Sunday, July 4, 2010
First let me say thank you to all who sent emails and notes regarding the opening of Snarky Art…the Studio. It was a wall to wall evening last Friday. I apologize for being delinquent in responding to any of them as I was celebrating a week on independence and freedom with my Scout troop. Since this is Independence Day, and I have not been to anyplace off the reservation for the last 7 days, I have no shows to review just yet. Today I want to write a bit about freedom and independence from a different point of view, a simple one.
Freedom from ambient light is a good place to start. Nothing can compare to sitting outside in silence, looking up at the sky and pointing out the Milky Way to boys who have only heard about it or seen pictures in school. Yes, it is really out there. Pointing out actual constellations as they are surrounded by other lesser stars and imaging how our ancestors picked them out and made stories to pass along throughout the generations. With only a campfire to illuminate faces, one tends to get lost in personal thoughts or more willing to share some inner feelings. The art of chopping wood and carving fuzzy sticks with a newly earned Totn’ Chip card is way cool for kids too. Swinging an axe becomes Tom Sawyer’s white fence.
Freedom from helicopter parenting which is new for many children raised today. Yes, your kid may not shower for 3 days or find out that too many slushies really will lead to some unfortunate side effects, but neither will kill them. They will learn that consequences really do exist for not doing something, having been used to Mom or Dad picking up the slack at home. They will learn that that when we say no food in the tents, that includes the itty bitty life saver at the bottom of a pack, it is still food. Raccoons aren’t picky so it was not your bunk mate that took your stuff. Walk back about 15 feet through the poison ivy and you will find your missing items (and probably don’t want them back anymore).
Freedom from comfort is a new thing for many kids today as well. Learning that when it rains, stuff gets wet and only the sun can dry it. Clean clothes don’t magically appear on your cot. Freedom from being too over-programmed in daily life. Yes, we do have a tight schedule to get everything done at camp, make meals and flag raisings, go to vespers or qualify for the mile swim, but “down time” is not spent in front of the TV or going to yet another sports practice. A pick up Kubb game or building a fort in the woods is just as much fun. So is a rope swing until the laws of friction kick in and one too many passes means a bruised ego and an even more bruised tail bone.
Freedom from choice, which sounds rather ironic, but the lesson learned is that one is to be thankful for mystery meat and all grain cereals. No menus from which to choose, no cupboards from which to pick a favorite means one must learn to try something new or eat yet another peanut butter sandwich. One discovers that some combinations are rather good, like jello and cake, and that bartering still exists as a fine art.
Other lessons from camp include finding out that strength in numbers and team work can beat down a bully and that being different is okay. Snakes can be great entertainment and daddy long leg spiders don’t bite. Poison ivy looks a lot like other plants, 35 of which you can now identify. Birds make a better alarm clock and are harder to turn off. All adults can be your mom or your dad at anytime and can also be your teacher, your friend, your nurse and your worst nightmare. Just because you go to sleep in one tent, doesn’t mean you will wake up in that same one…..some traditions are meant to be carried on and boys will be boys. Don’t eat the raspberries behind your tent; they are growing really well for a reason. Mice can fit in really really small spaces. Tics can too and are harder to find. I could go on and on about what can come from a week in the woods.
All of this leads to independence. 40 some families loaned us their boys for a week, and we gave them back yesterday another step closer to being men. Not in height or age or testosterone, but it manners, respect, self assurance, pride, and experience. I personally give thanks to a country that allows me the freedom to guide our youth. Happy Birthday America!!