Empty Buildings

Paul's reflections from the AYF blog (which we didn't post because the internet at camp was so slow that it only JUST loaded. You can log us out of the computer now, Terry!)

The first time I visited Merrowvista was during one of the cold, dark New Hampshire winters. Summer camp wasn’t in session and I was visiting friends who had been long-time campers and staff members. They eagerly showed me around the Bahn, the AC, the council circle. I’ll admit that at the time I didn’t get it. Yes, the surroundings were beautiful, it was great to be in nature and away from the world but somewhere between New Hampshire and Weston Shelter I thought, “great, another empty building.” I didn’t understand their enthusiasm.

The passion and energy my friends had for this place intrigued me, and it’s part of the reason I decided to come work at camp and see what this place is all about. It didn’t take me long to understand.

 Paul on his first staff-volley ball team: Baby Animals in Pockets

Paul on his first staff-volley ball team: Baby Animals in Pockets

Today was closing day for our 2 week session and many campers eagerly showed their families around camp. I imagine some of these Grand Council visitors felt what I felt when I first toured the Canaan Valley. For those of you who came today and for those of you who will be coming next week, perhaps you saw (or will see) a lovely slideshow in the Bahn. What you might not realize is that two nights ago the Bahn became a stage for our Talent Show. Your camper might have performed a dance or done a silly act in front of a hundred of their peers. Four Trails and Trailblazer villages used that space to stack milk crates on top of each other to the ceiling in a team challenge block that helped their group become more cohesive. Some of them may have spread their backpacks and rain jackets out on that floor to pack for an upcoming trip.

On your visit to Merrowvista you might have walked across the Farmhouse porch. During their time at camp, your camper might have relaxed in one of the porch’s white rocking chairs while making new friends or watched a rain storm move into the valley.

For Grand Council, the White Mountains Eating Lodge was set up for a buffet reception with nice food and paper plates. During camp, equally nice food is served family style and the eating lodge is packed with boisterous campers goading their favorite staff members into doing a silly dance or song challenging other villages. In between meals you can find campers exercising their Mental Fold with a board game or absorbed in MV Dungeon & Dragons.

Merrowvista 2009 ( 2 and 8 2009) 097.jpg

New Hampshire Lodge – a great place for a game of charades or a Village Insight called “fear hat” where campers share what they’re nervous about during their upcoming trip and then symbolically toss their fear into a fire. S’mores and songs around a fire. The Yurt – a quiet place to read or to join in on debates during the popular “arguing for fun” interest group. Basecamp – the first and last stop a group makes on their out-camping trips. It’s always bustling with a mixture of eagerness and trepidation as groups test their stoves and set up tents.

Today the A-field is strewn with cars and baggage. When I look out I usually see soccer games, campers lined up for opening counsel, or the ruckus joy of the Melbourne Cup competitions.

Camp doesn’t happen because this place is here or because the staff show up and wear the same color t-shirts. Campers come and make the empty buildings something more by filling these spaces with energy and memories.