I wish I could stay here forever.
For four perfect days there have been no bills, no cleaning, no laundry, no errands, no phone calls, no emails and no dishes. No deadlines, no appointments and no nightmares.
There have been quiet walks in the forest and raucous roughhousing, adventures in berry picking and panoramic views. Campfires and canoes. Paddles slicing through water and arrows whistling through air. Childish laughter and frogs in the dark. Rainstorms in the night and solitude in the morning.
Tomorrow it ends. But tonight, under the glittering stars, I can simply be.
She’s tucked into her sleeping bag with the bunny that has watched over her every night since we watched her eyes light up that first Christmas so long ago, her eyelashes resting on sunburnt cheeks long before the tent flap closed behind me. Boyish laughter rises in the air as silhouettes dance on the tent wall just beyond the campfire’s glow. In their company he has discovered for the first time that he is not alone. Watching their eyes light up as wild horses came close to nuzzle their hands and mushrooms were discovered in musty tree roots, a week of simple pleasures and adventures has taught us all about stepping back, slowing down and looking forward, even if only for a moment.
Sitting around the fire on this last night before we have to return to reality, our laughter rings through the night as theirs begins to fade. A week ago, we knew each other in passing, if at all, but we are leaving here as friends. It isn’t days filled with capsized canoes, muddy shoes, homemade ice cream, sunny hikes and marshmallowed fingers that sealed our collective fate. It’s not the simple words “no signal” that forced us to commune with nature and each other. It’s not the dining hall or the rows of sleeping bagged cots. Of all the moments it is this one that sparkles the most.
Being here was like looking through a window to the past while stepping through yet another door to the future.
Each year, a new year at boarding school began with a camp like this, a retreat where we learned new things and about each other, forged bonds and created memories. New friendships and memories that had less to do with canoeing and everything to do with the emergence of adolescent misbehavior, first kisses and items not served in the dining hall.
Decades later, camp hasn’t changed. It’s still about salvaging pride without a hair dryer, about leaving the daily grind behind and pushing ourselves outside the shelter of our comfort zones, about little moments that stay with you long after the tents and cabins grow dark and lonely, and about forging friendships. And just like in high school, the creed remains the same.
What happens in the woods stays in the woods. Especially if it involves sequins and requires a code name.