Sunday, April 21, 2013

Camp - A Short Story

c. Gillian Cornwall

I published this story, in three parts, in late 2011. For those of you for whom this is a repeat, I apologize.  
I believe all of us understand the wild things when we are children. We just need to be allowed to go out and explore for ourselves sometimes. Perhaps it is part of learning, in a semi-controlled environment, how to face our fears and dreams alone, as part of the bigger picture. I hope you enjoy this tale of mixed fact and fiction. 


   There is a particular scent to the canvas tent with its pine platform floor, replete with eight 9 year old girls, the counsellor-in-training and our revered leader, Liz. After three years of these overnights, I can quite confidently say that, while the scent is unique to these circumstances, it varies little from camp session to camp session and from year to year and tent to tent. I can not fully describe it but I will try to lead you by the nose and give you some idea because it's beautiful and peculiar and, for me, both inviting and petrifying. If one were to mix brown sugar with sweet summer sweat, dry pine and sun-warmed canvas and blend it with stale peanut butter and jam sandwiches from lunches gone by, you'd have a reasonable facsimile of what I'm trying to get at.  

   I already know I like girls. I lie among them and I barely understand how it is I am an interloper in their midst. I have no idea how it is I am different or why I am the only one who feels like this. I am the only one awake in the tent though thousands of crickets and frogs trill beyond our fabric home. They call me, incessant as the sirens of Greek mythology. One more call, this time from the loon, and I silently slide from my sleeping bag placed purposefully by the zippered net door flap. My stealthy exit goes unnoticed or without comment as it is not uncommon for a young girl to require a night time trip to the outhouse; however, this is not my planned destination. I am equipped in my Keds, sweatpants, and hooded sweatshirt having planned my adventure earlier in the evening. I am restless and intense and night time sojourns both feed my sense of adventure and calm my troubled young soul.

    I make my way down the chip trail and across the bridge as the stream below gurgles its greetings, the water on its ceaseless path to bigger bodies. Ahead, the entrance to the cedar wood looms dark and wide and I shiver a little in this moon and star-filled summer night, briefly considering the consequences if caught mid-adventure by a concerned grown-up. My consideration does not outweigh my desire and I carry on down the path and into my beloved cedar wood. While my heart thumps time to this song of escape, it is more excitement than fear as I have walked the trails of this camp and lingered in these woods since age four. I have crunched through the crisp-top winter snows and lazed at the foot of these trees in the dog days of summer. I am comfortable here and more safe on these grounds at any time of day than I ever have been or ever will be at home. I walk here at peace and rest here in the palm of my maker, my nature.
   The scent of living cedar is my mother's milk and the branches sway in a trance with the whisper of the night time breeze. I tread upon the bouncing carpet of cedar fronds and the net of roots beneath my feet. This is a place of magic. This is a place of rope swings and tree forts. It is Peter Pan and Captain Hook and everything wild and good about being a kid. I maintain a ninja silence knowing the boys tribes, including my own brother, sleep in the tree forts overhead. I smile at my courage and, quite frankly, my gall; I will not stop here. I know where I must go. 

   I know where I am drawn. There is peace in this as I walk on. It feels further in the dark than in the light, fewer distractions I suppose, but before long the woods open up to the upper level seating of the council ring and a lone star shoots across the open sky through the thick lick of the milky way. I sit, shoving my fists into the pouch of my hoodie and I sigh heavily into the night. I am a child, an animal with senses sharp and alive, nose to the cool air, eyes darting and adjusting to the light. 

   In this ring, some eternal part of who I am, something I have yet to comprehend, releases and I know I have not come here to be alone as I originally thought. I have come to connect to something, to connect to everything, to belong. My young, taut, clean body breathes in the power of the love of all. I hold this cool night air in my lungs, eyes closed, connected; full. As I release this breath, my self mingled with the universal soul into the one. I open my eyes wide to see the mother wolf staring at me from across the ring. Her two cubs are in tow, wrestling each other and the mother sits, our eyes lock. I gasp. I stay. I feel the hot tears on my cheeks. I understand the journey from longing to belonging. Purity. Comprehension. Love. 

-Gillian Cornwall, c. December 2011.

Photographer unknown
Me - 2nd from the left
Likely 12 yrs old.

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