I realize that I’ve been writing to you all for about a week now, and I’ve yet to introduce myself. My name is Dani, and this is my 10th summer at SLC. My camp story is pretty meandering. I came here when I was 19 as a Merrylane counselor on Teenside. My goal was to have one fun summer before I grew up and had to be an adult. I’m sitting here writing to you a decade later after changing majors, changing colleges, taking time off from school, traveling, feeling lost, feeling found, getting a Master’s degree, and securing my first full time job as a high school English teacher.
Through all of that, my camp career – as varied as it has been – has been a constant in my life. I’ve been a Work Program counselor, a unit supervisor for 2 different units, I’ve been the program director for Family Camping weekend, I’ve been the visiting group liason, and in the off-season I’ve worked in the kitchen, as a site assistant, as a camp driver, and I’ve even pinched hit as a specialist. This summer I find myself in a new role – supervisor to 16 and 17 year old staff, camp blogger, and unofficial jack-of-all-trades.
As such I have the unique opportunity of sometimes finding myself in the right place at the right time. I was in the Main Office this afternoon when a call came in to our receptionist, Laurie, that there was a black snake under a Journey’s Way bunk. Harry, our administrative director and official jack-of-all-trades was about to troubleshoot that particular problem, when I volunteered to go take care of it.
I made my way over to Journey’s Way and saw two counselors, Symonea and Alix, standing outside watching the snake while their group huddled together scared on the porch of the cabin. They showed me where to find the offending beast, and I proceeded my hunt. I knew it was a black rat snake – totally harmless, but very scary looking. I chased it around the bunk while it stayed just a little too far out of reach underneath. Finally, as it started to come out the other side, I reached out and grabbed it. The girls squealed with excitement.
“Come on out!” their counselors shouted. “She caught it!”
A few intrepid souls came running down the stairs immediately, shoes and fears left in their cubbies.
“What kind is it?”
“How did you catch it?”
“Can I touch it?”
“Can I hold it?”
A few more crept slowly forward.
“Is it a boy or a girl?”
“Did it bite you?”
“Is it poisonous?”
Eventually the whole group came out to see the snake. All of them touched it. They were all curious and excited. For most of them, it was the first time they had seen a wild animal up so close. After the Journey’s Way girls were done playing with the snake, I took it on a tour of Mainside. He visited Idylwood, Mountainview girls, Mountainview boys, met some Highlands and Frontier campers on the way down to swim, then ran into some staff on his way to be released back into the wild woods behind the ball field.
So why am I telling you all of this? Why am I telling you about my life outside of camp in the past ten years? Why am I telling you about all of my odd jobs since I started at SLC? Why am I telling you about this very small part of today’s happenings as opposed to giving you insight into the larger activities going on at camp today? The answer is simple: magic. Whatever the forces of the universe that brought me into the Main Office this afternoon to be at the right place at the right time resulted in a moment of serendipity. I was able to share a piece of the natural world (one of my favorite things about being at camp) with a whole lot of kids today. I had never met most of them before, and they had no idea about how I came to be standing in front them with a snake wrapped around my wrist.
This is part of the magic of camp. This one brief moment brought smiles to all of our faces. The magic of camp is that it was a moment of wonder for me, me who has been through a ten year journey of ups and downs to get to this afternoon, in equal measure with the kids who were experiencing something like this for the first time. The magic of camp is that moments like this never get old. They are always moving. They are always changing us. Maybe some day, ten years from now or twenty years from now, when one of those Journey’s Way girls is a group counselor, or one of those Idylwood boys is a lifeguard, one of those kids will catch a snake under a bunk and walk around camp with it bringing smiles to a new generation of camper faces.