Special Places, Special Memories, & Staff Campfires
As I write this, today is Thursday.
During my summer vacations, Thursdays are always my favorite day of the week. Especially Thursday nights after dinner. Wait a minute; I think that I should explain why with a bit more detail.
For the past almost 30 years my summer vacation has been spent at Camp Mechuwana as either a counselor or a Dean. All of those summer so far have been spent with Rally Camp. My first six were as a counselor, I then did twenty (gulp) as Dean and then the last two were as a counselor after I passed the Deaning torch. I went to Rallies in Maine through the United Methodist Church when I was in high school. The summer that I graduated from Mt. Blue High School one of my Dad’s colleagues, Joan DeSanctis called my dad and asked if I might be able to counsel a cabin of junior high girls for Rally Camp. Dad told her that I would. So when I got home from Creative Arts camp on Saturday morning Dad told me to wash all my stuff, pack up and head back to camp as a counselor. I didn’t ask any questions; I was so excited! Thus my escapades as a volunteer at Mechuwana began.
As I am sitting here writing I need to keep stopping because in thinking of Mechuwana my head is so full of memories. So many beautiful memories: all the years of spending my week at Lower Camp listening to the water lap against the shore and the loons sing us to sleep, walking all the trails…I remember walking Loon Lane from Lower Camp to swimming before it got an overhaul and how every summer I would have banged up feet when I got home. How we would wait in line to shower (who else remembers those lovely old showers down at Lower Camp?) and then go to the next bathroom to brush our teeth! I remember an awesome summer spent up at the Village when we had a Talent Night and my cabin did a live broadcast from WMEC. Julio was so surprised when we “interviewed” him! The years that we spent painting churches and helping out at the Salem Economic Ministries! And who can forget the “Summer of the Bob’s” when Mary ended up leaning against a newly painted wall and then had paint in her hair for the rest of the week! Oh, and then there is the year that we picked all of the rocks out of what is now the soccer field!
Staff campfire, photo courtesy Rally Camp
Then we started the “No Talent Nights” for a few years on Friday nights! Those were such a hilarious time! I even remember Norman popping in one night and he was laughing so hard for a moment I thought we would need to call the nurse! Oh, those were such fun times! We would have Night Walks, dances – come on, “Let’s do the Time Warp Again”! So many games, scavenger hunts and the infamous “Wacky Olympics!” I could go on and on about all the wonderful memories I have! But there is one area of camp that especially means so much to me. There are two actually, and they are right next to each other. One is the “Path of Peace” that Rally Camp in 2011 blazed the trail for. It was made through (literally) blood, sweat and tears in memory of Julio DeSanctis. The other place is where we have staff campfire. Every Thursday night after dinner we would all head back to our cabins and grab a sweatshirt, lather up with bug spray and then begin the trek down to Lower Camp for Thursday night staff campfire. For about an hour or so on Thursday nights the Mechuwana staff would keep us all greatly entertained, singing so many campfire songs! Those songs have greatly changed over the years, and every once in a while an oldie but a goodie will make its way back onto the playlist. I will never forget the year that one of the Missions Camps taught us “I’m a Little Teapot”…the 21st century version! I don’t think that one will ever disappear! But after a while, when the sun as officially set and the campfire is vivaciously burning we will become peaceful, quiet. We wouldn’t really stand still, but in some ways everything would stop. We would hear the lake lapping against the shore. Occasionally a loudly propelled boat would go by. We would hear the cracking of the campfire as it slowly began to burn down. Someone from the staff would read scripture. We would sing “Sanctuary”, “Pass it on” and “Linger”. If we needed rain than Norman would lead us in the “Prayer for Rain”, and if we were really lucky he would read us a Dr. Seuss story. I believe that the most popular is “Yertle the Turtle” followed by “Gertrude McFuzz’ and “The Big Brag”. My three Younglings, especially my son Jayden so love those stories! In fact, his “Yertle the Turtle” book is now held together with duct tape. Plus, me being a person who has spent the majority of her life one town over from where Dr. Seuss was born and raised is special. I’ve even driven down Mulberry Street more times than I can remember. Back to campfire…then we would pray. Beneath those cathedral trees we would thank God for his blessings; we would thank Him for bringing us all together for a week at Mechuwana, to the place that we all can let our hair down and be our true selves. This camp, the place where we can all get so many hugs in one day that our arms would hurt, were laughter is a second fluid language. A place where at “lights out” we would snuggle into our sleeping bags and thank God for the blessings that He has given us. And we would sleep. We would peacefully sleep. And the dawn came the next morning we would gently rub our eyes and begin a new day. We all may not able to be at Mechuwana this year. But Mechuwana will always be in our hearts. I would like to end my little blog with words from a song that will always, always have a very special and sacred place in my heart and soul: “Oh spirit of Mechuwana, beneath these cathedral trees We worship by cross and alter, for thou art Lord God of all of theses Oh, guide us through field and forest, ‘ore paths that we all have trod For we belong to Mechuwana, And Mechuwana belongs to God.” AMEN! —Dawn Zarecki Reidy