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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Tales from the old-timer

Goin’ to Camp

By Jane Thibodeau Martin,

daughter of the Old-Timer



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I faithfully read every single obituary in any paper I ever pick up. It’s almost a hobby - I enjoy this small peek into a life, and I am always interested in what is listed as the recently departed person’s hobbies and life priorities. More about this in another column soon - for now I want to focus on the frequent obituary listing of “going to camp.”

“Going to camp” usually means the visit for a short weekend or longer period of time to some rustic outpost - a lakeside cottage, a hunting shack in the woods, or sometimes a camper parked long-term in a favored location. Some of these camps are elaborate second homes - others not much more than four walls and a roof. The level of enjoyment does not correlate to the assessed value of the camp or property - the joy of going to camp is not in the quality of the destination. It’s the state of mind you have when you leave for camp that is the wellspring of the enjoyment. Many people of relatively modest means have been able to afford a couple of acres “Up North,” and with the help of friends and family, create their own simple personal retreat. Some were lucky enough to have inherited cherished camps from their parents or grandparents, continuing a tradition of deep meaning in their family.

The magical activities of being at the camp include total abandonment of the normal routine; eating special meals that may be as simple as a can of beans on a campfire or as elaborate as the available equipment allows. It means it’s okay to not shower in the morning; that no one spends the whole day locked onto a TV or computer; and the kids can get as dirty as they like without being chided. The family dog gets to run loose, chase rabbits or swim in the creek. No one cares if dirt gets tracked in, and no one freaks out if someone finds a mouse in the bunkroom.

There’s often a campfire, and either some beer or a bottle of hard stuff. You sit and visit with people you normally are too busy to talk to. You can putter around on a project or two, or do nothing at all. Maybe you go to the local corner tavern in the evening and greet the other “shackers” who have become friends over the years. The friendships can span generations, linked by their mutual good times at camp. Then in the late fall all scatter to their homes with only an occasional Christmas card for communication for months until the snow melts, and the camp opens again for another year.

We don’t have a “camp,” but we do have a camping trailer. I love weekends in the trailer. It has nearly every convenience of home but in a doll-house like scale. I can clean the whole thing in 15 minutes flat, and then head for a lawn chair, or delight the family dogs with multiple long walks. No long list of tasks await my attention, and I remember how much fun it is to look at the stars at night or listen to the sounds of the squirrels and birds in the trees overhead.

Such deep roots are put down at camp that many retirees choose to permanently move to their camps and live the rest of their life at the destination they so loved during their working years. We can take to heart the lesson in all of this - simplify your life where you are now, and make room and time for the simpler joys of life without having to leave home.


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