Tuesday, August 11, 2015

You're Welcome!

I've received so many cards and messages of thanks for the camp out. You are all most welcome; it is I who should be thanking you. For someone who appears to be an extrovert, I constantly fight the urge to hole up at home and hide from the world. The camp out gives me the opportunity to break out of my bubble. I get to spend time with people I actually enjoy.  I thank you.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Colestine Camp Out 2015

Colestine Camp Out 2015 was one for books, campers. The weather was absolutely perfect, high 80s,  nice breezes, blue skies, we couldn't have asked for better. One week after the Camp Out, the temperature topped 105 degrees and the air was thick with smoke from the nearby fires, so we were lucky and blessed. The food was amazing and ridiculously abundant as always. Many instruments were played, many voices raised in song, and the boys tore up that slip n' slide.  The weekend was right near perfect in my humble opinion.

The new cover photo for this blog comes from Lauren Smith. That girl has quite the artistic eye.  My thanks to many of you for the photos posted below. I rarely remember to take photos and am grateful to those who do. As always, there were many more people at the party than are represented here. How is it possible that I didn't get a photo of Cheryl, my oldest friend in Ashland? How did I miss getting a photo of her daughter Shana, whom I've known since she was five years old? I didn't get a photo of Jenny and her beautiful baby boy Makai, nor Virginia Carol, Phil, Matt, Jeff and many others. How is that possible?  

C'est la vie; the photos are in my head. 

Twenty years ago, Jimmy, Konnie, Sequoia and I bought this piece of property in the Colestin. A lot has changed, hasn't it? I ain't gonna lie, it has been hard. It's still hard. There are a lot of unfinished projects, unresolved issues, uncertainty; there is damage that won't heal. But, after all these years, I'm deeply rooted here. I can't imagine coming home to anywhere else.

Every year for the last twenty years, I have gathered my intentional, chosen family together on this beautiful piece of paradise for feasts, music, games, dancing, drinking, smoking, wild costumes, long walks, late night campfires, wretched excess and reckless abandon. Every summer for the last twenty years, my chosen family has gathered in this meadow to play. So many memories, so many friends, so much family. And so many kids! Cranky kids, clingy kids, wild, free and fearless kids, all loving, all desiring love (although some struggled for appropriate ways to express that desire.)  I rocked the babies, held the toddlers' hands, respected the older kids' burgeoning autonomy while remaining present, available and interested in what they had to say. You know me, I love being around kids (well, most kids, anyway.) They have so little guile, one always knows where one stands. Once won, their affection is genuine and their loyalty absolute.  People say kids are needy, but in my experience, adults are much needier than children. Most often with kids, you get back a lot more than you put in. 

Maybe that's why Sequoia and I work so hard to pull this gathering together every year: so we can all be as little children again, if only briefly.

The Camp Out is hard work. It takes weeks to set up, deliver, break down and clean up. I am so deeply grateful for all the help and support I have received from this community over the years. So many of you have done so much: cooked, cleaned, played music, mixed drinks, rolled joints, hauled trash, led hikes, tended fires, watched kids, broken up dog fights, created art, erected statues, built decks, tuned pianos, set up and maintained a frickin' disc golf course for cryin' out loud and prevented beloved inebriates from falling into the fire (I'm looking at you, Phil.) 

Occasionally over the years I've wondered, what does it all mean? Does any of it make a difference?  All this work to create community; have I achieved what I was seeking? And then I receive a message from Lauren Smith, a beautiful and powerful young woman who has been coming to the camp out since she was in the womb:

Well this weekend marked the 20th anniversary of the Colestin Camp Out. To have been a part of this gathering for twenty years has been such an amazing experience. I was at the first, and I just returned home from the twentieth. I'm so grateful to have had the privilege of growing up in such an beautiful place with so many beautiful people. We have made and will continue to make friendships and memories that will last a lifetime. And, to Stephany and Sequoia, I thank you for everything you have done to make this camp out possible for the last twenty years. You are truly amazing 

And that, campers, is why I do this year after year: to make memories that will outlive me; to create community; to connect. 

Thank you campers.  Maybe we'll see you next year; maybe not.  There's no telling what the future holds. I'm just so damn glad we all got to be here now, one more time.

When the party is over,
and I'm the last one left to survey the scene,
The meadow is exactly as it was
but empty. 
The chairs are still circled on the platform,
drink cups beside them.
A sweet breeze rustles the pages of an abandoned magazine.
I can still see you here.
It's as if your spirits linger,
As if you never left,
As if you never leave.
So mote it be, campers,
So mote it be.