Remember how great camp was as a little kid? Going to camp was my very favorite activity. I awaited camp with giddy anticipation many weeks before it was scheduled to start. I live in Michigan, so as a young Girl Scout camp meant getting out into the woods (with my very own can of bug spray), swimming in icy cold lakes, campfires and songs, hiking trails and a sense of freedom and independence rarely experienced at home. As an older child I went to music camp for two weeks each summer, and I would start planning what to take and which electives I could fit into my already packed rehearsal schedule as soon as the glossy brochure arrived each spring. I adored camp. It’s no wonder that when I heard Amy and Ethan Cronkite of Small Craft were planning Craft-a-Way Camp I jumped at the chance to teach a class. I felt called to relive the carefree days of summer camp with the intention and appreciation of an adult.
When I told my family what I was planning to do, my own children had a much different view of camp. I received feedback from “Why would you want to go to camp?” to “Oh you mean like the place your parents drop you off and you spend the first three days crying, and the rest of the time eating terrible food and wishing it were time to go home?” to “Where it’s boring all day and the only thing to do is wait for the mean kids to pick on you?” I explained to them that I had a very different experience at camp, and that I was going to spend the weekend with my friends and some other crafty people, so of COURSE I would have a great time.
Their opinion of my weekend descended into unimaginable disdain when I mentioned that it would be a technology-free event. “How will you survive without your phone?” “No electricity? What will you DO? How will you use your Sewing Machine?” My husband even prepared a remote charging device so that I wouldn’t have to use my car to charge my phone. My class was hand-sewing, I explained, and reassured them that there was no cell reception anyway, so what difference would it make? “I just don’t think you can do it.”
I tried to recapture the excited anticipation of my youth, but I have to admit, their doubts rankled me. I picked up on their anxiety and let it dampen my initial enthusiasm. More than that, that seed of doubt blossomed into full-blown panic as the date approached to leave. Externally, I maintained my carefree attitude, but inside I was terrified. I didn’t know many of the 20 campers who were attending. The participants I did know were accomplished artists, and crafters I admire. What could I have to possibly teach them? I’ll admit, I get a little nervous before each class I teach, but I arrive early to set up and take a few moments to meditate beforehand and feel in control of my own classroom. This would be totally different. I calmed myself regarding the teaching portion by remembering how wonderful every skillshare I attended or led at SmallCraft has been amazing. Amy and Ethan know how to create an atmosphere of relaxed creativity. Once I allayed those fears, I was free to focus on how long it’s been since I had been camping, and how ill equipped I would be. Those nasty, persistent seeds of doubt were attacking me like a swarm of mosquitoes!
By the time I was set to leave on Friday night, I had lost my keys, and managed to work myself into a full-blown meltdown (complete with tears of insecurity). I dawdled on my way out of town by stopping at REI to get a camping kettle (because: coffee), extra insect repellant, and some food bars just in case I couldn’t figure out how to feed myself in the out-of-doors. Clearly the Fancy Camping Store boosted my confidence, because I braved the grocery store to fill my cooler with actual food, imagining by then, that I could to handle preparing meals for myself. Plus, there was a vegan potluck scheduled, and I promised to bring my tomato salad. One last stop at the local bookstore for a new Moleskine (a new notebookis a bit like a special treat and a security blanket in one), and I was on my way – many hours after my planned departure, but with a bit more confidence and a lot more prepared.
As you might imagine I pulled into camp after dark, I was met with the open arms of Amy. What is it about a warm hug that can turn around an entire mindset? I don’t know, but my doubts, insecurities and fears dissipated and I was enveloped in the serene and joyful enthusiasm of Camp at once.
My fellow craft teachers had arrived and were assembling welcome kits for the campers. The cozy cabin was filled with laughter and candlelight and a dreamy, generous spirit.
The perfect atmosphere for welcoming our fellow campers was created, and the sun rose gently on Saturday morning to greet us all.
The campers began arriving around 8 a.m., choosing their bunks, and putting on their name tags, placing their coolers and setting up chairs (and liberally applying bug spray). The air of excitement was palpable. Meeting friends and soon-to-be friends, showing them around, and relaxing before our morning hike was the best Saturday morning I have had in a long time.
We made food for each other to share around the campfire. Our hosts made camp sing-a-long booklets to enjoy along with our s’mores. A camper brought instruments, the rest of us sang with abandon, and we all laughed for hours.
It’s kind of amazing how being in nature and in close quarters with fellow creatives can create a safe environment to experiment artistically. I don’t think anyone was concerned about the outcome of their work, which naturally made it all the more beautiful. We tried out new techniques while learning about each other and learning more about ourselves.
No one wanted to leave once Sunday afternoon rolled around. I learned that once an atmosphere of kindness and creativity is created; friendships form easily, perspectives change with tenderness, and beauty can be found everywhere. Camp is so much better as an adult than it ever was as a child.
Have you gone away to camp as an adult? We’d love to hear about your adventures in the comments!
I’m a gentle-living, hard-rocking artist and mother. I design sewing patterns, teach sewing and art classes, and design and make bespoke garments for people who are sensitive, hard-to-fit, or just too individual for off-the-rack clothes.