Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Kanawana Crazies

I could write a book about my relationship with Kamp Kanawana, much less an blog entry. In my head, it's become so much more than it ever was, but I should begin with what it is.

It's a YMCA summer camp located near St. Sauveur in the Laurentians. I spent seven summers there as a camper (sorry, a kamper), from the time I was eight to the time I was fifteen years old. Members of my family were involved with Kanawana for years. My father was a camper and a ranger there. My aunt and uncle were the camp doctor and nurse in the 1960s. Many of my cousins began as campers, and moved on to become staff. My sister did the same, with her final year as CIT director in 1993.

Kanawana played a huge role in who I used to be. It still plays a role in who I am. I have some fantastic memories from my summers there. It's a place I felt at home. It's a place I always looked forward to going - it often got me through the school year - and a place I was always devastated to leave. It's where I learned to love nature. It was where I had my first kiss. It was where I learned to sing like nobody was listening. It was where I formed some really special friendships.

Unfortunately for me, the last summer I was there, The Crazy had come crashing down on me during the previous school year. And I brought it with me to kamp. I didn't just pack it along and take it with me - I waved that sucker around for all to see. It was fairly typical 15-year-old angst (I write dark poetry! I dress in black! I cut myself! LOOK! I take PROZAC!) but it didn't belong in the forest of my childhood, and that was likely a big part of the reason I didn't get hired on as a counselor in training the following summer. That was a devastating blow for me, as I didn't get to say goodbye to Kanawana on my own terms. I felt like I'd been exiled, and it was pretty heartbreaking.

Over the last 15 years or so, I have often had dreams about Kanawana. Sometimes, I'm my current age, they won't hire me on as a counselor, but I've somehow been allowed to be a camper again for one more summer. All my friends are staff members, looking curiously at the 33-year-old trying to hide among the 15-year-old girls. Sometimes, I dream that I have come back for visiting day, but the whole place has drastically changed. Nothing is the same, and I feel lost and confused. Other times, I dream perfectly normal dreams that just happen to take place at Kanawana.

But my favourite dreams are the ones where it's a gorgeous sunny day, I jump off the dock into the lake, and I swim underwater for what feels like forever. I can see the sun streaming into the lake above me, I feel energized and refreshed, and I come up for air laughing.

Kanawana and I have recently come to terms with each other. It feels nice. Because, after all, wherever you go and whatever you do, you'll always be a Kanawanian.

(Originally posted here.) 

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