One morning this weekend as I headed out for a run (I scared a hare and can attest that Aesop was wrong, hares are faster than tortoises!) I had a Proust/Madeleine moment. My senses took me to a different place. I could smell summer. The dew evaporating, the birds singing, the quality of the light. I suddenly yearned for camp.
When I was a Guide, camp was the highlight of the year. For a tween/teen a whole week away from parents was a dream in itself. But I loved the traditions and rituals: bedding rolls, brailings, knots and mallets. That first moment when you emerge from your tent in the morning and the camp is so still that rabbits are grazing. The sight of ridge tents and bell tents floating and flying with only their guy ropes to tether them to the ground. That in the middle of the night you had to go to the lats in pairs, and we were so scared of what might be in the woods that one would stand with their head stuck out of the toilet tent, singing loudly to give the other some privacy, because we couldn’t bear to be stood outside by ourselves.
As an adult, camp is different. It’s a lot more hard work. Filing forms. Planning. Sorting equipment to go; packing up equipment at the end. Weather forecasts are watched fanatically to understand the best window of opportunity to strike camp in the dry, otherwise we have to hang & rehang tents until they are dry. Am I selling this?
So why do I still love camp? You get to know the girls much better, see them develop leadership & teamwork skills, gain confidence, enjoy new experiences – from sleeping under the stars or abseiling to chopping an onion. I get to see my guiding friends, enjoying stories and camaraderie around the campfire. We get to eat food that only exists properly at camp: eggy bread and sponge pudding (not together, although once we did because the sponge pudding took days to cook).
But mostly because there is something about the sound of a tent zip, the scent of the dew, the early morning light, the smoke from getting the fire going and the silence of sleeping Guides that appeals. Those few minutes each morning truly feel like the impossible dream of getting away from it all…