One of the challenges of explaining Squam to someone who hasn't been is that so much of the experience defies words. I've taken to describing it as a four-day hug where you make stuff. That's not just because I am totally addicted to Elizabeth's full body hugs and Maya D's glorious smile. Squam is a place where I'm completely accepted and loved for no particular reason other than because I'm me.
That gift of genuine affection and acceptance is given freely and generously by not only the teachers and staff but by the campers too. Everyone makes plenty of space for themselves to do their own thing, whether that's sitting on a dock, walking in the woods, or hanging out with a stash of knitters on someone's porch before dinner. By looking out for ourselves we all look out for each other, too.
As I drove up to NH from Medford at the ass-crack of dawn on Thursday morning, I could feel boulders tumbling off of my shoulders and rolling into the ditches on the sides of the road. My neck began to relax, my jaw to loosen, my head to clear, and as I drew closer I could feel the Omniscient Narrator (ON) part of my brain receding into the background. I could feel my cheeks stretching back to accommodate a huge grin that refused to be tamed. A weird sort of time-travel was taking place, where my brain was catching up to the present my body inhabits. Turning off of 93N at Holderness was almost like an audible 'click' where my mind and body snapped together to be wholly present.
Of course the first person I saw was Elizabeth, she of the full body hugs and incandescent smile - if ever someone was the embodiment of welcoming, it's her. After getting my all-important meal tickets I headed to the dining hall where, again, it was hug-a-palooza - so many familiar faces, all with the huge welcoming smiles that are the constant at SAW. Next I dropped my gear at Greenwood (more hugs!) and headed off to Pictures and Stitches in the Sugar House. Like every other time I've taken a class outside of my comfort zone, I had a blast - Jessica Marquez gave us good direction and all kinds of support in learning how to create unique embroidery from photographs. And, like every other class I've taken outside my comfort zone, the results were as individual as the participants. There's something delightful about sitting in a room full of people who are sewing and chatting, a kind of automatic community.
That evening (after wonderful cabin time!) Stephanie Pearl-McPhee gave her hilarious and fascinating talk about Knitting and Your Brain. Tramping through the mosquito-infested woods to hang out listening to this smart, articulate, funny woman while surrounded by knitters busily creating was well worth the lingering stink of Deep Woods Off. I slept so soundly that I was a bit late to breakfast the next day - fortunately I was taking Gudrun Johnston's Shapely Sleeves class in Greenwood so I had a very short commute.
Friday and Saturday were spent learning new knitting techniques from Gudrun, snoozing, and hanging out having lovely conversations about every topic under the sun with new friends and old. Saturday evening after a hilarious dinner discussing zombies, pie, imaginary newspapers, NASA and Comic Con, I went to the Art Fair. Just wonderful - scored some beautiful hand-dyed from Janis Witkins of Two Hands Knitting and met the amazing Pixie. One of her original paintings started hollering at me (honestly, that's what it felt like) and I had to buy it.It's called 'Fortify' and it's perfect Ð all tall skinny buildings climbing up like sunflowers to the sky, and the beautiful vivid colors - magic! Even more perfect was the fact that Pixie carefully wrapped it in an old pattern from Maya, kissed it and held it to her heart before handing it to me - I feel like it's a message and a painting all at once.
The final morning was filled with goodbyes, address exchanges and promises to stay in closer touch, just like the end of every summer camp, every school year. When I finally got into my car and headed home, there was a calm, quiet, certain, non-verbal space in my heart that knew that a big change was coming, and I was ready. Thanks to SAW, to that long hug in the woods where I made stuff with wonderful creative people, I had the nourishment I needed to continue my search for an authentic life.