Tag Archive | camp

We live in Fire country

For those not familiar with Southern California, there are two seasons: hot and on fire and cool and on fire. We really do have 4 seasons but they can come at any time and are mostly identified at least by me, for the quality of the light. And even then there can be difference in geography, the light on the west side near the beaches is different from the light in the San Fernando or San Gabriel Valleys and that is different from the light up on the mountains like the Angeles Forest that is burning now.

The problem with the mountains burning is that LA is built on mountains. They thread in and out and while some refer to them as hills they really aren’t. I laughed when I was in Scotland and they said how high Ben Nevis is. It’s only 4,414 ft. The camp I worked in in the Angeles National Forest was at 1 mile and Mt Baldy is 10, 064 ft. This is a listing of the peaks in and around LA: http://www.laalmanac.com/geography/ge05.htm

Mt Verdugo, for instance, is the hill behind the house I grew up in at 3126 ft. So we know fire and we know mountains. The house we moved to in Glendale had almost burned the year before we moved in due to a huge fire that burned around a good share of LA from the beach to Glendale where we moved to in 1964. When we moved in there were foot holes in the roof because the neighbors were on our roof trying to protect our house because the owners weren’t home so a garage roof burned down the street, the scorch marks on the inside of the garage were a fascination for us kids growing up.

We early on learned which things to grab if we had to evacuate, Photographs and papers and meds first since those are the hardest to replace. And we learned how to get the garden hose up to the balconies on our house so we could spray the shake roof if we had to do it. All the other rooves in the neighborhood were Spanish tile but no, my parent bough a big Tudor house, the only one in the area. It was the most expensive house in the neighborhood, $36,000 at the time and since dad was an underpaid teacher, I think my grandparents may have helped them buy it even though they sold our tract home in the Valley to move where dad taught 6th grade.

I don’t know how many times I came home from something as a kid and saw flames on the mountain behind our house but it was a lot.
You are always aware of the consequences of a cigarette thrown from the car, which by the way, is illegal but idiots do it anyway. When you work at a camp, you get a bit paranoid about whether the campfire is all the way out. Lightning storms also can put you on high alert.

When I worked up at a camp near Idylwild, a fisherman with no brains lit a campfire to grill his catch, under a tree. It was two of the counselors from camps day off and saw the guy do it on the other side of the lake and there was nothing they could do to stop him. That fire raged for a week and burned through several camps and ranches. It almost got our camp but the wind changed direction and the fire burned through the Girl Scout camp instead. We spent that afternoon in the pool waiting. They couldn’t get busses up to us and the only safe place was the pool so we had orders to sir on the edge of the pool and if the fire came to get under water fast and hold our breath. The rangers had told us because we had a huge grassy meadow that the camp might burn in as little as 30 seconds. I remember hauling fire hose and laying it out and we could see pine trees going up like giant match sticks and it was terrifying.

I remember being pissed off because all the guitar players were told we had to leave them behind if they could get the busses up just because it kept our minds off what could happen to us and the kids.

So those of us who are natives can be a bit paranoid. Last Wednesday I was walking out to take the bus home and smelled smoke. Some idiot had thrown their cigarette into our bark mulch and there was a fire burning about a foot across. This made the old Girl Scout in me rise up and get creative. No hose near by, so I used my cane to spread the mulch onto the nearby gravel. I was not impressed with the coworker that drove out the gate yelling she was going to call security. I kept at it and the next woman jumped out of her car with a couple of water bottles and helped me get the big pieces out. She said she couldn’t figure out what I was doing until she saw the flames and that was when I had it pretty well spread out but we got it out and I didn’t even miss my bus. I found out a day later from security that they had been afraid something like that would happen because under the mulch is some sort of weed cloth that is flammable and if that caught our 2+ acres would go up like a match if it got going under the mulch. That is what happens in a forest when the duff catches fire underneath the trees and spreads underground. My Girl Scour Good Deed for the day in 98 degree weather too.

