From the Heart (Meadow Dreamer reflects on his summers at Night Eagle in a school essay)
Okay so every year I go to this camp in the summer. This camp is something else. Yeah, I'm not a fool and can recognize that sounds cheesy and cliche, but the thing is, I authentically mean it. There's not a single thing in my life that quite compares to it; it is literally something else! Earlier I was ranting on about stress and how it burdens me so, but at camp I'm free of this. I haven't a single reason to stress about anything. And you can't really ever comprehend how special that is until you've legitimately experienced it. At the core of my camp's philosophy is simplicity. It's our camp lifestyle.
We don't live in cabins, we don't use our phones, we don't have people slaving away for us, and most importantly, we don't have any drawbacks from experiencing life in nature. We live in tipis free of electronics and modern conveniences. We build our own fires without matches. We cook our own food. We make many of our own tools. We are almost completely self-sufficient! We aren't just a highly functional community, we are deeper, we are a brotherhood. There is no back stabbing, there is no bullying, there is no popularity hierarchy, we are just simply, boys in a forest living in harmony.
“Isn't it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back everything is different?”
- C. S. Lewis
Anyway, after five years, this past summer was my last year as a camper, which is difficult and different to say the least. Nobody really wants to stop being a camper. By the time you're on your last year, you have made so many friends. Often times you won't see these friends anywhere but camp, and just the thought of never seeing them again is heart wrenching. In a way, those who you bond with at camp are those who you bond with most genuinely. For at camp you are your most real. At camp, there's no judgment, so there is no reason to judge or fear being judged, which allows people to be themselves with no fake attributes. So in a situation where everyone is being himself, the friends you make are the people most truly similar to you.
In society, people always modify what they say and how they act to conform better with their friends. Society can be quite phony. I am no saint and I've certainly said many things that weren't inherently true to make someone like me more, hell I'm sure we all have. I'm just saying there is no need for that in camp. So it really is a blessing.
My very first year I met this kid his name was Marsh Hawk. You’re probably thinking one of two things, "Why is his name so weird" or "Woah! Knarly name, dude." Ok, so Marsh Hawk isn't his real name, it’s his camp name.
You see, at camp we are focused on the American Indian simplistic life style and philosophy. We learn about the traditions of the Lakota in particular. In American Indian culture you must earn your name, and your name must really represent you as a person. Now the Lakota used to send boys out on Vision Quests where they would go out and pray for a vision. They would go for four days without food or water sitting silently, alone, praying for a vision.
Now we don't go quite so far as the Lakota did, but we still do naming quests. We sit silent, still, and alone with no sustenance for eight hours straight. Now that may sound terrible, but it's really not. After the first hour or so, the whole uncomfortable feeling of the situation really diminishes, and you lose that somewhat bored, somewhat uncertain feeling. You gain a new feeling of happiness and contemplation. You begin to notice all that is around you and gain new insights that had never occurred to you before. And just like that, your hours have flown by, almost too quickly.
Everybody in the camp has gotten a name, including me, making us even tighter bound as one. Back to Marsh Hawk, we were the same age and both first-year campers. He is a tan, skinny, sinewy kid, very muscular, but you know, in a skinny guy way. Beyond that he has a lust for adventure just like mine. He is persistent, curious, energetic, and open minded, just like me. We are perfectly compatible.
I don't care if he's weird cause hell so am I. When you really are like someone, you can look past all their flaws and see that you probably have them too. We make each other better people: he helps me fix my flaws, insecurities, and personal struggles, and I do the same thing right back.
Marsh Hawk isn't my only friend in camp, Christ, I have so many. Even the kids who sometimes can really get on my nerves, I still consider friends because I can see our similarities, what good and bad attributes we have in common. In society you can’t really do this because most people just aren't open enough for you to get to know them well enough. Sometimes I think some people are so terribly caught up in what society expects them to be that they don't actually know what they are really like. It's a scary thought, I know, and it may seem at first impossible, but really it's very possible and likely rather common.
People get so caught up in trends and who they pretend to be that they begin to lose who they really are without even knowing it. If we never take the time to step back and focus on who we really are, we may end up becoming the person we really aren't. A genuine person unaltered by society is a rare thing and should be cherished if found.
That's really why my camp is the biggest treasure of all because there's not only one but many genuine people in it!
With genuine human interaction things seem more meaningful, more permanent. I don't remember 200 of the days from last year, but tell you what, I remember every single day of camp. It’s not just the reality of people at camp that makes it so memorable, it’s the freedom. At camp we are so boundlessly free to do as we please, and yet we have massive amounts of responsibility. I can’t really explain how it works so perfectly, it just does.