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An Occasional Post

Summer camp: part three


I’ve already posted twice about the life-changing summer camp I attended for eight entire summers as a child (I wasn’t actually attending it ‘as’ a child. I was a child. For this humorous insight, I owe Tom Paley, the great traditional musician), and I promise to stop soon and move on. But…

Camp had one major drawback: I spent ten months of each year constantly yearning for the two months of summer. I hated school and loved camp. At camp, I had friends. At school, I was a total outsider—but more about that in another post.

Today I’ve been thinking about yearning as it applies to writing. We know that our characters need to want something, and want it badly. We know about ever-increasing obstacles, thwarted desire, climactic scenes, and character change.

As I search my (extremely defective) memory, I believe that missing camp so desperately was my first true experience of wanting something so badly that I could not bear losing it. For the last week of camp, which was filled with activities unique to Lakeside, we periodically sang “three (or two, or one) more days of vacation/then we go to the station/back to civilization/I don’t want to go home,” and then we cried. We cried in anticipation of loss, even though we were so young. And when the loss occurred, we cried more.

Even now, the end of August brings heartache, but not over the end of summer heat. Rather, my body rhythms tell me something. Shoes go back on. Everything closes in. Once again, I am an outsider. So I yearn.

Still, I have changed, as a good character should. Age has loosened the yearning, but much remains. Case in point: planning the camp reunion. It’s about my desire to see those campers and counselors again.

Actors are able to tap into deep sources of pain and laughter to recreate those emotions for us on the stage or in film. They (usually) don’t reveal those sources for fear of lessening the power they hold. This post is a taste of where I can go.

How about you?
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