Saturday, July 27, 2013

This Other Time, This Other Self 2*

We have had a run of cool weather here, balmy days and crisp mornings. Today's temperature at 7:00 a.m. was 50°.

I went outside early to string the clothesline and breathe deeply of the chill morning air. If I didn't think of the calendar proclaiming itself to be July, I would have easily have said it was September or even October.

The brisk morning air triggered memories of other times, other Aprils.

First Glimpse

Back in my childhood, for a span of several summers, I went away for a week to a summer camp in a nearby county. The camp was run under the auspices of the Lutheran church (LCA, I believe, back in the days when the designation mattered). It had a two strings of log cabins, one for the boys, one for the  girls. I think there were eight of us to a cabin, in bunks of two. The cabins had the names of biblical women—Deborah, Sarah, Rachel. Our counselors were all college students from Capital University, a Lutheran institution in nearby Columbus.

There was a large dining hall and a small arts building. There was an outdoor "theatre" (a stage and rows of log seats), and a snack shack/post office opened only at certain hours. A trail past the dining hall would take you to an outdoor chapel and, on down the hill, the campfire circle. There was a small swimming pool and a vast open field that dropped down to a creek before rising up again.

I am sure there were hot, muggy days at camp. After all, this was Ohio in July we are talking about. But I remember the crisp
Th outdoor chapel, 1969
mornings, much like this morning, where eight girls would squeal "it's cold!" and burrow in our suitcases for sweatshirts before heading to the dining hall for breakfast. We would walk quickly against the chill, all the more delicious for it being the height of summer.

Fireflies, spirited games of "Capture the Flag," which the college boys dominated fiercely, dining hall songs while we all snaked around the walls waiting to reach the head of the line. "We Are Climbing Jacob's Ladder" around the campfire, watching the sparks soar heavenward, and seeing the Milky Way spilled across the sky over our heads.

And those delicious, crisp mornings, just like this morning.

Second Glimpse

Paint me a summer weekend in the mid 1970s, somewhere in a small Wisconsin town close to the Illinois border.  It was a village really, a cluster of summer cottages strung around a small lake.

There was a get-together there that weekend, hosted by the parents of a college acquaintance. A dozen or so of us drove north from Chicago, converging on the cottage with our sleeping bags and frisbees and swimsuits. There was a large, quasi-potluck meal, there was singing around the bonfire late into the night. Someone had a guitar and played and sang a passably good "Rocky Raccoon."

The next morning was crisp and chill, much like the mornings here right now, much like those long ago camp mornings. Three or four of us rose early while the sun was just lighting the sky, donned our suits, and headed to the lake, a short, unpaved block away. We willed ourselves into the water, flinching at its cool kiss before submitting to the water once and for all. We swam our way to morning and to breakfast.

It seems strange now to be sitting here at the kitchen table, peering back almost 40 years (the lake) and on beyond some 45 years ago (the camp). It is today's chill air that pulls me back, rushing me headlong into those other times, those other selves.

*My first This Other Time, This Other Self post can be found here.


see you there! said...

Your story about camp took me right back to Girl Scout camp beside Lake Cleawox in Oregon. I can almost smell the pine trees and the ocean.


Sharon said...

It's been common for me to reflect on the past. Sometimes a song on the radio will do it for me. I've been loving our weather and am hoping it lasts!