From Dawn To Dusk

Tuesday, June 25th, 2024

CAMP KITCHEN circa 6:30am—A stern morning chill accompanies the diffuse glow of the Long Valley fog. Despite the low temperature roughly two dozen bed-headed children have lined up outside the Camp Kitchen in eager anticipation of 7:00am cocoa service. Another dozen or so can be seen scurrying up the road from the Tipi Circle to join the line. This is a daily ritual whose observers typically dwindle in number as the session wears on.

Several of us early bird counselors have positioned ourselves strategically around the area in an effort to keep the excitement to a tolerable decibel. Head chef Mary Jane, amused by our efforts, flicks on her boom box and encourages the campers to sing along.


Immediately the campers begin singing along while striking power poses.


Amidst the formidable Disney energy, I identify two campers near the front of the line as willing interview subjects.

“I haven’t done a lot yet; it’s my first time at Camp,” says Ione, 10, of the Indigo Tipi. “I’m excited to do silks. Also stilts and unicycles.”

“I’m showing her around,” proclaims the adjacent Juliet, 10, also from Indigo. “I have taken every class here and I can tell you what to do. First of all, for aerials, don’t wear baggy clothes. For unicycle, you just gotta feel it out. And the lake, it’s not full of leeches. That’s a rumor and it’s not true!”

At this juncture, Dance Instructor Karma Engel has finally arrived to administer cups of cocoa and the optional topping of miniature marshmallows. The frenetic excitement of the crowd is rekindled as the line begins to move. Counselors intervene like bouncers in a pajama mosh pit.

Moving down the line I encounter an intimidating cadre of Red Tipi members.

“Why did the toilet paper cross the road? Because it got stuck in the crack!” exclaims Quinn, 9.

“I’m excited to try unicycle because it looks like a bike,” says Rory, 8.

“Life is short, so love otters,” adds Marcel, 9. “I love otters. They’re super cute.”

“Riley was funny,” recalls Teo, 10. “Everything about him: his hair, his jokes, and his little kazoo. I was here two years ago and I’m glad to be back.”

I decide to retreat to the relative serenity of the central kitchen where moss-covered bay tree trunks rise up crookedly amid a flotilla of dark wooden picnic tables. There I encounter one Fela, 10, of the Orange Tipi.

“I’m a shark,” she asserts. “I have a shark onesie and I dance in the afternoon. I’m a dancing shark.”

Suddenly our new Director Ginger Jackson-Gleich has appeared on the kitchen scene, toting her 18-month-old son Robbie on her side. I solicit her for an official statement.

“Arrival day went really well,” she reports of Monday. “It was great to see lots of new and returning kids”

Ginger first attended Camp as a camper in the 90’s. She went on to work as a counselor and supervisor around the turn of the century.

“I took a break to become a civil rights lawyer and a mom,” she explains. “It’s so vibey to be back; it feels like no time has passed since I left. The magic is alive and well.”

TIPI CIRCLE circa 7:30pm—High, dappled cloud cover is finally providing relief from the afternoon’s heavy sunbeams. All around downtown Camp teachers are gathered in specialized assemblies, preparing acts for tonight’s show, Teacher Talent Night. The campers are hardly distracted by these rehearsals as they go about the energetic play of post-dinner free time (see: Witching Hour). Juggling equipment flies while costumes parade in unpredictable patterns. Spontaneous outbursts of astonish and laughter mingle with an ambient boombox.

Sitting in a comfy camping chair between Orange and Gold Tipi I resolve to record the reports of any passers-by.

“I got my shoes wet at the creek skipping rocks with Natalie,” admits Ocean, 10, of the Red Tipi. “I got a five-skipper! Then I played some random guitar chords.”

“I got re-electrified!” boasts Muffin, 15, of the Purple Tipi. “It’s a stilts term. It’s like graduating from short stilts. Now I can walk on talls!”

“Improv was amazing; it’s super fun and inclusive,” says Rhett, 10, of the Gold Tipi. “We do a bunch of games and your imagination just takes over. I turned into a grandma and I told my grandchild ‘You’re one millimeter taller than when I last saw you!'”

“I’m excited for Christmas even though Santa isn’t real,” says River, 7, of the Lime Tipi, sporting a furry Santa cap.

“This is a unicycle,” explains Benny, 7, of the Green Tipi, showing off his shiny ride. “It’s like a bike but with one wheel. You mount it by putting your foot here and then you jump forward and start riding.”

“I was mis-aged as 46 and mis-heighted as 3-foot 2,” complains Song Leader Natalie Garms, who indeed is 23 years-old and 5-foot 5. “You can’t get a second of peace with these cutthroat kids.”

“We started teaching ‘Dreams’ by the Cranberries to the campers today,” continues Natalie. “I feel the alt-pop vibes of an Irish revolution resonating in their precious little voices.”

The conch shell peals a long, low tone, signifying the transition from free-time to showtime. Look to tomorrow’s entry for a full review of Teacher Talent Night.

Stay hydrated,

—J. Payseno, Editor