There are plenty of summer camps there. There are band camps, sports camps, art camps, space camps, leadership camps…… This suppresses the mind. How to choose a person? A good camp teaches us something – not only sculpture in soapstone, volleyball or orienteering but also lessons that we can really take home and use.
One of them is the NeeKauNis Camp, in which I have participated all my life. To this day it is my favorite place in the world and has taught me many of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned. The camp has helped me to raise, teach, shape. Without it, I would have been a completely different person – and I think it was much smaller. Every time I return to the camp, I feel better renewed. That’s why every summer I find a way to get there.
It’s hard to throw a finger at what’s so amazing about this place. It’s a small piece of land in Waubaushene, Ontario, with a trail leading to the beach in Sturgeon Bay. It is inhabited by simple cottages and public buildings built by loving volunteers who are her bloodstream. And hey, it’s rustic: many cabins are the roof over a collection of beds, accompanied by lights and running water. But it’s a view of the sunset, which will throw off the socks.
One of the special features of NeeKauNis is that you are never too old or too young to go. My first program was the Family Camp when I was two months old; my grandmother also goes to the camp and she is eighty-seven years old. There are programmes for older children, pre-schoolers, youth, adults, and seniors. If you want a weekend of spiritual contemplation or discussion, you can find it here. If you want to spend some time in the service of the community, you can participate in volunteering as an employee or in a labor camp.
I don’t remember my first few Family Camps as a child, but it’s clear from the pictures that I liked the pictures. With a group of families woven together, all of us, the children were guided and protected not only by our parents but by the whole parental collective. As I grew older and more independent, I got to know all the important parts of the camp: a climbing kit, swings, a path to the beach, an art studio, outbuildings, a sports field. My father was the king of the swingset ride, the purveyor of the famous Tornado. I played hard, discovered, met, made friends, learned to work as a team member.
There was a lot of news for me in the camp, especially as I was a child with Homeschooling. It was the first place where I stayed without parents for more than one night at the Junior Camp. There I went to my first dance and got my first crushing. In the camp, I learned to play badminton, football, Ultimate, euchre, Speed and Wink. I tested my acting, dancing and comedy skills during the many Nights of Talents. At the transit camp, I had my first official boyfriend (it took 3.5 days) and then my first kiss. The camp is the first place I’ve ever slept under the stars, floated after sunset, cried for luck, fell in love. What we do in the camp is simple, universal things, but somehow unusual when surrounded by layers of beauty.
Apart from the rituals of the passage, in the camp, we eloquently learn the lessons of life. As a guardian of the children, I went through all the piggyback and spinning rides that I received from my numerous parents in the camp. As kitchen staff, I learned that doing a good job is much easier and more rewarding than avoiding work. I learnt to listen, to give support, to cuddle. I learned what the bond with friends is – the bond so that you know that this is when your friendship is the best and most important thing in the world. I have learned that when the planets are in the right position, these ties can extend to an entire group. This even deep pain, suffering together, also brings joy. That with the right atmosphere, we can all have access to infinite wells of kindness, generosity, empathy and love.
It seems appropriate to me that not so long ago I celebrated my first wedding anniversary with my husband in the camp. And this summer we were excited to bring our six-week-old son to NeeKauNis to begin his simply extraordinary camp experience.