Sleeping under the Stars

If, for whatever reason, you’d been wandering in the woods near camp at 8pm last night, you would have witnessed a strange sight. A slow-moving procession of mattresses making its way along the narrow trail leading through the trees, away from camp. It would’ve ressembled an army of giant ants carrying food to their queen, if it wasn’t for the excitable giggling and occasional burst of song. It was in fact, my group of 20 nine year olds and my fellow councillors. We were carrying our mattresses and sleeping bags out to Gypsy Glen, the old basketball court which is now a place for programmes to have their weekly sleep out. The trail out there is about half a mile past the furthest unit, and only takes a few minutes to walk for councillors. However with such a large group of children who each had a mattress on their head and a sleeping bag under their arm, it took much, much longer.

We arrived at the clearing and laid down our beds, all huddling in close to block out the nip in the air. We sang several camp songs to try and improve the mood of the group, as several of the girls were worried about being in the middle of the woods, in the open air at night. That sort of thinking, like homesickness, is catching among children, so we played some games to diffuse the fear they felt. Once it reached 21.30, the time we would normally be putting them to bed, it was time to be quiet and try to sleep. This was when the reason for choosing to sleep in Gypsy Glen became clear; the sky. The absence of trees in such a dense forest means it’s one of the only places that gives you a completely unobstructed view of the sky when you look straight up. As the evening darkened, more stars woke up and began twinkling, until there wasn’t a spare space of midnight black sky. It was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever witnessed, and also one of the most peaceful. I fell into a deep, comfortable sleep with those images in my mind.

My alarm begins ringing insistently at 6.15am the next morning, reminding me that it is time for Polar Bear Plunge. This is a tradition at Camp Wasiu II, and involves campers jumping into the glacial pool at 7am in the cold light of the morning. Only two of our supposedly ‘Team Xtreme’ campers were up for the ordeal, so sleeping bags in hand the three of us set off back towards camp. There is only one other girl in the whole of camp waiting at the pool to take on the challenge, and all three of them jump in without a fuss. They pretend it was no big deal, however I can see the purple tinge at the corners of their mouths. I’m so proud of them!

Once they finish Flex and I go down to the dining hall to warm up with some much-needed hot chocolate. While we wait for it to cool down, we decide to write some notes for the staff cans. The tin cans are another camp tradition, there is one designated to each unit and anyone can deliver notes or gifts by placing it in the can belonging to the unit the recipient lives in. We write notes to some of the staff members, and drop them in for them to find at breakfast. It’s a good feeling, giving compliments or thanks to people in such a passive way, knowing they’ll read it later and be warmed by my words. During pre-camp we were given a lesson on giving praise. It’s difficult to understand how important this is until you’re saddled with a group of bouncing children. You’re exhausted from trying to entertain them, or keep them under control and it never seems like you’re getting the thanks you deserve. So if you can share your appreciation for other staff members, even if it seems like a small gesture, it really could make their day. Summer camp work is exhausting and maintaining good mental health is so, so important.

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