Reflections on the End of Summer

The June Joys of Camp Beginnings too quickly race through the active days in summer sunlight. Suddenly the fall of the year is present, bringing its brisk breezes. Schools are “calling” back our campers. Summer camps reluctantly must give up those smiling faces, that delightful laughter, those squeals of excitement. The fish then cease their jumping to the surface for the many worms falling from the hooks of the newest of the fishermen. The ponies stand silent with no riders. The rabbits, once so happy, for the little hands that so often petted their soft heads, scurried about with troubled expressions. The faint bird songs linger in the distance, but the voices of the singing campers become but a happy memory.

The doors of the camp store, still were open for packing the small amount of left behind treasures. Sad glances showed little items moved from one place to another, while big purchase decisions were being made by the youngest of the shoppers. Another year for Smile Train to await the donated gift from Camp Store profits. The collected peanut butter jars, so many brought for Second Harvest Food Bank, were packed and ready for pickup. The Peanut Butter Story, shared on Fridays by Mrs. Whip-Poor-Will would be missed until another season of Fridays.

The hammering of leather crafting from the gazebo in the woods, its rhythm like music through the trees and along the trail, now only silence. Down by the creek a few remaining gems of brightest colors, missed by the excited gem searchers, float by as though waiting to be found before another summer. The tired lizards, shimmering away from campers, seem to miss the frolic of hide and seek as their long tails dragged the ground, but no camper present to seize that lizard tail. Even the turtles paused, but no one was there seeking to discover their whereabouts to take them to all camp time to show them off to other campers. Even the black snakes were bored at the silence, as no one was shouting “A snake! A snake!” when they poked their heads from the many snake holes and crossed the paths so often trampled by campers.

Wild flowers drooped with sadness as no one admired their beauty or picked them for a beautiful display for their home in the woods. No one was even on bended knee cupping the lovely flowers to their “little noses” to smell the blooms. Indeed, God’s whole creation was missing the observant little campers. The beavers, though, began again their work of chopping the trees to build their dams while the woods were silent.

Twigs and sticks and branches had discovered their God-given reason for being from the attention of being turned into forts, fences, tipis or crafts in the many homes in the woods. Now they only lay on the ground. Along the paths there were a few loose arrows from the famed archery time. Many lay just beyond the target, about to be packed away for winter’s cold days but there were no “small hands” learning the new skill, holding the bow just right.

So’ Mores had all been eaten and only a few crumbs, bits of chocolate and marshmallows remained in each group’s containers. The chocolate fountain no longer flowed, surrounded with the excitement of astonished children dipping their fruits and pretzels into its tasty darkness.

Would the snow cone machine be working for another year, for in the heat of summer temperatures, it had served so well? The cool refreshing taste of the colorful, tasty
ice, had brought coolness for every summer camp day and now it had no reason to
even exist.

Around the pond, big rocks still lay as little folk had patiently cast their lines upon them and the minnows were gathered still anticipating being in the big nets and stared at, then counted as a successful catch. The frogs and tadpoles missed the cheerful calls of the campers.

The garden had its bounty totally vanished, while the Fairy Garden remained with such artistic design. The beloved train, always bumping through the woods, with campers seeing the trees, birds, deer prints, and passing by the horses, donkeys, pigs, chickens, as they rang the train bells, announcing their passage. The train had been silenced and the voices calling out “Coming through” became yesterday’s melodious sounds.

The trails looked so vacant, and now so silent. For happy voices, joyful chants and favorite songs were always a part of the trails, the scavenger hunts, and the tramping along to discover each group’s home in the woods. The homes where morning devotions began, delicious lunches were eaten, and afternoon farewells with praise by counselors were shared, were much too silent and empty at summer’s end. The pony cart with a few campers traveling on the trails was now parked under the pavilion for another next year summer ride.

All the camp buildings were filled and closed for inventory for the “summer to be”
with the closure of the summer that “was.” The leather tools from the cool gazebo down by the creek and the beads of every shape and kind from the creek bed house were no longer visible for the summer had ended.

