Tribal Times - The Official Blog of Chestnut Lake Camp

Campfire Tales | Week 1 (6/29/24)

By Aaron Selkow, Owner/Director

The beat goes on. History repeats itself. Same stuff, different day. Deja Vu. Killing time. Call it a day.

None of these idioms make any sense or are useful at Chestnut Lake Camp. This is not a place where the routine ever becomes routine. Clocks are almost nowhere on site in Beach Lake. Even the traditions that are time-worn are pulled, pushed, and twisted, never to be identical. The campers can have the same names two summers in a row, but they are not the same people. They grow; constantly grow in so many ways. There is a daily schedule. But the likeliness of it ever being the same even two days is slim. It rains at camp. And sometimes that causes us to move around in funny ways. But it’s only raining when we say it’s raining. There is downtime. That’s what we call the scant moments when we just can’t run full-speed anymore and we have to take a break. Have you seen a staff member at camp with an hour to spare sitting down? If you have, then you have seen a grown adult dozing off. Last night I was speaking to someone on the phone. They told me today that they hung up when I stopped responding for the second time.

We play hard here. It can be a lot for some of us. Our new campers have to adjust. Our new staff have to accept that everything they learned before the campers arrived was used up and not super relevant after four minutes of the campers being at camp. Returning campers have to adjust, too. They naturally compare the best of last summer to the early stages of the season that started 10 or 11 months later. Obviously, they liked stuff about Chestnut last summer to want to return. And some or a lot of that stuff is gone. They didn’t come back because they thought the Drama Center was special. They didn’t tell their friends how much they loved their camp because the trees stood in the same spot forever. They had it just right last year. Now it’s different. I am grateful for this. It means we all get to grow each year, it allows us to build community and create spirit each season. It means we can never get stuck somewhere, we can always create and enjoy something different. And what always mattered remains, in essence, the key principles and programs. They are here. The big ones are here forever.

This has been one of the best “first weeks” I have ever seen. Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s been perfect. There were some tears, we had some people fall down, and plenty of mistakes were made. I consoled some campers. I did the same with some staff. I spoke to a few parents that were unhappy. There will be more. And yet, what is happening here has been just so incredible. The care, the concern, the laughing, the outstanding performances, the dancing, the singing, the made three-pointers, the perfect Pickleball dinks, the beautiful artwork, the recognition of peers and staff through Community Service Awards last night, the new friends forming, the first time on the Flying Squirrel, the first leap from the highest Wibit element, and so many other things. I have heard more people than I can count say this is the best. I hope tomorrow will bring more.

Being at home while we do all of this kinda stinks. You look at images on Campanion. There are not enough for some of us. You see the posts on Insta. Other camps are doing better. The phone calls have started, and they can be so hard. The first letter said, “I miss you.” Or worse. Every child and parent deserves to feel the joy and gratification of what camp is currently giving to almost everyone here. Tomorrow will have another person brought into the fold, and I hope that you are excited to be excited. And while we work on what isn’t ideal, I will be grateful for the chance to serve your family. We love our camp families. All of them. Even the ones that tell me we should be doing better. Go ahead, push me to be the best. I am pretty sure we can be.

At the first true Community Campfire, I joined Josh Lutman on stage to play a Dylan classic, “Wagon Wheel.” Our camp is not the only one that loves this song. To be honest, I don’t know what that is. But as long as the campers and staff come together to make music together at dusk sitting shoulder to shoulder at the Great Lawn, I don’t care why they like this song. They would probably sing anything. They just want someone to let them sing. Together.

I hope that you are feeling proud of yourselves at home for giving your children the gift of summer at Chestnut Lake Camp. You invested in your child’s growth and we are working incredibly hard to make sure that you see the return. Tomorrow will have so many opportunities for them to do something real, and we will recognize them for that. They are not going to stand around and wait for time to bring them more and better. They are going to grab time and make things happen right now. And we will help them.

Tribal Times - The Official Blog of Chestnut Lake Camp

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