Camp Merrowvista has been an important part of my life since the beginning of this century. I have seen this beautiful community from almost every angle possible – camper, leader, coordinator, driver, odd jobber. This summer I am here for a brief couple weeks to help drive vans and support the logistics team. And as always, what I see around me is exactly what I wanted and needed so badly to see; I see the very best of life, as it can and should be.
It seems impossible for even me, a peripheral character here at camp, to avoid inspirational, joyous, life-affirming moments. A few days ago, I drove Chocorua Village to their canoe trip in the border waters of Maine and New Hampshire, and we listened to the entirety of Hamilton on the drive up, singing all the way – their love for one another, and their joy for diving into adventure together was contagious. After getting to know Madison Village through their “team challenge” work with me, I was invited to one of their famous “Birch Floats,” wherein they gather as a whole group, deck themselves out in personal flotation devices, and spend an hour floating across Dan Hole Pond – whenever their leaders confirm that a “Birch Float” can happen, a mighty chant rings out across the Eating Lodge. While most bystanders don’t necessarily know what this loud chant means, the energy and positivity of their chant is palpable. As I returned back to camp from a long drive earlier today, I was greeted by the sights and sounds of the camp’s “Fair Day,” with glorious lawn games, tricky chocolate apple eating, forced sing-alongs by staff caught and paid-for by their campers, and over it all, a sense of ease and peace that I just don’t find elsewhere.
I work at a high school in Boston for the majority of the year, and while I love and respect my school community, I am well aware that my day-to-day is surrounded by young people who are not where they really want to be. Too often, the truth is that I am surrounded by young people (and fellow teachers) who are not being who they really want to be. There are countless reasons that people might not be at their best in an urban high school that goes from 9:00 in the morning to 5:00 at night; from busy social media, to crowded city living, to all the stresses involved in the schoolwork and the deadlines and the expectations from those around us. It is unspeakably valuable to me, the act of stepping away from that reality, and into the beautiful reality that is Camp Merrowvista. This is where I get to see humanity unburdened by society’s pressures, and enkindled by a truly balanced existence.
At home, we all make sacrifices to our wellbeing and our humanity for the ease of getting through the week. Sometimes this means watching another episode on Netflix, when what we really need is to start a new book. Sometimes this means staying in and crashing on the couch, when what we need is to be around other people. Sometimes this means letting a phone call go to voicemail instead of dealing with a social anxiety head-on.
At Merrowvista, the place and people help guide you towards your best self, and away from the easier, lesser self. You wake with others, you eat with others, and you grow with others. There is no social media to distract you from the real human interactions around you. You believe in your impact on the world around you, because you see it firsthand. When you need to eat, or sleep, or use the restroom, you need to walk there, and use your body. When there is a struggle within your social group, you are given countless opportunities to work through that in the most open, honest, and positive ways – in deeply human ways.
For me (a tired school teacher on partial vacation) Merrowvista is a glimpse of the world I want my students to build in the future – a community where people live their lives not constrained by technology or social anxiety, but as humans, surrounded by nature, by other people, and by joyous, fearless honesty. Most importantly, here at Merrowvista, people are surrounded by their own self, at their very best, all the time.