So now we deal with a huge fire that is only 10% contained. Containment means they have a line around the fire. It’s burned 33,000 acres. http://abc7.com/ for news if you are interested. It’s been in the high 90’s and low 100s for temps for the last week of so here in the SF Valley. This really doesn’t help when fighting fires. Saturday the smoke was blown low which led to the apocalyptic photos I posted early and everything is covered in ash. I went to the ATM and had to wipe the screen off to even read it.

For those who use Celsius 90 degrees Fahrenheit = 32.22 Celsius = bloody hot. 100 Degrees is 37.7 Celsius. 33, 000 acres is 51,562 square miles which is bigger than a lot of cities.

So we are about 10 miles as the crow flies from where the fire is burning and hoping it doesn’t destroy everything and every being on the mountains

A lot of love and energy is being directed at the brave firefighters who are out there on the line.

More reunion thoughts

One thing that made the weekend wonderful was there was no drama. Every one I have been to before this there were too many drunks and too many kids whose parents let them run amuck. By some miracle there were no drunks, people may have been drinking but it was civilized adult drinking in their cabins. Not falling down barfing drunk and endangering themselves and other people and the camps certification if nothing else.

I’m sorry but I hate being around stupid sloppy drunks. Drinking like that solves no problems and creates hurt and dislike when the governers come off and their mouths start running. This weekend I had more fun indepth intellectual or just plain fun talks with so many people and none of it was obscured by the demon rum. Maybe I’m an old fuddy duddy but no one looks good drunk and no one has intellectual thoughtful discussions on a myriad of random topics if they are blitzed. Drunks aren’t funny, and sucking down booze kills brain cells. Been there, done that in college and have never felt the need to since even during the worst of times. If I’m going to self medicate it’s with chocolate and ice cream.

Wonder of wonder, all the kids were great. It was fun to see how some had grown and to welcome the new additions and we had some really cute new little angels. Some were old enough to have discussions with. When the kids cornered a bat, and were terrifying the poor thing. I got to do my Naturalist thing and rescue it and teach them a little about them. I love bats. Bats can eat up to 1000 mosquitoes an hour. Gotta love the little flying mice for that if nothing else. Some of our cabins have wooden shutters that lift up and then are braced with a board to hold them open and this little guy and gone under one for safety and because the kids had made a wall around him he couldn’t ping his way to freedom. He was only about 2 inches long. The kids thought he was a baby but he was full grown. Myotis are about the same size of the local wild deer mice.

Once I lifted the shutter, which the kids couldn’t believe I would just walk up and do. We had a little chat about our friend. I made them back up about 6 feet and the minute I did, the little guy started flying back and forth until he could ping his way to the end of the building and then he was gone.  My good deed for the day.

The night before we had had a desert tarantula as a guest at campfire. I’d never seen one up there before. He wasn’t full grown, he wasn’t quite as long as my hand and they get much bigger than that and I think must have just shed his exoskeleton because his body was pretty narrow for a tarantula but some people reacted to it with the usual screams. I hope I was a calming influence, spiders are cool. I’d rather see a spider than most clowns. And we used have this stupid clown mass every summer that I did my best to miss. Snakes and spiders no problem, scary clowns No!

I never got my photo of a damn woodpecker, Curse you, Woody Woodpecker! Four years I’ve  been hunting the bugger.

Reunions are special places

This weekend’s reunion was wonderful. Reunions are the closest you can get to a time machine for camp. The only problem is that you no longer climb like a mountain goat with no thought about how you are going to hurt when you are done. We all look different from our past selves. Most of us are heavier, we all are grayer but are hearts are pretty much the same.

Some camps were filled with sunshine, grace and love, some weren’t but Teresita is one that was. I have to admit that I felt like I was a fish out of water there but they have shown in spades that they didn’t feel that way about me and that is a gift.

They aren’t all Catholics now, we have gone are separate journeys. I was a budding Pagan then but now some are Buddhists, some are still Catholic, some are atheist and some are agnostic and some have moved to other forms of Christianity but we all respect each other.

