present whether or not Wayfinder was a LARP space. Bringing together people of the ages of our participants (8-16) and staff pool (16+) is guaranteed to include transformation. At those ages people are spending time crafting who they will be as adults, with different levels of awareness. Wayfinder provides space to try on different personalities and social roles, both through everyday interaction and creating characters with which we play out pieces of ourselves we may not get a chance to any other time. People come to Wayfinder as they are forming personalities, choosing the directions they want to take their lives, and needing space to process things they cannot in their everyday lives. We offer a space that can contain all of these types of transformations.

transformation 2

I would be remiss to write about transformation and not give some time over in the discussion to the LARP aspect of our camp. Each week participants are offered at least one roleplay experience in which they can be essentially whoever and whatever they want to be. There are some constraints put on the characters (players may be told they’re from a specific place or given some other game world conditions) but within those players can explore whatever aspects of themselves that they wish. If you want to play a character who is fearful or talkative or anything in between it’s entirely up to you. Exploring these roles gives us a chance to see ways we could be in our everyday lives, if we chose to do so. A couple weeks ago Max Friedlich talked about going into some business situations and just treating them as if they were roleplay events. I know I have applied some of the rules of status or improv that we teach and applied them to social situations. You get to be whoever you want to be in life. Wayfinder simply offers you a place to craft that personality and reflect on it.

Constructing an identity is a difficult and endless process. You will never stop changing, no matter how old you get, so we must all be aware of the pieces of ourselves that are new and different at any particular time. Through being at Wayfinder, roleplaying and doing trust work, we can see a lot about who we are. While the work that we do gives a chance for you to explore every facet of self and personality, that is not all that is required in the process of forming a self. The reflection that we give space for is maybe more important. Space is made each week for discussion of self, something that you do not often find places to do. Within the community there are people you can trust both to hear about your struggles and offer feedback should you be looking for it. Knowing that other people in that space are going through that same process is one of the ways you know you can trust them with yours.

That kind of shared transformation is so often the basis of our relationships. People become friends as they start new jobs, at new schools, or in new places. Having some new shared discomfort allows for people to be on an even playing ground. No matter how long you’ve been at Wayfinder you are given a chance for this kind of shared transformation every week. We turn the land into whatever world we will be playing in for that week, and we turn ourselves into whatever characters we have constructed throughout the week. Any space that we create only exists for a week at a time, but the transformations we undergo can last a lifetime.

Written by Judson Easton Packard

Published on 6/3/2017

Saviors

Saviors

Savior 1For this week’s blog, I want to get a little more personal than I feel I have in previous entries. Obviously, anything about camp is something highly personal to me, but I’ve made an effort not to focus on myself or my experiences in these posts. Something Tigre said in his interview struck a chord in me though. I asked him about what he had taken from camp in his personal life, outside of professional skills he’d honed, and he said that Wayfinder had saved his life. I think you’ll find a lot of long term community members who think this, myself included. I’d say that Wayfinder has saved me on no less than two occasions, that I would not be here today if I had not had camp. Even if I had survived adolescence and the hardships I’ve had since (which I highly doubt I would have) the person I’d be would be unrecognizable from the person I am.

The first time camp saved my life was right when I started attending. I was 13. Wayfinder was recommended to my mother by my therapist. Some friends who were also clients of his had been going and had given it rave reviews. He figured it might be good for me. I was struggling in school (because I wasn’t trying). I didn’t have very many friends. At least once a year I got into a fight that always came with an in-school suspension. I had, for some time, loudly been proclaiming that I wished I was dead. Naturally my parents were at a loss for what to do. My parents split when I was young, and they both worked, so some kind of summer supervision was a necessity. Wayfinder was the latest in a string of summer camps. That first summer was a turning point in my life. I went to two weeks of camp, three weeks apart from each other, and I fell in love. That fall I started attending Woodstock Day School (switching from Rondout Valley) and got the chance to reinvent myself in my daily life, which I jumped on. I don’t think the school change would have mattered much had I not started coming to camp. Wayfinder showed me a place where I wouldn’t be forced to pretend to be someone else and people would be excited to see me. Camp showed me it was all right to be me. If I’d never been shown that, it wouldn’t have been much longer until I believed the people who followed me around in classrooms heiling Hitler, spent recesses circled around me saying whatever it took to get me angry, or just jumping right into hitting me. The first time I was saved was when Wayfinder showed me that there was more to the world than the people who haunted my daily life.

