September 30, 2007

Camp Reflection

For five years as an undergrad, and for five years as a professional, I have had the pleasure to attend Fall Leadership Camp at Camp Onaway. Camp Onaway is located on the chain of lakes in Waupaca, Wisconsin. The first time I went, I was a freshman, and I knew no one else who attended. Not even realizing that I would soon become a leader myself, and eventually a CA, I soon discovered the true power of the island.

For each of the 18 visits, I have always learned something about myself; about life. I want to first of all say thanks to Jess and Rene for letting me speak this year at camp. For the purpose of being the keynote speaker at this year's camp, which also happened to be my last one, I wrote three poems to help describe what I feel camp can be for someone.

The first poem represent what my initial anxieties were when I attended as a freshman:

Why am I here?

Seven AM.

A seven AM alarm
screeches me awake.
My roommate softly snores
in an enchilada of blankets
warm, toasty, still.

Outside the wind moves
through the grooves
of glass panes;
clouds creep lower
graying all color
to dull hues.

It’s Saturday.
I could sleep in.
I could snooze the alarm
then match snoozes
with my roommate;
dueling nasal cavities
sawing, wheezing, breathing
like windy banjos.

Instead, I’m going to camp.

I zombie walk through
a scalding shower
a lukewarm latte
a bouncy bus ride
and arrive
only to stand
on a creaky pier
watch the creepy fog
roll off a sleepy river.

I am one
of a set
of 100
collegiate bodies
who carry bags of sleep
in their arms
and under
their eyes

Nameless faces
and I
am nameless
among those same faces.

We arrive
hustle off the boat
hustle up stony steps
to empty cabins
with cardboard beds
and a solitary light
defiantly warm
against the chilling
wind, which chills
the bony branches
of the trees
creaking arthritically.

The 100 circle up
padded against
the paralytic wind,
insides winding up
from the ironically
named icebreaker
a short standing
long haired leader
is introducing.

The sharing handshakes
spoken namesakes
all for the sake
easing the uneasy
feeling of wondering

why am I not sleeping
why am I in college
why am I here

Next, I wrote a poem to read while the audience reflected on what they wanted to get out of the weekend. What aspects of their life they wanted to learn more about.

The Sound of a Whisper

Tiny invisible specs of thoughts, ideas, memories from chilling childhood days, agonizing adolescent afternoons, and unaware unknowing undergraduate nights, fall from the brain like gentle rain, pooling in the dark ground, forming puddles of worries, fears, and doubts; they are the tears of broken hearted break ups, soul hallowing losses of friendly souls, and final failures felt from heartfelt hard work.

The storm is relentless.
until the wind;
the wind
moves westerly
through leaves
clinging hopefully
to stable branches
from a bracing trunk
rooted in the earth.

the wind whispers
to a little leaf
let go of fear
let go of worry
let go of doubt
dare to dream
learn to leave
behind your ties
to the ground
and soar,
to fly freely.

the wind
flows through
the pained rain
turning the downpour
down to droplets
to sprinkles
to mist
until the thundering
drumming beads
of rain
become silent
and remain
only as whispers
of conquered fears
vanquished worries
defeated doubts.

Clouds clear;
the sun beams
her smile upon us
as we remember
the whispers of the wind

let go,
let go,
let go.

Finally I ended with this poem. Something for folks to think about.

Pier to Pier Learning

I am alive today.

I feel the sturdy, weathered lumber, subtly bend
beneath my back;
I feel the stealthy, lukewarm water, slowly flow
through my toes;
I feel the steady, whispering wind, smoothly glide
over my face.

I am alive today.

Underneath my eyelids I paint the still life sounds
which surround the island:
water folds into waves, trees yield to creaks
wind whispers wisdom.
The icy fears which freeze my heart, melt away;
doubts drop into the water.

I am alive today.

Earlier, I faced east, remembering the funny banter
of friends old and new;
Then north, where I sat in the thicket, in moonlight
sharing hopes and dreams;
Moved to the west, and watched Orion and Cassieopiea
dance in the night sky.

