I was sixteen the summer I became a dishwasher at Camp Wood. I did not write much that summer, I was too busy living. It was only afterward that I longed to put it on paper, to try to hold on to the beauty before it slipped away into the detritus of ordinary life. I am in algebra class but in my memories I’m also far away, falling through the air after running off a cliff. I hit the cold water and fall through it too. Then I surface, thrilling to the fear, the smart of the impact, the coldness, and the pure audacity I possess. It’s something like love; a feeling so great, so important, you can never forget it. Yes, I’ll always remember the first time I saw the camp as it overflowed with beauty.
Green sloping hills and far horizons surround it. A steep rocky path leads from our cabin on top of a hill down to a lake with an island in the middle of it.
My friend Monica and I are the first of the employees to arrive, but are soon joined by others to fill more positions. After our work is done we swim to the floating dock and lay in the sun, or go and play with a new litter of kittens. Sometimes we play tennis or cards, watch fantastic sunsets and late night television movies. We have pillow fights, and listen to records as we go to sleep. There are skit nights, cookouts, sing-a-longs, jokes, counselor hunts, piggyback rides, shaving cream fights, watermelon feeds, and moonwalk jumps. I ride a horse across the rolling hills to round-up cattle.
One deserted weekend, Monica and I clean a long row of windows, then paint the dock green. When we get hot we jump off into the lake to cool off. Afterwards, I hike alone to Lookout Hill and look back at the camp as I rest, drinking in the beauty of the place.
Camp Wood sometimes seems so far away. I left with great reluctance, but summer must end. Look in a newspaper and you will see pain. But look inside yourself and you will see a camp with green sloping hills and far horizons full of laughter and joy. As time goes by I sometimes wonder if I imagined it all. But even so I never stop hoping I will find Camp Wood again.
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