Letter from Camp

by Philip Fine

Philip attended Camp Common Ground with his lovely partner Stephanie and their two daughters.
He read his "Letter from Camp" at the Big Show on July 25, 2013.

I’m writing this letter from the warmth of the early-morning kitchen. Charlie gave me a stool and I’m sitting by the tea and hot water counter. 
The crew is working and chatting, and potatoes and fruit are being cut. Takumi is ready to help out as he does every morning. Always good music, and direction from Charlie: “Water’s gotta go up now, Naomi.” 
Outside, early mornings are peaceful (see photo, right), as you hear the gravel crunching on your walk down. Singers have been rousing us, as have the showers, especially when you see little frogs crawling up the wall or a mouse along a rafter.

Mornings have meant trying completely new activities. Archery. Got one gold! Guitar. Got one chord! Sketching. Got some sounds on paper! And they were pretty. One of the peak activities was the hike. While bugs may have formed halos around our heads, heaven came from seeing at the peak a patchwork of Vermont below and the Adirondacks of New York State beyond (see hiking photo, right).  And lunches. One had a flashmob linedance doing hiphop.
Afternoons have been as colourful and varied as a hogback hillside in the fall. Sometimes they’re quiet: A nap on the library couch, with a child reading nearby, a guitar plunking our Happy Birthday (practising for the next lesson). Sometimes not so quiet: Foosball whoops. Pingpong slams. They’re full of playground play, too. I found three kids stuffed into the slide’s tunnel.
On one of Esmé’s pole descents, she hurt her foot. Joe was a kid-carrying ambulance; Carry was in the dining hall a minute later with ice and advice; Veronica later with a stretch bandage. Canada’s healthcare system should take notes.
I’m going home with some fabric-dye stains on my shirts and shorts, and with great memories and practical bags, decorative rocks, a funky bird feeder and a mosaic (see mosaics photo, left), thanks to my family’s craftiness and Lori, Melynda and Grace’s awesomeness.
Our family saw a bird’s nest in a tomato plant and pigs running happy at the farm. I got a massage from Peter who also worked on me on the courts. What does this man not do? I, being a man of lesser talent, taught some people how to whistle real loud. Loved seeing Francis and Ginny with fingers in their mouths. Loved Asher’s determination and Audrey’s one-minute mastery.

But afternoons always finished nicely in a circle by the creek.  
Sitting in men’s group in lawn chairs with our feet in the water (see photo, right). From confession to suggestions, from venting to reflection, and from laughs to lewdness, we would leave with some wet bums and a whole lot of issues aired out. I love these guys.
One evening I lost my voice singing. Must have been the “Jude-Judy, Judy-Judy-Judy-Judy, Aaah!!” After s’mores and at that same campfire, Jose drummed a solo to, of all things, “You Are My Sunshine” (see photo, below) hat led to a rap from Calia. “You/Are My/Sunshine.” 

African dance gave me a t-shirt heavy with sweat and a name for Nathaniel and my new group: The African Jewboys of Vermont.
Through that window, while learning our African dance routine (see photo, below right), we all saw pastry being prepared for the next morning by many of you, in the kitchen from where I’m writing this.

This was a letter from camp. Let me correct that. A love letter from camp.