Without a doubt, anyone that has ever spent a summer at Nebagamon would tell you that there is nothing like a Sunday at camp. Sundays here have their own special feel to them. Whether it is the late wake up (well…late wake up for anyone outside the Swamper Village…Swampers wake up early no matter what we try!), the special meals, or the special programs, the day takes on a completely unique feel.
We began our day with a delicious breakfast of homemade cinnamon rolls. (I am told by well-placed sources that the cinnamon rolls breakfast is the single worst meal for which to be KP (kitchen patrol). These poor KPs spend more time carrying food to and from the food window than a parent of a newborn colicky baby spends ascending and descending the stairs with their little bundles of joy. Yes, my children are well past that stage now, but as you can tell the scars still run deep!) After breakfast we all gathered at the Chuck Hirsch Shrine for our Sunday Service. For those of you new to the Nebaga-world, a Sunday Service is a non-religious gathering of the entire camp family. A member of our administration or senior staff presents to the camp family a topic of importance to him or her. Yesterday, our presentation was by a VERY senior member of our staff, Adam Fornear. (He hit 44 this year so be sure to send him a grief-giving note!) He spoke to us about the idea that There is Always a Way. His message to all of us was that no matter how daunting the problem, we all have the ability, creativity, and access to great sources of advice, to solve it. It takes patience, awareness, and imagination, but all problems are manageable. This was a great bit of advice for cabin mates that are working hard to sort out their differences. This was great advice for our four-week campers that are faced with just a week left of camp and feeling as though they cannot get everything done that they want to accomplish in such a short amount of time. And this was great advice for the boys to take with them the rest of their lives as intimidating problems inevitably arise which they are capable of resolving.
During the afternoon, we had normal project periods under a beautiful blue sky and 75 degree temperatures. More on normal projects another day…
Then last night was our weekly Council Fire. A staff member writes a values-centered skit which, with the help of other staff and campers, is presented to the camp family. Of course, this is all done by the light of a huge campfire built in the center of the Council Fire Ring. Ask any camper, staff member, or alumni about Council Fires, and they will tell you that Council Fires are the most important and best part of each week. That is when we get a full understanding of the magic that is happening here at camp, the power of the connections we make at camp, and the prospects of what can be accomplished at camp. I have always maintained that if I were within five hours of Lake Nebagamon on a Sunday night, I would find a way to make it to the Council Fire ring…I would have to…Council Fires are the heart and soul of camp. (Then again, I have arranged my life in such a way that I never need to worry about missing Council Fires…clever huh?)
The topic of last night’s Council Fire was Taking Initiative. This was a great message, in concert with the Sunday Service in the morning, as the boys were asked to hold themselves responsible for taking the first steps when it comes to challenges, opportunities, and friendships. They were exhorted not to wait for things to happen, but to be the agents of that change themselves. Great stuff.
All Council Fires are concluded with a series of, for lack of a better word, rituals that have been done in exactly the same way here for 91 years. We first engage in the Keylog Ceremony. This is a time when campers and staff, if they choose, may take a piece of wood, toss it onto the Council Fire (which by that point in the evening has burned down to a bunch of red coals with no flames to speak of) and then turn to a crowd of 300 people and dedicate the log to someone that has made a difference to them…a public thank you. We heard from 3rd graders thanking their counselors for helping them with their homesickness, campers just thanking Nebagamon for being another place to call home, and brand new counselors thanking the people that brought them to this special time and place. The poetic beauty is that, by the end of the Keylog Ceremony, we have a raging fire once again. It is a fire generated completely by the kindness and caring of the members of our family. It is, in my mind, our very best tradition in this place that is filled with many truly great traditions, and can evoke a misty eye from even the most stolid folks…and schmaltzy camp directors.
After the Keylogs we bowed our heads in silent prayer for our loved ones everywhere, just as literally thousands of campers and staff have done before us, and then sang the same songs that campers have sung around the Council Fire ring since 1929. Finally, we headed back to our homes for a quiet night together with our families…in our homes. Not bad huh?
All is well in the North Woods…