One of the best things about being an Arts & Crafts director at a camp is that usually your A&C building is far from the main camp area. I have no idea why, they just are.
At Tahquitz Meadows the building was at least a ¼ mile from Main Camp if not farther and if you aren’t comfortable being alone for long stretches of time waiting for your next group of kids to come, you will never survive. A&C is a job for introverts who can stand small portions of humanity doing loud and joyful things. Because other units like the pool and the horses and other activities run at the same time it gives the specialists a lot of free time. I usually spent my time enjoying the life around wherever I was.
Tahquitz was the only year round camp I ever worked at. I was lucky to see things that other people missed. I remember one snowy morning I got to traverse a huge expanse of fresh snow before anyone else was around because I had to set up for the day. I remember looking out my door and saw a long line of a family of quail cross the snow. Some of the little ones fell in my deep footprints and mom and dad and others stood at the edge of the print peeping frantically until they could hop out. It was a line of 2 parents and 13 babies and it reminded me of the Madeline stories from when I was a kid all of them clothed in dark feathers in line.
One time when I was on wake up duty at our far unit because they couldn’t hear the bell I had a huge stag leap and stop in front of me about 3 feet away. It was one of the most awesome moments I can ever remember. Staring into his majestic eyes made you feel like they would gone on forever and then he leapt away and the moment was gone. I also had a hummingbird attack me at the same place another morning and he made me very glad I wore glasses because he hovered about 2 inches away from my eyes.
When I was at Osito A&C was across a huge meadow that if it wasn’t Southern California, (Big Bear) I’d have called it a bog but bogs don’t last long here. I had a log cabin that stood alone by itself among some huge Ponderosa Pines. I had chipmunks visiting me by day and at night there were owls and nightjars, The nightjars like to dive bomb you if they thought you were too close to their nests but I never figured out where the nest was. I lost some hair with those buggers.
Singing Pines was my all time favourite place for wildlife watching. It had more colourful birds per square inch than any camp I ever worked at. I would sit in my A&C building which was the farthest building before you got out the outpost camp. It was way on the top of a hill above the lake. I had a Western tanager in particular who used to hop in when no one else was around and cock his head and look at me as if he was going to speak. We had Western Mountain Bluebirds, Stellar’s Jays, Goldfinches, Bullock’s Orioles, Acorn Woodpeckers, Red Headed Woodpeckers, Flickers, we had Anna’s and Rufous Hummingbirds and Swallows that dove over the lake at twilight and probably a lot of others I’ve forgotten. We had a Great Horned Owl the used to sit on the Lakeside bif and if you got up to use it in the middle of the night had a really bad habit of hooting and scaring everything out of you. One exit no waiting.
We had rattlesnakes, we had gopher snakes and aquatic garter snakes of blue and green. We had Fence Lizards and Alligator Lizards and little blue and yellow skinks. I even got to see a newt one time in the early spring.
We had spiders that used to inhabit all the bifs and those that were afraid of them would take a broom and clear them out but I wouldn’t let them do it in the A&C bif because I’d rather have spiders than mosquitos and flies in my bif. We also had tons of tiny cute little bats and one of the first things I was ever told was not to light a fire in the A&C fireplace during the day because the baby bats would fall and the mama bats would fly to catch them. One summer it got really cold and rainy and we had to light it and that is exactly what happened. I also made the mistake of trying to go in the door one night when they were flying out and got smacked in the forehead. I don’t know who was more surprised the bat or me. And BTW they don’t get caught in your hair. They are too smart for that. I loved to see them hunting at twilight over the lake. It’s kind of magical.
There were bears that roamed in and out. There was a Mountain lion whose paws were huge but we never saw it just when it had been there. We had a three legged fox that felt safe enough to let the kids see. We had raccoons that were not the least bit friendly and they cease to be cute when they hit around 45 pounds. I had a pound of M&Ms once in my backpack next to my head in bed and one of the damn things very carefully opened the zipper and the bag and ate them all and I never woke up. Another one got caught in the shower house and decided to sit over the door and when I went in to get my toothbrush and tooth paste and turned around to leave, he decided to take a swipe at me. I ended up crawling out on my hands and knees. We had deer that passed through every day and fish in the lake that liked to jump at night and used to scare the crap out of the CITS.
I don’t know how anyone lucky enough to live where wildlife will interact with you couldn’t become a druid. To truly live at camp and love it you have to accept that you are part of the environment and just a cog in the ecosystem. It makes you aware about what happens when you waste water. And living without electricity can make you very creative. When you live someplace that has a tendency to have wildfires you learn to be careful. You learn how to live lightly. You learn to listen and you learn to be able to really breathe and isn’t that a large part of being a Druid?
I ask the blessings and protections of nature
This summer morning
From clouds of glowing lavender jacaranda glories
From the echoes of colour from the Lilies of the Nile
From the welcoming cheer of a short lived
Sun yellow Day Lily
From the sparking plumes of grasses
From the spice of nasturtiums
From the call of the mocking bird
From the watchfulness of raven
From the scold of a squirrel
From the cruising of the hummingbird
I ask it for all this day and through the night
I ask it for friends and family
I ask it for all who need it
May all raise their faces to the glory
Of a summer morning
And open their eyes to See.