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.
Due 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.
I’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.