From Alaska with Love: Musings from Common Ground "Lifer" Anya Schwartz

While Elin is on vacation for a few weeks, we have a guest staffer in our office who is also today’s guest blogger. Although Anya Swartz is a new face in our office, many of you know her from her long history at Common Ground. Here she shares some thoughts with us:

I admit it—I’m a Camp Common Ground lifer. I suspect I’m not alone. I resisted at first. Sure, I’d seen the brochure in my food co-op and had that “ooh, that looks fun” thought. Ah, to have followed that initial glance; I’d have been at Camp the very first year. Think of the masterpieces I could have painted, the movies I might have made, the ukulele tune I might have picked up. Alas, I merely glanced at the brochure and wheeled my cart on by.

I managed to find my way to camp eventually, jumping in for two weeks in the summer of 1999. I don’t think I slept for those two weeks. There were the nights of music around the campfire, the conversations into the wee hours, and the hours and hours of filming and editing that needed to go into our academy-award quality camp movie for the Big Show…. Beyond just the fun, though, Common Ground for me is about a certain spirit of openness, optimism, and generosity. There’s a sharing of ideas and skills and a warm feeling at Camp that makes it blissfully okay to try something new, ask a new question, find a new friend, or see and connect with your own family in a new way. After that first summer, I was hooked.

So, what does this have to do with Alaska?  Well, after eight or so summers at Camp Common Ground, a stint on the Board, and several appearances at Jim & Peg’s latka party, I took a job working as a Naturalist-Guide in Denali, Alaska. As much as I love hiking amongst the grizzly bears, I must confess to missing Camp Common Ground. Happily, the office crew invited me to impersonate Elin for a few weeks while she’s on vacation, so I’m making a cameo appearance in the Common Ground office this spring. Jumping into the pond is still a summer’s dream away. (My ice skates are actually here, ready for a midday jaunt.) There aren’t any giant bubbles coming out of Kidville (though I bet Jim would happily brew up a batch). Still, as a Common Ground Lifer, I’ll take my moments here when I can.  It’s good to be here.  

So, if you’ve taken that first glance at Camp Common Ground and thought, “ooh, that looks fun,” I say, jump in! In a few months, I’ll be headed back to Alaska. But I know I’ll be back—as camper, staffer, board member, volunteer…who knows? Such are the mysteries of a Common Ground Lifer. 

- Anya