What Summer Is For

July 6, 2014

I’ve been noticing something these past few days. I don’t know if it’s because something has shifted recently, or if it’s just that I’ve only now become aware of it, but there’s no doubt about it: Camp Tall Timbers campers are getting used to being without technology.

Back at the beginning of the session, I was legitimately concerned that a few of my campers would actually combust without their phones for three weeks. There was much drama over not being able to listen to music while falling asleep, and fear of missing out on snap stories, and I thought to myself, if these kids can’t go a few days without snapchat, how will they connect with one another the way you’re supposed to at summer camp? My fears were entirely unfounded, and did nothing but make me feel like a geezer. In fact, all of us here have adjusted to life without technology, and I think it’s doing things for us that we didn’t expect.

With the exception of writing this blog post, I’ve been almost entirely without technology for about three weeks now, and it’s surprisingly easy. I have no idea what’s going on in current events, or in my favorite TV shows, or on Facebook. I feel more grounded, like my real life is more real because it’s not tempered by a virtual existence. And I see a difference in the campers, too. Everyone loves the half hour or hour at night before it’s time to be in cabins getting ready for bed: they stand around and chat, or play ping pong or cards or tether ball. They’re just being with one another, and talking to people they might never get to know otherwise.

It’s the perfect antidote to a school year that’s a different kind of hectic. Most kids spend the rest of the year rushing about, working so hard, so stressed about tests and extracurriculars and everything else that there’s so little time to just be. Here, time moves differently. Life at Camp Tall Timbers is so jam-packed full of activities that each day speeds by in a blur of memories, and at no point ever do I find myself wishing I was watching Game of Thrones instead. Even though we’re busy here, there is time to just be with one another, to have long conversations about things that don’t matter and things that matter more than we could possibly admit. Here, we can spend five minutes watching a caterpillar inch up a maple tree. We have time to deeply discuss the differences between the birdsongs we hear in the morning and at night. We have time to soak each other with water guns and plot out a hilarious revenge. There will be no pictures of us soaking wet and grinning; no Facebook status will ever share that we spent half an hour last night searching out all the constellations we knew and inventing the ones we didn’t. These memories belong solely to us. And that, I think, is the whole point of summer.

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