«Back to all NGI Letters

NGI Recipient: Laura Keeler

Session Attended: Country Dance and Song Society - Harmony of Song and Dance (2019)

I knew years ago that everything people say about camp being life-changing is true, because my first experience of Pinewoods as a PCI kitchen crew member in 2011 had indeed profoundly changed my life. But returning this summer as a bona fide camper for the first time, I fretted: would I experience the magic that so many people attending camp sessions recall in fervent tones afterwards? Doesn’t magic usually dissipate when you know how it works, when you’ve seen the (literal) plumbing and sweat and spiderwebs? Not necessarily, as it turns out. It was amazing to be able to focus on everything the session itself had to offer, from chorale in the morning through after-dance activities late at night. I kept wondering where the down time went– weren’t there expanses of unplanned time after lunch, and before dinner, and until the staff concert?– and then realized that I had been spending it all caught up in conversations both pre-arranged and serendipitous.

Spending so much of each day in the woods, walking, looking at ponds, stretching my brain and strengthening friendships, was so good for my body and mind that I almost didn’t notice until I went back to cubicle life the next week. Laurel’s morris class was unlike any I’d previously taken, and opened my eyes to new possibilities of the genre. Rani’s choral class uncovered capabilities I hadn’t known I had (who knew I could hold on to– much less tune– a second?!). The one day of Corey’s listening class that I attended gave me enough to listen for and think about for years.

Not quite camping, not quite college, not quite vacation, and definitely not normal life– there’s nothing else like it. As I walked down the path from the Highlands towards the end of the week, marveling at the experience of being surrounded by community, knowing that I was always about to run into a friend, I thought: Uh-oh. I think I understand why people decide they have to come back every year.