I am alive today.

Southward I face now, recanting the tragedies and triumphs
of 10 years, and 18 visits;
Reflecting on my first landing here, backpack on, dark blue
sleeping bag in hand;
I knew not why I was here that Saturday; but my heart
whispers to me:

“I chose to be here, to be alive, today, and forever.”

I hope that all who attended camp this weekend not only had a good time, but also learned something about themselves. I hope that those who attend camp in the future learn something new each time. And I hope that those who have attended camp, look back fondly, and take a little bit of camp with them.


September 16, 2007

Goin' Way Back, Ep. 1

Dear Readers,

As this semester has begun for me, and now that I am extremely busy with applying to graduate school, I have not had as much time to blog. Thus, I am going back in the 'archives' finding some of my original articles, reading through, and adding some additional reflective material. The weeks where I don't do a previous critique, I will be submitting some of my poetry. So I thank you for the loyalty and after the semester I will return with fresh material. Otherwise please enjoy some reflections and some poetic misadventures.

Imaginable Immeasurable

This past weekend I was at home with my family. At one point my two nieces, ages 6 and 4 1/2 respectively, started an argument over their pretend jewelry. My mother does a very good job of getting the kids to use their imagination and provided them with some old, slightly tacky clothes for the girls to get dressed up as if they were going to a social. At one point my mother asked:

"Girls, how much do your rings cost?" To which my nieces replied:

"Mine's worth 1000."
"Well, then mine's worth's worth a million hundred."
"I have a ring that's more than 50 hundred."

This got me to reflect on two things, both natural. First is the sense of oneupmanship. To have something that is more than what someone else has. Some may say that this unhealthy for kids, but I don't know if I agree. You figure that my two nieces spend a lot of time together, and not too much time with other children right now (although they're both enrolled in different schools, I think they are just starting to form their societal connections). So part of their contrasting each other is a way for them to establish identity separate from the other. Yes, I'm sure there are more positive ways to do so, but there will have to come a time when they don't get the same presents out of 'fairness'.

More importantly is the concept of measurement. Even though their nomenclature is unorthodox (and probably inaccurate) without fully understanding the numeric system they seem to understand each other and that they are increasing amounts. I'm sure a lot of this would play into the fact that their brain is developing and trying to understand and link concepts. But it was fascinating to see how easy it was for them to create their own system without really knowing it. All because of their imagination.

I think for those of us 'older children' we need to be aware that we probably do the same thing. I'm sure that where ever you work there is some protocol for something. Someone had to create that. Someone had to imagine a group of people working through a system. A coach does the same thing. He/she draws up plays for the team for the players to act out.

So the next time you feel like you're not as creative as a friend or a coworker, just remember my nieces, and their invented numeric system.

Way Back Thoughts:
What do you do when your creativity is 'upended' by reality? Meaning, when you start to learn the numeric system or you uncover that santa claus is not real, is there an element of innocent faith that is somehow destroyed? I do see that when I've done programs where I ask the audience to draw. Many of them are quick to point out their inability to do so, yet I remind them that at one point they drew something as a kid (which probably was not easy to translate into 'adult') and were really proud of it. I think to regain that is not always the easiest, and one must find ways to first cultivate that same dreamer confidence then step forward.

Which brings me to the oneupmanship thought. I realize, sadly, that if this ability is as natural as creation, this may be one of the killers of innocent creation. If kids easily access this in life, and in any comparison something or someone has to be less, what happens to the children who always feel less? Likewise, I think that there's a strong change that if you were one-upped as a kid you may be unconsciously oneupping someone else, feeling the ability to be more vocal in different settings. We all have idiosyncratic security measures for our insecurities, yet I think the goal is to reconnect with our creativity, our imagination, and find ways to reinspire ourselves without trying to out do someone else.

It is easy to fall into a cycle of behavior, but I think it's powerful person who can be the one to stop it for themselves and eventually others.