empty stables on the right
where the horses lived
and I visited every afternoon
to groom, to feed, to ride
even if I had to sit sideways
the edge of the woods on the left
by the parking lot, still gravel,
and the main building
we used to call the “dining hall”
pathways in the midst of trees
leading away from people
leading closer to animals
or the ones that were there
deer, ducks, geese, chickens
more than I can remember
I saw these spots as we arrived to the retreat center in the woods. At the same time, I remembered what used to be there. Camp days were long ago, but from what I could see not much had changed. I was actually glad for the chance to explore the area as an adult.
My mom continued to drive and I took in all the sights, waiting for the chance to get out of the van and wander. I almost headed for a path when we first arrived. Almost. I quickly turned around because the retreat would begin soon and it was dinnertime.
Walking into the main building, I remembered the space and even the air had a familiar scent. The building seemed bigger when I was a child. I immediately realized the décor was exactly the same. The walls held deer heads and other treasures from someone’s hunting days. I would see the giant bear in the corner the next day and the polar bear and other animals surrounding the conference room. I posed for a picture with the polar bear to replicate one I’m sure I took back in the day.
I smiled because I felt at home in this room. Yes, in the room with the animals. I had spent hours there. It’s where I ate every meal during camp. I would catch up with other friends and the same room was transformed for a talent show and dance party later in the week.
My memories are a bit scattered, but that weekend away in February reminded me of several favorite camp moments. I took a walk and wandered through the area before I went back home, driving my wheelchair over the bumps and in the dirt.
I had to look back on these adventures with older eyes and see the spot (or building) where I…
rode a horse with the biggest grin on my face,
hopped in a canoe and paddled around the lake, (with help, of course)
went for afternoon arts and crafts time,
watched the other campers play sports and have field day,
fed the donkey a peanut butter cracker (aka “Nabs”) almost daily,
visited the deer and other animals at the mini zoo,
called home every day on the camp pay phone
There was also the spot where I cried to the camp doctor who thought I had the pink eye. I’m pretty sure I was glad to go home at the end of that week. Every year at camp was not a blast, but many of these memories make me smile.
And the fun activities I did when I was little stirred up an adventurous spirit. Now I love to find adventures, small ones or big ones, and the kind you can create any ordinary day.