SSQUAAAAAAK! (pterodactyl screech)
That sound was the very first thing I was introduced to two years ago when I began staff training to be a camp counselor. I showed up halfway through training to this group of crazy college kids who had gotten to know each other, and there was an expectation for me to hop right into everything they already knew how to do.
Day 1: Camp Arrival
I was younger, smaller, and much less experienced than anyone there; what was I to do? I sat at breakfast nearly quivering in my Crocs as I tried to grasp what would happen. I decided to fake it until I could make it. Lunch came and went, I breathed a sigh of relief: I had made it this far.
People were all extremely accepting and greeted me with warm smiles everytime I asked a question or for help, but I knew I had to figure it out for myself if I were to fit in. It was what came after lunch where I began to find my way through the medium of manual labor.
I was assigned to set up the beach, and boy was that lucky. The sun beat down—it was a beautiful sunny day, nearly 85 degrees outside. The entire camp lies on the eastern shore of Lake Andrew, a normally breezy and cool place. I was sweating bullets before I even made it to the beach, not a breeze to be had to cool us off. Mother Nature provided respite in the form of little sand spiders as entertainment. They leaped short distances across the hot sand, dancing about.
The afternoon finished, the beach was set up, and I had found some peace in this newfound crazy place I had not adapted to yet. Evening activities came and went, but I didn’t really participate because I was still lost. Everyone knew each other and I was just there, not sure what my place was or what my purpose was.
Little did I know, I would find that very purpose the next evening.
Day 2: Staff Training
I successfully remembered three people’s names, and I was allowing myself to commit to the lifestyle while everything else was falling into place. Suddenly, another curveball was thrown at me.
We were split into small groups to make up our own skits and perform them in front of everyone. I was absolutely terrified…Our group made an impromptu cheerleader-style skit. We all got up and locked arms, forming an A-okay kickline.
This was yet another moment of extreme doubt: I had been at camp for 28 hours and I already questioned my being there twice. I remembered the sense of calm I felt at the beach the day prior: the waves constant, the spiders leaping, and the warmth, never wavering. I knew I could find that feeling if I just believed it was somewhere to be found.
Evening came again, more board games were played, stories were told, and people roasted marshmallows by the crackling fire. I was nowhere to be found, at least not at first. I had again isolated myself from everyone else, because I didn’t feel that I could belong to their version of crazy.
I wandered again to the beach, to the peace.
I sat down on the end of the camp’s dock with my legs dangling freely, toes dipping into the cool water. The sun lowered in the sky, pink and orange rays painting it all forms of beautiful. The air was cooling off. I could nearly taste the crisp freshness of the early evening. The lake was completely motionless; not a bird chirped, not a fish jumped, not a single wave rolled across the entire lake.
Everything was still.
I had stumbled upon a state of complete serenity. I sat there for a few minutes, which seemed to stretch forever, and eventually the sun sank below the horizon. A slow light breeze began across the lake and lazily drifted towards me. I felt as if I had just woken up from a dream.
I knew in that very instant that despite all the chaos I had endured in the past two days, everything would work out. I knew that when days become tough I could turn to the serenity Mother Nature provided to escape the chaos that humans create.
Climate change is the same type of beast as the fear I experienced during summer camp: it’s both overwhelming and chaotic.
And while I know I can play an important role, I am still trying to figure out my place.
While we know some things, we can’t fully predict what will happen, though I know it will be bad. Alas, a solution doesn’t have to be some massive overly complicated project. It can be simpler than that.
The solution lies within us, much as the peace I found at the beach. Find something you love, whether it be camp, walks along a nature trail, or even swimming with your friends.
How will climate change affect everything we love about Mother Nature? Think about your connection to the place you love, and maybe like me you will find your serenity in this chaotic world and strive to create the earth we all desire.
Josh Proehl participated in our 2017–2018 Youth Convening Minnesota project as a storyteller at the New London-Spicer convening in collaboration with Youth Eco Solutions (YES!).