I was amazed Sunday morning how many showed up for my Chapel before breakfast, last year there were 8 adults, this year most came and they brought their kids.  That was very special. Miss Kat is the crazy Druid and they let her have Chapel on Sunday of all days. It felt really good especially since I had a brain storm the night before and threw out what I was going to do and wrote a service on magic and my definition of magic because for me magic = nature and being up in the mountains and in the trees is my church so we listened to the wind in the pines and the oaks and we watched and listened to my nemesis the acorn woodpecker. We saw all the colours of green and we saw the magic in each other’s laugh and smile. That is my definition of magic.

And this is the prayer I wrote:

I ask for power to make good decisions this day and every day

I ask for wisdom to see the magic in the world

I see magic in the wind

I see magic in the sun’s rays

I see magic in the greens of the trees

I hear magic in a friend’s voice

I hear magic in a bird’s song

I hear magic in music

I know the magic of loving friends and family

I know the magic of learning new things

I know the magic of peace, the magic of hope, the magic of love

Let me take these things with me through this day

And home with me this night

May we know we are blessed and that we carry blessing

To those we meet

May we be blessed.

And we ended with sending the blessings of the weekend into the wind in bubbles.

More because I’m campsick

You may think my dear, when you grow quite old,
You have left camp days behind.
But I know the scent of wood smoke
Will always call to mind
Little fires at twilight
And the trails you used to find.

You may think some day you have quite grown up.
And feel so worldly and wise
But suddenly out of the past a vision will arise
Of merrie folk with brown bare knees
And laughter in their eyes.

You may live in a house built to your taste
In the nicest part of town
But some day for your old camp togs
You’d change your latest gown
And trade them all for a balsam bed
Where the stars at night look down.

You may find yourself grown quite wealthy
Have all that gold can buy
But you’d toss aside a fortune
For days neath an open sky
With sunlight in blue water
And white clouds sailing high

For once you have been a camper
Then something has come to stay
Deep in your heart forever
Which nothing can take away
And heaven can only be heaven
With a camp in which to play.


Coming out is never easy — part 2

Part 2

There were a lot of things I had to work through. My parent’s church was heavily anti-gay even though every minister at the church just about had a gay kid including the executive pastor and the one my mom went to when she began to figure it out, who told her there was no such thing as lesbians when his own daughter was a dyke.

The next year at camp I was almost ready to come out when this woman I could not stand kissed me in front of the kids in the dining hall and told me to come out and I went running to our camp director who was also an out lesbian that year who just laughed. I’m afraid that scared me into the closet for another year especially since I later got that counselor fired for molesting some kids and assaulting another on a backpack trip and all I kept thinking was “I’m not like that” even though I knew the rest of the camp counselors were really nice people. Some of the one’s friends still haven’t forgiven me to this day for getting Huggie fired.

The third year at camp I spent edging out of the closet a toe at a time because I was in love and because I was A&C/ Nature Director I had a place to sleep in Lakesite Unit but no kid responsibilities so I could sleep around the camp in whatever shelter my crush was living in that week and people were convinced something was happening even though it wasn’t. It was also the year we had Peter Pervert running around at night torturing counselors by appearing at their bed after we were lights out and trying to sleep so I had an excuse of being extra security in the worst hit units. By the time I was out of camp that year I had finally admitted at least to myself that yes, I was a lesbian but it was not easy nor a fun process.

It would be years before I was out to my parents. I only came out to my brother because all my friends said Cam was gay so the first time we were alone I asked him and his answer was “Are you because all my friends say you’re gay?” We ended up abandoning the errand we were supposed to be on and went to the grand opening of the first Different Light bookstore when it opened in Silverlake and meeting a bunch of Cam’s friends.

Mom confronted Cam first about being gay and it wasn’t that bad for him when he said yes. When she finally figured out I was during an Oops moment on my part, she started screaming because my being gay made her getting grandchildren had dropped by 2/3s. Good thing my little sister wasn’t really out until mom had dementia.


“2 queers and a question mark”

Meanwhile my friends were convinced my sister was gay too and used to call our family, “two queers and a question mark”. My sister played softball and was really good in sports, refused to wear dresses unless my mom threatened her lifetime and would only wear her hair really short. She had better dyke credentials than I did.

Flashback Friday


The really sad thing is that we all thought we were fat and we were really fit and muscular from just working at camp.