Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Summer Camp - Part 3

I spent a lot of time at Camp Koinonia in the mid to late 1970's. Most of the time there, was as a staff member but I was also there as a guest on various retreats. Even as a guest you pitched in with kitchen, cleaning, set up for activities or other gratis duties to help the place work more efficiently. There were however, a few things that I really enjoyed on my time off.

One year, I went three of four days early to help the managers, J & W, get the camp ready for campers. I had become good friends with the couple and their two boys (who were about the same age as me). They had always treated me like family, especially J - teasing and all. Every time I'd come to the camp J would say; "Oh look what the cat dragged in!" - then he'd give me a bear hug! He even called me the daughter he never had!

Campers always arrived after lunch on Sunday and left by early afternoon on Saturday. That gave staff 24 hours to relax and unwind. We often went into Boissevain on Saturday night to shop or have some fun at the local drive in called the "Busy Bee". Sometimes we'd even drive to Killarney to the drive-inn theater if there was something good on. We would also be invited by the local youth group to join any of their activities and attend Sunday services and have lunch with them on Sunday. This was always a nice and welcome break.

Back at Koinonia, there were a few walking/hiking paths that extend from various points in the camp. My favourite was a path off of the main fire pit that led through the woods for about a mile until it met up with a government road that led to a public beach. It was a fairly level path with lots of twists and an occasional root or branch to step over. I always found that path to be very relaxing. I got to walk it as autumn leaves were starting to fall a couple of times. The beauty, the scent of fall and the serenity of the woods was so relaxing and rejuvenating. I walked that path at least once every week while I worked at the camp - more if I had the extra time. I even walked it at night with a flash light and by the light of a full moon. I always took a notebook and paper with me in case I felt like stopping to write thoughts or lyrics for a song.

Once Koinonia Hill was developed, that also became one of my favourite getaway spots. There was such a great view of the lake and yet it was very secluded. I often took my guitar with me to the hill. I always tried to keep those playing sessions soft though as the sound carried out over the water and could sometimes be heard by the canoeists if the wind was just right! If I was just playing, I wasn't that concerned, but if I was working on a new song, I really didn't want everyone to hear it before it was ready.

Canoeing was always fun. I wasn't that great with paddling but I did enjoy it if the lake was really calm. Singing in the middle of the lake was great. The sound echoed off the water and it made a few voices sound like a choir!
Technically, it was against the rules to canoe after dark. If we did, we always made sure we had a really strong flashlight to alert any boats that may be in the area. It didn't happen often but there were a few motor boats out in late evening so you had to be prepared just in case. One night, "A", one of the staff asked me to go canoeing with him after campfire. The moon was full and the lake was really calm. He was a photographer and wanted to take shots of the moon on the lake. It was getting cool, so I quickly pulled jeans and a long sleeve shirt on over my shorts and tank top before we left. We were sitting about a hundred feet or so from shore when I started feeling mosquito's nipping at my ankles and realized that I was only wearing sandals and I'd forgotten the bug spray! I tried to ignore it at first, but "A" noticed that I was a bit uncomfortable. I didn't really want to go back to shore but the little blood suckers just wouldn't leave my ankles alone! The next morning, both of my feet and ankles were so badly swollen with bites that I could barely get my sandals on - forget about socks and shoes! I was in agony! It really hurt to stand for long periods for the first two days, so I could only do about 1/2 of my kitchen duties. Two of the campers, asked if they could count my mosquito bites, so I said sure. They counted about 75 on each foot! My photographer friend felt HORRIBLE! He asked the camp manager to get me calamine lotion when they were in town getting supplies that morning. "A" also got me a chocolate bar and picked some wild flowers for me. He also more or less acted as my servant the rest of the week! He couldn't stop apologizing.

We worked together again about a month later. He and another guy, "E" were co-counsellors for a two week session. "E" and I had hit it off quite well early in the first week, so I called in a couple of the guilt trip apologies from "A" of "Anything I can ever do to make it up to you!" He even supplied us with a bottle of bug spray for our late night walks and yes even arranged another late night canoe ride for "E" and I!!

I have so many memories of the time I've spent at that camp. Yes it is a Bible camp and I was religious at the time, but I really don't recall the religious content. I remember a lot of the music but it is the sound of the voices and guitars, not the words or their meaning that echo in my mind. The smell of the wood smoke was in all of my belongings - especially my sleeping bag. I never wanted to wash my things when I got home as that would take out the aroma of the wood smoke. I always felt sad when that smell had gone as that meant the summer was over and I never knew for sure if or when I'd get to go back.

The word Koinonia means Christian fellowship or communion with God or with fellow Christians. I do remember the fellowship of strangers coming together for the purpose of enriching the lives of the young campers and creating lasting memories and friendships in the process, One of the mottos of the camp is "nurture by nature".

A lot has changed at the camp and in my life since I was last there for a retreat sometime in 1980 or so. I'd love to be able to go back there sometime just to look around. I'd love to go up to Koinonia Hill for a camp fire. To walk my favourite trail and to take a canoe ride at any time of day - if the lake was calm. Even though I am now 50, I'm sure I'd be seeing things through my teenage memories and loving every minute of it.


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