That Sounds of Summer
As I cross the old wooden bridge onto the island this morning, there is a dense layer of fog rolling off the rising waters of the Catawba. The first hint of cool weather this September whistles through my car windows as the tires crunch down the gravel drive of Canaan. Just a few weeks ago, this place was filled with the sounds of summer; 70-foot screams off the zipline canopy tour, lifelong laughter from the pool and pavilion and the resonating chants of another memorable summer at camp.
For the past eight years since we opened the screen doors at Canaan I have had the great pleasure of watching campers and counselors alike share the last hug, the last high five and the final chorus of a camp song and then return to their lives outside of camp. It’s a strange and almost empty feeling to have the island so quiet again after eleven full weeks of camp. After that many weeks you just get used to the shrieks, the screams, the hollers, the water balloon fights, the pie-in-the-face, the radios beeping and the hum of the cars in and out each afternoon.
Rhythm is defined as “a strong, regular, repeated pattern of movement or sound”. There is a certain rhythm to the summer unlike any other in the world. There are so few places in our day in time with no phones or tablets or TV’s, no overpriced amusement rides or commercialized stores where we feel pressured to buy the next thing. But even without these modern “distractions” kids come alive out here and go home fully exhausted and exhaustively FULL OF LIFE! The rhythm of summer is simple and consistent but has so many variables that paint each day of each week with new colorful notes.
I like to imagine that the sounds and stories from each summer are like a collection of notes that form into an amazing symphony of sound. Each moment, each expression is like a strum of a guitar, a drum beat or a blast of a horn forming a musical note of inspiration. This past summer we had a thirteen-year-old girl who had never been camping or hiking in her life put on a 40 lb. backpack and walk through the woods with our TLC June team for 4 days. She went caving and whitewater rafting (also for the first time) and upon her return to camp, seeing her Mom and Dad for the first time in a week, was glowing with excitement and fatigue- notes of courage.
One of our day campers, Evan, has been coming to camp for 4 years. Evan is an amazing boy with an incredible memory and endless energy. Evan is also autistic. Each summer his Mom and Dad say that Canaan is like an oasis for him- a haven of fun. This past summer Evan developed a great friendship with another boy named Jack who is also autistic. Everyday at camp these boys got closer and closer and eventually started making plans for play-dates after camp- notes of friendship.
Beta came to us at 12 ½ years old and had never been to camp before. Her parents signed her up for one week of All-Girls Resident Camp in June. When she arrived at check-in day on Sunday, she was nervous and shy. By Tuesday of that week, Beta had found her rhythm and was like a totally different young girl. She had made friends, had great conversations with her counselors and said she never wanted to leave camp. There were hugs and tears at the end of the week as everyone said goodbye. Beta on the other hand just told her counselors goodbye and she would see them again soon. That next Sunday, Beta was on the sign-in list for another week of resident camp. She came for three weeks of camp this past summer and loved every minute of every week- notes of pure happiness.
During the days of summer, these notes of courage, friendship and pure happiness do blend with sounds of fear, loneliness and hurt too. I don’t want to give the impression that camp is a flawless place of perfection- that wouldn’t be accurate. But it is real- real life, real issues, and real joy. This tapestry of sound that only summer camp can weave together is, in my opinion, the truest display of our human frailty and glory both reflected together. The uniqueness of summer camp at Canaan is that we can be honest about who are and express our joy and sorrow in a safe and compassionate place to be heard.
So as I reminisce on another loud, busy summer, I’m grateful for what I can hear. The strong, repeated pattern of movement and sound still echoes through the canopy here on the island. I pray that each camper would be able to hear that sound echo in their hearts as well. To know the rhythm of God’s love for each of them and the joy and sorrow that come from being and becoming all that He has made them to be. This is the song of abundant life that Jesus spoke of and summer camp… well, it is simply an amplifier.