Before I share my excitement and joy for the arrival of our campers 2021 camp season at Chestnut Lake Camp yesterday, I want to take us back in time a little bit…
The final day of a camp summer is bittersweet. The hard work of an entire year combined with the joy that is felt when you send the campers and staff back to their families and their real-world lives bring so many feelings. Even though there’s sadness mixed in with all the joy at the close of the season, I’ve always taken for granted that we would be back soon. The close of camp would give way to the first stages of preparation for the following year; processing and evaluating would start right away, and then off we would go to start getting ready once again. Only 10 months stood between the celebration of one great summer and the opening of yet another.
In August 2019, Chestnut Lake’s campers and staff gathered for their final Campfire, and then hours later started to board buses to head back home. Everyone assumed they would be back in less than one year to pick up where they were leaving off. Goodbye hugs and tears were tempered by the subconscious understanding that the camp cycle would recharge us before we lost track of the friendships, lessons, and memories found in Beach Lake, PA. But then a lot of things happened.
Months of planning moved along, but we were about to find ourselves at a crossroads. As our camp family looked ahead to 2020 for another amazing summer at CLC, our founding directors contemplated a big change for their own family. And then we learned of COVID-19. And then camp was closed for 2020. And then…well, the world went a bit haywire. Now let’s fast-forward back to June 27, 2021.
I started my first post From the CLC Porch (a metaphor for the vantage we have as leaders at camp, and the literal front porch that Ann and I have at our house here, where we will host campers most days of the summer for treats and fun) with reflection because it’s impossible to appreciate the power and meaning of yesterday’s arrival day without looking even further back. Last night, as we gathered for our Opening Campfire, seated on the log benches, we invited some of our youngest campers to help us with a traditional ritual at CLC. Passing a shovel from Ciqala camper to Ciqala camper, the boys dug up the metal can that held the ashes from the Closing Campfire of 2019. Never have the ashes been buried underground for 22 months – as we sprinkled them over the top of the fire, you could appreciate that this was a poignant moment symbolizing our own process of rejuvenation.
The time away from camp has certainly had an impact. The trees on our site are a bit taller, and so are many of the campers. Nearly two years of development has returned campers and staff to us looking a bit different, but I think they are also wiser. Many have developed more grit, and the events of the last 15 months have stretched your children’s capacity to adapt. But they’re still kids. We can see some of the familiar signs of adolescence and our counselors are supporting the typical feelings of separation from home, as we know that it takes a little while to get into the groove at camp. But being able to see campers here – to see them walking, running, hanging out, eating, playing – is such a gift. Their spirit and laughter are contagious, and we’re ready to leverage and celebrate it every day this summer.
Ann and I are thankful for all the support, and we are grateful for having so many talented and dedicated staff members here to work closely with your kids. This crew of Chestnut Lake staff are very special, and we are having a great time watching them maintain the greatness of Chestnut while simultaneously growing it.
We’re back. Finally.
Aaron Selkow and his wife, Ann, are the owners/directors of Chestnut Lake Camp in Beach Lake, PA.