Last weekend, a ten-year-old friend took me to summer camp drop-off. We snaked a sea-hugging road through mountain passes while she described the intricacies of geocaching, bouldering, trail riding and ukulele. At bedtime without her Kindle, she told me she’ll be whispering in a cabin of seven others, with two teenaged counsellors on the other side of a soundproof curtain. After Starbucks, the highway narrowed to a dirt road and then a mulch path, where a Hawaiian-shirted adolescent wearing a wooden name badge motioned us with his clipboard into a parking space.
At check-in, my friend dropped her duffle and crossed over into time stoppage. Camp showed no signs of this decade or millennium. We stepped up into “Cloud Burst” and surveyed a set of bunk beds and wooden shelving. I examined the soundproof curtain. Outside, behind and all around the playing fields and volleyball net, health station and mess hall, a deep forest spread out in veined pathways and no pathways. I imagined its clearings and canopies and the yet-to-be-thought-of ideas waiting there. I remembered my own chances in an Emily Carr-like thicket on Cortes Island, where second-growth Cedars breathed their mysteries and the secrets of previous wanderers.
Back in the studio, I opened the doors and let the bunnies hop closer. I took to my own nearby woods where, in a clearing, a pair of Golden Eagles shared a catch from the estuary. Summer sidled up and gave an endless evening of moving light — and in it, the time and space for wandering.
PS: “There is a pleasure in the pathless woods, / There is a rapture on the lonely shore, / There is society, where none intrudes, / By the deep Sea, and music in its roar: / I love not Man the less, but Nature more.” (Lord Byron)
Esoterica: Structuring unstructured time is a summer art form designed for artists and bestowed upon ten-year-olds. Make a fierce commitment to localized play, load up on materials and make cuts to the social calendar. Embrace the microcosm of your local green space. Look at the calendar and make a note of the beginning and end of this time. “Play is the work of the child,” said Maria Montessori. This summer, might we all be the child?
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“To the artist, the forest is an asylum of peace and dancing shadows.” (John F. Carlson)