July 24, 2017
During the first day of camp, we met with all the new campers in our home. In addition to giving them cookies and milk, we allowed them to ask any questions that they might have.
A frequent question is simple – “Why don’t we have lights in our cabins?”
Part of the answer is simple. Lights in cabins attract bugs. Also, when a group of people want to sleep, it is helpful not to have one switch that can turn on lights that might wake people.
But there is a philosophical element as well. Our bodies and minds developed long before artificial lighting. We naturally respond to the sun with wakefulness and the night with sleepiness. Darkness activates melatonin and that makes us want to sleep. Relatedly, sleep is best during dark hours rather than day hours.
So I like having campers (at least temporarily) live by natural circadian rhythms. When we do so, we are more rested and happier.
I also like campers knowing that they can survive without every modern convenience. Please do not get me wrong. I really like my modern conveniences, but I do not want to feel hopelessly tethered to them.
It makes me think about a conversation I had over a decade ago with Susan Dell. A friend asked her why she sent her kids to our “rustic” camp rather than one with air-conditioning and in-cabin bathrooms. Her response was one of the best answers I have heard from a parent.
“I want my children to be strong and resilient. Anyone can be spectacular at 71 degrees with comfort all around. I want them to know that it can be hot – or that they can walk 50 feet to a bathroom - and know that they are OK. I know they are safe, so I am happy that they are getting grittier.”
In a similar way, weather at camp helps us be more flexible. We learn that we are not always in control and that we need to find joy in every moment, even if our plans are messed up.
For the second day in a row, we have had a brief storm roll into camp around 3:30 PM. This weather messes up our plans. During a storm, we cannot get on the water or on the climbing activities. Campers need to stay under cover. On its face, this looks like a bad thing.
But at camp, things are not often what they seem. A surprise storm can result in improvised cards games, tent-making contests and lip-synch competitions.
I love giving children the opportunity to practice finding the positive aspects of situations. Or, as Shakespeare wrote, “There is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”