Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Dirt in the Woods

I caught myself doing it the other day as I was finishing up yet another outdoor project.  There I was, sweeping dirt off of a landscape timber on to the yard which is always about two precipitation events from reverting back to native prairie and dust.  Yes, I was sweeping dirt in nature which was ironic considering my history.
I've had a lot of jobs in my time but certainly none sticks so nightmarishly fondly in my memory as the time I went to summer camp to play camp counselor.  It was only a nine week commitment between my sophomore and junior year in college.  Such a short commitment, in fact, that I worked on either end of it so that I could make money to spend when I returned to college. 
True, it started out well.  Before the campers arrived. 
It also happened to be the year when they were celebrating some significant anniversary and we were planning a "Women in the Woods" weekend retreat for adult alumni/alumnus/alumnae.  The camp director was beside herself with worry that the campground look just right.  My thought was that it was in the woods, on a lake and we were sleeping in the great outdoors:  life couldn't get more just right.  Then on day four or five of this nine week debacle, the camp director gave me a broom and told me to, are you ready --- sweep dirt off of the flat rocks on the hiking trail leading from the tents to the mess hall.  Now my parents instilled in me a work ethic and a bit of respect.  If you take on a job, do what you're told and complain not.  I have to admit, I grumbled a bit about this one.  Heck, that was 13 years ago and I'm still grumbling.  And still sweeping dirt back in to nature.

We got through Women in the Woods weekend just fine.  Then the campers arrived.  They were a unique bunch.  The camp was located near New York City, on the upstate side of the Hudson, and most of the campers came from the innards of that town.  Eye-opening.  That's all I'm going to say.  Eye-opening.

I was hired as the "Director of Religious Activities" which was...interesting.  And also, as a warning to future Religious Directors, it is ALWAYS the last position to be filled.

After I got through the whole Christmas-in-July-story-of-baby-Jesus-nativity-scene re-enactment debacle, I turned to other types of activities such as team building (the human knot, anyone?) and looking at wildflowers and exploring local wetlands.  Hey, religion can have a lot of different connotations, you know?

The summer wore on.  We had 16 year olds with nicotine patches, a few shoplifting arrests of 15 year old Counselors in Training at the local outlet mall, the partying stories of 13 year old campers who were sent to camp for all 8 weeks by their rich Long Island parents and told FABULOUS stories of their weekends at home between encampments involving illegal substances.  It was an uplifting experience.  Truly.  I was just thankful it was a girls only camp.  I think co-ed encampments would have made my naive little head explode.

All this is why I really appreciate working part-time for myself as my own personal landscaper.  Rewarding, hard work, the kids thank me for it, and I can dust the dirt off of the landscape timbers.  Or not. 

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