Driving home from class tonight, I was listening to a mix tape that is left over from the days before I had iTunes and a CD burner. This particular tape is a mix of the Indigo Girls, Dar Williams, 10,000 Maniacs, and a more local singing duo named Kate and CJ. I have many, many mix tapes that incorporate the Indigo Girls, and many of them include a variety of other female artists. This particular tape includes 10,000 Maniacs because I had just met Bill when I made this tape, and he is a big fan of theirs. However, I digress…
Listening to this tape made me a little nostalgic for days gone by. Specifically, as I sang along to Kate and CJ singing Harry Chapin’s “Circle,” I thought back to my college summers at Camp Mosey Wood, where I worked as a Girl Scout camp counselor. Within the first few lines of that song, I was back in time…and thinking of how my time at camp shaped me into who I am today.
I went to camp for a week after my seventh grade year and for a week after my eighth grade year, and I was hooked the instant I stepped foot onto the Green in front of the dining hall at Mosey Wood. I loved the huge variety of people I saw milling about. I loved the excitement of sleeping in a tent. I loved the look of the lake, peeking through the trees. And I loved, loved, LOVED my couselors. These were cool college girls, spending their summer making a difference in young girls’ lives. They were from all over…certainly many of them came from the greater Lehigh Valley, but many of them also came from England and Ireland and Scotland. As a collective group, we campers worshiped our counselors.
Fast forward to the summer after my freshman year of college. I needed a job for the summer, and my best friend from high school, Sarah, suggested I try Mosey Wood. Because I had never really let go of the magic of my summers there, I jumped at the chance. After a phone interview with the camp director, I was hired, mostly on Sarah’s recommendation. I was going to become one of those counselors that I had worshiped. I was going to get the chance to make that same difference in young girls’ lives.
Without going into detail, I will tell you that Mosey Wood gave me another magical summer that year, and she continued to welcome me for many years after that. It was at camp that I made many of my great memories of that time in my life. Although I loved college and look back with just as much fondness on those school years, part of me was always waiting for the summer to come so I could go back to camp. Camp was like my summer home. It was one of the best things to ever happen to me.
It was at camp that I learned the power of a hug. I didn’t come from a family of touchy-feely people, and I was not 100% comfortable with open affection. However, camp was a place where hugs were given freely and welcomed in return. Before long, I learned what it was to be totally open with affection and support and feeling. And that is one of the great lessons that Mosey Wood gave me.
It was at camp that I learned to cook…albeit over a campfire. In fact, there were several years in there that I actually cooked better over an open fire than I did in my parents’ kitchen. With a Dutch oven, we could make such delicacies as upside-down pizza, Dutch oven lasagne, gingerbread applesauce, and peach and blueberry cobbler. I learned to cook an egg in an orange peel and bacon in a paper bag. I learned the wonder of foil dinners. I learned how to make the perfect s’more. We picked blueberries directly off the bushes that grew all over the camp property and turned them into delicacies. They also made for a good midday snack, fresh-picked and warm from the sun.
It was at camp that I continually amazed myself. I packed up all my belongings for the summer in a big footlocker, grabbed a backpack and sleeping bag, packed up my teddy bear and a pillow, and moved into a platform tent for eight weeks. I used a latrine and swam in a lake and sometimes chose a nap over a shower during my time off. I learned to live without electricity in my sleeping quarters. I saw a fair number of bears, deer, skunks, squirrels, and raccoons. I became a lifeguard. I headed home on the weekend to a world that now seemed unfamiliar, anxiously awaiting my trip back to camp for the next week.
It was at camp that I learned the words to hundreds of songs that were full of poignant meaning during those long summer days. We sang of being “on the loose to climb a mountain” and of how “hope warms a heart that is cold.” We sang to Mosey Wood these words: “Of no place are we fonder than sailing o’er your waters blue.” And in the “Pennsylvania Song,” we sang out, “all God’s children are happy when they roam; I don’t wanna go home.” I still sing these songs from time to time, often in the shower, and my old song book holds a place of honor in my home.
My days at camp are far behind me, although I do continue to visit there every summer. Mosey Wood always calls me back. The current camp director is a fellow counselor from my days at camp, and she gives the best hugs of almost anyone I know. And when I move to Bill’s house this summer, I will be a mere 20 minutes from my former summer retreat. I look forward to the days when I hear that familiar whisper of the wind in the trees and make the short trek to Mosey Wood’s gate. While I am there, I know I can count on good hugs, good food, good friends, and good songs. Mosey Wood is my sacred place…and she continues to be there for me, even as all these changes happen in my life. Like my parents’ house, camp is a place that always welcomes me home.