camp

Earlier this morning I stepped on to my balcony to snip some parsley for my tuna salad. The cool, fresh, air smelled like camp.

As a kid, I spent two weeks every July from the age of seven to fourteen at summer camp. It was the highlight of my year. Trident Church camp was, and still is, located at Crystal Lake, 23 km North of a small community called Canora, in South Eastern Saskatchewan. http://www.uocc.ca/en-ca/about/camps/trident.asp

This morning, the sense of smell took me right back to those memories of a knock on a cabin door with a counselor shouting "dobre ranok!" (good morning, in Ukrainian). I remembered the wake up shake up exercise routines, the breakfasts in the dining hall with giant boxes of Rice Crispies and jugs of milk. Lunch and dinners of cabbage rolls, perogies, and borscht and evening snacks of cinnammon toast and hot chocolate. We walked to the beach for swimming time, and had dancing, singing, and language classes, we did arts and crafts where we made Easter eggs, matchstick crosses and did embroidery. We ran around at bedtime giving (and getting) good night kisses before the counselors got too pissed off.

As I got older, I graduated to staying in "Cabin 14", where I shared clothes with my cabin mates from the big city. We tucked our suitcases under the bunk beds where cigarettes were hidden discretely in side pockets. We snuck out after lights out, through the fence and across the highway, getting eaten alive by mosquitoes while smoking said contraband.

One year, someone brought a ouija board and we tried to summon spirits of the past. It was church camp after all.

Every year, a tearful good-bye followed the final performance where we would show off our cultural song and dance in full costume.

Today, older still, my office is a two minute walk to Lake Ontario, very near to where one would catch the ferry to get to Centre Island. Today, clumps of kids, pictured above, sat cross legged on the grassy patch beside the ferry terminal. They wore matching T-shirts and protective hats, counselors were wrangling and pointing with clipboards in hand. You could smell the sunblock from across the street. Perched on the edge of the GTA, these kids were not going to have the same experience as me, but their excitement was palpable. They were at camp! Little people creating memories of a summer adventure.

A couple of weeks ago, a lot of Toronto, less our mayor, celebrated with Pride and brought new meaning to the word, camp. Go see for yourself. http://www.pridetoronto.com/

As Canadians, we are conditioned to enjoy the outdoors. Mostly because there is so much of it. We minimize our needs and pack up smaller versions of necessities to be closer to nature. There is something, obviously, very freeing about going to camp, or camping. Letting go of the comforts of an urban lifestyle and rediscovering the wonders of our environment. Sleeping in a tent, lighting a campfire, eating in the open air, the sound of a paddle dipping into water, diving off a dock.

This weekend, I'll pitch a tent and sleep outside. I'll eat at a picnic table and walk barefoot on the sand. I'll smell like bonfire, muskol and sunblock and I will love every second of it.

Camp out.