The tree with the “double stomach” always discovered on the nature walk stood sadly with bending limbs, as though in search of the campers who always were gazing at its uniqueness. No more hidden treasures for the scavenger hunts were found beneath the branches nor at at the wooden cross at the “All Camp Time Place” where joyful campers gathered at the end of the day. They filled the benches, observing nature all around, singing camp songs, sharing dramas. No voices at summer’s end were heard there, calling out the names of campers to receive their certificates from archery and fishing. Storytelling by Mr. Whip-Poor-Will and drama performances by groups no longer had need of the microphone, in the wooded silence amid the empty benches. The groups, sharing their word for the day and the scripture of their morning devotions, would be remembered at another time and place when summer arrives again.

School buses, painted green and white with campers sitting tall in their green shirts and caps singing their hearts out on the way to camp, ceased their travels.
Providence Road was never the same until summer came again. Car poolers on their way to camp, listening to Bob Lacy sing the Camp Whip-Poor-Will song on the radio, no longer traveled the distance and traffic was slowed until the coming summer. Finding bus parking places, an end of the summer challenge, taking them back and forth to the shop, made welcome later chartered buses when the final camp was further away from bus stops.

Inside the Bibles were packed away and children’s books were once again arranged for another season. The beloved floor puzzles of the life of Jesus were carefully restored for busy little hands and hearts to enjoy next year. The many scenes of Biblical lands and
characters from the flannel board stories were sorted and arranged for future presentations. The big bulletin board, featuring America’s pastor, Billy Graham, with pictures, story, and books to introduce campers to the great evangelist, were placed with the special teaching resources, leaving tables empty and uninviting. The craft supplies, stored away, left too neat a room to recall the variety crafts of summer. The game room closed its doors to get ready for another season. In the coolness of fall, fires burned brightly in the five fireplaces to light the dispelling gloom of missing campers.

Summer sadness, the tiredness now evident, but the memories increasing the strength!
For now it was time to plan another summer, even better than the last.

A quick rest, yet all the while always sharing a summer story. An evaluation for the future planning…then the joy of beginning again. Recruitment, publicity, new programs,
new purchases, replacements, and repairs for the next season.

Fall plans began at summer’s end, for family and camper events and sometimes
fall overnights for older campers. Birthday parties were fall and winter highlights and
Christmas events for families that soon would help to dim the fading lights of summer
and the silence of the woods.

Along with end of summer memories of sadness came the joys of Christmas with the beautiful Christmas story of God’s love enacted by children, followed by a carol sing and Christmas dinner at the summer camp. Memories of a bonfire at Christmas and luminaries along the pathways brought new life to summer closing. There in the darkened field of winter, where summer’s horses, just months before, had been ridden by campers, all around was Christmas wonder. Lighted candles along the trail beyond heightened the beauty of now bare trees and branches, slightly moving, as though worshiping and praising the Christ Child in the manger. Camp was alive again, but now in the inspiring scene of Christmas enacted by the children. As carols rose to meet the stars above, counselor Neely Dixon raised his beautiful voice from summer songs to ‘O Holy Night’.

Then holding candles high, the quiet crowd walked the distance from a field of Christmas to the lodge of summer. They walked in song and in joy. Discovered within was the lighted Christmas tree, a beauty of sheer delight as people gathered around for the remainder of the evening for Christmas fellowship and food. Similar Christmas events continued at summer’s end through the years, once again making bright the home of the Whip-Poor-Wills.

Family events and other celebrations continued for the new year. Camp programs were offered for holidays. Easter celebrations became a highlight of the spring season. Family Festivals prepared the way for the anticipated summer.

Camp would soon begin anew. Life would return to the silent places. But how very different is a camp when the little children have left summer behind.

Though other such programs, events, and planning continued,
the joys of summer’s sounds~
the spontaneity of a camper’s response~
the stillness, rarely heard in summer~
reminds us of why Jesus said:

“Let the little children come unto me for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

May memories ever linger of Camp,
–Summer….Fall….Winter….and Spring!–


Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly flow the days
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers
Blossoming even as we gaze.
Sunrise, sunset,
Sunrise, sunset,
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears.

From Fiddler on the Roof composed by Jerry Bick, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick-Broadway Musical 1964