Savior 2The second time I was saved was in 2016. Being a staff member for so long has been incredibly important to me. I’ve had the chance to create space for kids and give back the pieces of my childhood that I treasured so much. In the process I shifted my thinking about camp. It no longer seemed like a place which could contain my struggles. I thought that as a staff member the only thing it had to offer me was the satisfaction of giving that space to our participants. I couldn’t have been more wrong. When I was 16 years old I was sexually assaulted by a good friend. I didn’t start processing it until I was 25 (in 2015). My path back to emotional stability has been long and will probably never be over, but Wayfinder gave me an opportunity to take a step forward in a way I didn’t believe was possible. The summer of 2015 was lonely. I told maybe two or three people at camp about my assault. I didn’t want it to become the focus of anything we were doing. I was minimizing the space that it took up. The effect was that I felt isolated and uncomfortable in one of the few spaces I had ever felt at home. At the last event I worked at our final staff meeting I told everyone that I was an assault survivor, the first time I ever made that kind of a public admission. Last year I set my summer up around being at staff week turning down a position at the Kansas State Young Writer’s Workshop (a program I had been involved in for 2 years). I couldn’t stand to feel that distant from everyone at camp for another summer. Staff Week’s trust workshop was planned almost entirely around creating a space for sharing trauma and hardship. The love that I received in that circle reminded me of the feeling Wayfinder had given me the first time around. That it’s all right to be me, even if that means being hurt.

Wayfinder provides opportunities for acceptance, healing, and self-exploration. Very few places are able to offer all three, we manage to do so while focusing on building an adventure together. It’s a community of people who are all invested in the process for each other. Ask almost anyone why they come and I’d bet they tell you for the community. I know that I was built into the person I am today by having that space available to me. Wayfinder saved my life, twice. Thank you for the chance (and help along the way) to remake myself.Savior 3

Written by Judson Easton Packard

Published on 5/26/2017

Always Coming Back Home To You

Always Coming Back Home To You

WFE1In all of the Where Are They Now interviews the interviewees (members of our community who have been away from the physical space of camp for some time now) have brought up an important facet of the Wayfinder community. The idea that you can leave camp for any amount of time, and you will always be welcomed back in. The way I have always pictured it is to see camp and our community within that physical space (even though we’re not always at the same location the physical space when the community comes together for an event) as a circle. No matter how long you step away from that circle, we will always have a spot for you to return to. There is no guarantee that you will come back to see the same faces as when you left, and more than likely there will be more new ones than familiar ones. I can promise though that you will be welcomed with the same warmth, the same love that you had when you left.

It helps this idea (both the circle I picture in my head, and the reality of returning to camp) that we put a lot of practice into doing this. At the start of every camp, and then again each morning, we open with a circle. During this time everyone is invited to share how they are feeling, what new experiences they have had since the last circle they were a part of, whether it has been hours or years since they held that space. An exercise I’ve always loved in our circles is when we take a silent moment, look around the circle person by person, and smile at every face that we see. It doesn’t matter who they are or how well you know them, every face you come across is returning that feeling to you.

WFE2Due to the setup of our community around a summer camp, there is always going to be some change in the people who are attending. People’s lives move forward. They go to college. They get jobs. They move on to whatever the world holds next for them. Spending summers at camp you get used to the rotating nature of the people around you. Every time someone new comes to camp it’s a chance to bring someone new into the fold. It’s always exciting to see what they bring into the space with them. New games. New ideas. There’s also, almost guaranteed, to be a friend who has been long absent. Someone who wasn’t able to be at camp for whatever reasons, or you two just haven’t been at the same weeks. Every camp is a chance to reenter these friendships. The function of being a summer camp means that the majority of the people at camp will not see each other maybe nine months out of the year. The friendships we have suspend in time, they tie to the space we hold at camp. It’s why it’s so easy for us to come and go in each other’s lives, to maintain relevance, as Marika put it so well a few weeks ago. We have grown use to coming home to each other.

It can be hard to understand making your home in other people. The idea of home we are always sold probably attaches to a specific structure or town. My home is Wayfinder. It has been since I was 13 years old and came to my first camp. Since then I’ve spent time with Wayfinder at upwards of twenty different lands and locations. No matter where we go, no matter what difficulties that land possesses (everything from giant mosquitos to non-potable water) I know I will be home. Home is the place where you can be yourself, whatever the most honest version of that looks like. Camp is a place where not only are we encouraged to be our real selves, we take time to work on that piece. I talked a couple weeks ago about how characters help us build ourselves so I don’t need to go deeply into it again here, but feeling at home in that space is a big portion of being able to do that work.

WFE3I’ve lived in six states and three time zones. I’ve told myself more springs than I’d like to admit that the coming summer would be my last one at camp, that it was time for me to grow up and move on to a new home. In 2014 I didn’t go to camp for the first time since I started in 2003. The year that followed was one of the hardest, most isolated of my life. There were a lot of external strains that led to this throughout the year as well, but I would be lying if I didn’t notice the weight of not getting to come home to camp and be me. Not having the time to put my stress aside and sit in a circle and fall asleep in the grass when I’m probably not supposed to (OK I’m definitely not supposed to and am probably supposed to be running the circle). Camp is my home. Who knows how long we get to call any one particular place home? If you get the chance to, come back. We miss you.

Written by Judson Easton Packard.

Published 4/7/2017