Friday, September 4, 2020

2020 Summer's End – “You’re crying, so I know you are doing it correctly”

Night Hike from Castle Rock, Big Bear Lake, CA


(40 Summers 40 Lessons Series)

During a recent meeting of the American Camp Association Upstate New York Community, we were all reminded by our membership director that, “if you are too comfortable, you are probably doing it wrong.” This was part of his description of the camps that had in fact run this summer and how they were adhering to the safety protocols and pushing themselves, their campers, and staff teams through the season.

At the beginning of summer 2020, I wrote on this blog that I would be sharing 40 summers and 40 lessons. I mentioned what I have learned about life and leadership in what has been handed down to me as a manner in which I have shared with hundreds and thousands over the last 40 summers. “Camp is all about beginnings and endings.”

It is a leadership lesson that as I think about this year, is still relevant and truer than ever before.

Labor Day weekend always represents finality to the camp season. As I mentioned about Memorial Day weekend, many of my summers spent at Bluff Lake often ended on Labor Day Monday evening with a hike to Castle Rock. I spent a few of those with friends and co-workers on top of Castle Rock overlooking Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains of Southern California.

There was one particular Labor Day that my lifetime friend, Chris and one of our staff team, Katie (daughter to George, whom I have written multiple times) spent together. We had hiked out to Castle Rock and were heading back in the darkness wandering the 1.3 mile long trail back to camp.

At some point in the darkness we had heard loud animal noises and had dispatched several rocks into the woods and brush to hopefully scare off anything that may have been watching us. (I’ll share a tale of a mountain lion encounter at a later date). We were all a bit apprehensive about those kinds of encounters.

We had stopped cold in our tracks and pitched those rocks and sticks and when we heard nothing else, we just stood still for a while. Chris suggested each of us find a rock to carry for the rest of the trail. And so, we did. Chris took the point and Katie marched behind as a brought up the rear.

Our conversations were always intriguing and in low toned voices. It often evolved about summer memories and what we would take away from those lessons. Endings always seemed to bring that out in each of us and as mentioned, camp was in fact, all about that (at least 50%).

I think about this summer and juxtaposed to that night and I long for that connection that occurred for us as we strolled along the trail. I have recently returned from a trip out of state and besides having to self isolate for 14 days, decided for peace of mind that I would go take a Covid test.

As I pulled up to the drive thru Covid test, I immediately had that sense of anxiousness that seems to creep up in daily life over the past six months.

The LPN was dressed head to toe in protective gear and I could tell he was smiling underneath it all. He greeted me warmly and pronounced my name correctly as he told me to keep my window rolled up. He described the process and that I would need to insert the probe to the back of my nostril until I felt resistance. And then, hold it there for 15 seconds as he held the stop watch. Oh, and then do that again for the other nostril.

I must have made a face as he assured me, “you’ll do great Mr. Ferreira,” as he smiled again under the mask and screen. I followed the directions and my eyes began to water under the pressure point that I assume was how close I was to an ocular nerve.

Upon completion of the second nostril, I placed the item in the tube, snapped of the end of the probe and sealed it all into the plastic hazard bag to return to the LPN.

As I rolled down the window to hand it all to him, he stated, “You’re crying, so I know you did it correctly.”

The irony of it all made me laugh and I thanked him for the levity and comfort that he offered.

Laughing and crying, it is all related. It has all been quite a bit uncomfortable. The distance from fear to funny is quite close when you consider it.

End of Summer's trail, "what was that?" moment.

Back to that night on the trail. As we approached the outskirts of camp Chris and Katie suddenly jumped as a loud thud occurred in the woods near the trail. It was an abrupt stop. I lurched towards them attempting to stop and bent over in a sudden realization of laughter. They both stared at the woods and then at me.

The last few hundred yards we had quieted our conversation. The only sounds at that point were our steps and our breathing. We were emerging from the tree line and I saw the lights near the camp generator shed across the meadow; I decided we no longer had to fear the sounds in the darkness.

Still bringing up the rear of our hike, I threw away the rock that I had been carrying.

Their fear, and my laughter, that set the memory and the emotion of the end of that summer. I have to believe that this summer’s end will be likewise. It is the human experience after all that this year has brought us so far. The human reaction is what it is. We laugh, we cry, we react to the circumstances of our lives.

“So if you’re crying (or laughing), I know you did it correctly.”



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