It’s often said that time flows like a stream. When I first heard the phrase, I considered the “stream” in question to be one of those mountain streams you see pictured in ads for tourism in Colorado or for RV dealerships. You know, where the water flows swiftly down, never stopping, always moving. Now, I’m starting to wonder if that’s inaccurate; perhaps the stream is more like the brook you come across when you visit your in-laws farms: sometimes moving, sometimes not; sometimes meandering over into an eddy, sometimes not. It’s still always moving, but it just doesn’t seem to be in a hurry. Certainly, this is one of the only ways that I can explain my experiences at Summer Camp. Four days seems like a short enough period of time, but when you’re there, it is as if time changes its pace for a little while. The experiences are so rich, so fulfilling, that whether the time races by or lingers quietly depends only on your perspective.
Each time I attend a camp, I am at a loss as to how to write about it. As one of my poetry professors once said: “You can write a poem about a sunset, but you can’t capture everything about it, any more than a photographer can capture the full experience on film.” This past Summer Camp is like that; every time I try to think of what to write, I find myself at a loss, because the simple act of writing down one memory means I probably won’t have time to write down another. Nonetheless, I’ve finally decided to take a few moments to write about my experiences. Consider this a montage, if you will; I won’t try to capture everything–but I’ll at least try to capture some of it. (My poetry professor would be so proud.)
Thursday: Red-eyes, French Toast, and Friendly Little Dogs
The most efficient way for me to get to camp (meaning that it involves the least amount of time off work) is for more to hop on a red-eye from Seattle to Philadelphia. I got lucky this year–my flight was non-stop, giving me the opportunity to get at least a couple of hours of sleep. I did wake up at one point during the flight (there were some storms in the midwest that we had to fly around). Blearily, I looked out the window to see a pale moon painting a sea of clouds. (Overly poetic? To be sure. But it was the image that came to mind when I saw it, so I’m writing it down.) The moment was still, serene, and seemed a good omen for the experiences that were yet to come.
Arriving in Philadelphia, I was fortunate to have Lisa come and pick me up. Lisa marks my first person-that-I-really-started-to-get-to-know-over-the-Internet-before-meeting-in-person. That’s not wholly accurate; we’ve been on the mat at the same time at other Kokikai events, but we never really got a chance to meet and talk in person. Lisa politely took my grogginess in stride (despite the non-stop flight, I still only got about 3.5 hours of sleep) and off we went to Sabrina’s for some incredible french toast. (First point in their favor: it was made from Challah bread. Second point in their favor: the slices were as thick as my arm.) Lisa and I enjoyed breakfast and some great conversation about Kokikai and how aikido has impacted us since we started training. After breakfast, we had some time to kill, so we went back to her house where I meant Bucky, a great little dog who kept me company while I took a short nap. Bucky has the dubious honor of being the only subject of any pictures I took while at camp–I don’t know why, but I didn’t feel like trying to take a ton of pictures while I was training. I was very glad to have had the chance to meet Lisa in person–it was the type of experience that really illustrates just how important these events are. My only disappointment? When we got to camp, we didn’t get a chance to train together. Next time!
Friday: Of Credit Cards and Missing Class
Friday’s training started bright and early, and on the way to breakfast I made a fascinating discovery: while at breakfast with Lisa, I had left my credit card at Sabrina’s. I debated whether I should just report the card as stolen, but eventually decided it would be better to try to retreive it (once I confirmed that they actually had it). Brian, who has visited my dojo before, was gracious enough to take time between the morning class and the afternoon class to drive me into Philadelphia. What was supposed to be a quick trip soon turned into a several-hour excursion, as we had misread the directions and there was a ton of construction that caused us to detour numerous times. Eventually, we found the place and I got my card back.
But the trip paid a price: the lack of sleep was catching up to me, as was the heat. So I made a decision I don’t often make: I opted to skip the afternoon session in order to be more refreshed for the evening one. My rationale was that there were hundreds of people on the mat–no one would notice if I was missing for one session, right?
Wrong. I showed up right when the class was ending so I could join everyone for dinner, and at least 6 people asked me where I was. Actually, that’s not true. What they said was: “Where were you? Sensei was looking for you.” And, sure enough, Sensei himself found me. He was very concerned that I was not feeling well. I told him the truth: that I had an errand I had to run and then found I needed more sleep than I had thought. He seemed to accept that explanation–but lesson learned: I’ll not miss a class again. Period.
UP NEXT: Saturday and Sunday….