Saturday, July 28, 2012


I had a great dog once.  Skye knew that I was in charge and that she was my first officer.  Whenever we'd house sit or care for another dog, or often dogs, those dogs became instantly obedient.  I would call, Skye, their obvious leader, would come, and the rest of the pack would follow whatever instinct that bound them to her authority.  Any inappropriate behavior was dealt with almost instantly, although often I was completely unaware that a lesson was being accomplished.  I had complete control over my pack of dogs in the woods or in the home.

I find that same sort of authority builds with my rowing crews.  Station Maine has designated Watch Captains.  Their authority is not fabricated.  They are not chosen by popularity, but rather by skill and seamanship.  They lead, they teach, and they free me for larger more pressing tasks like actually teaching the first aid for hypothermia or buying the ferry tickets.  Their authority is not as much given as taken on.  Newer crew members follow because they want to be a part of a crew that sees itself, and rightly so, as well disciplined and well pasted together.

Given a genuine need for leadership, leadership really does rise to the top.  And old leaders graduate and new leaders rise up and train the newbies.  This is a natural progression.  All we need do as adults is provide the setting.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Down Time

The last day of camp was terribly hot.  We took it in manageable bites.  Play a little tennis.  Hang for a while.  Go fishing, then swimming off the dock.  Lie about til our clothes dry.  Fish a little more, play a little more tennis, and suddenly the hiking trail looks cool and shaded and gives us three miles of genuine pleasure in the woods, finding toads and salamanders.

All this down time isn't wasted.  We talk.  Sometimes we even talk seriously.  A forced march or forced row in this heat doesn't send a child home with fond memories unless, as occasionally happens, it is necessary.  Camp is about putting these kids in the position of learning and having fun, not regulating them.  It's about giving kids the pleasure of being, just being, on the coast of Maine.  Kids get enough regulation, and rightly so, in school.  Camp should, within reason, be a place to relax and enjoy the coast of Maine in the company of friends.

Trust youth.  Give them the tools they need to grow and the encouragement to use those tools.  They know instinctively what they need in order to grow at their own rate.  They always make us proud.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Mark Twain

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” -Mark Twain

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Funnest Camp Ever

I can't say our day camp is the most organized institution on the coast.  But everyone who does it seems to think it's the most fun.  Today we hiked Ragged Mountain.  It wasn't a very challenging hike, and I'm pretty sure the purpose of it, other than finding salamanders, was to get us hot and sweaty enough to really appreciate the swimming in Lake Megunticook.

There are, apparently, hundreds of ways to jump off the end of a dock.  Hundreds.  These kids found them all.  There are flips and twists and slow and fast and in the style of someone's favorite video game character with which I am cheerful to say I am too old to be familiar.  There was a family of Canadian geese who came over to share our fun.  We shared out chips with them.  They were stale anyway.

I fear the child of the 21st century is too organized.  Too managed with tightly controlled activities.  Maybe the best thing we can do for these kids is to get them out where they can enjoy the sun and the water and the salamanders and the geese.  Then, we need to leave them alone.  They don't need us to identify every leaf or lecture them on ecology.  They need the freedom, and often the permission, to just enjoy themselves.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Riding a Fender

We had our first day of eighth grade camp today.  The tide was so high that we could pole down the little brook that feeds the southernmost part of Rockland Harbor.  It was there, up in the reeds, that we found a huge military grade type fender.  Of course we dragged it out, found it still good, and brought it home.

Except on the way home somebody got the bright idea of riding it like a dolphin.  And I couldn't think of a single good reason to say no.  We were wearing life jackets and the water was calm and surprisingly warm for Maine.  We each took our turns.  We tried, we failed, we tried a different way.  Some did better than others.  All of us laughed til we couldn't laugh any harder.

What did we learn from this?  I guess I could explain it in a hundred different ways, but I'll never be able to quantify it.  I'll never justify the test we'll be able to ace because of this adventure.  I'm just certain down to my socks that this is how children are supposed to live on the coast of Maine in summer, in sunshine and salt water and sea air.  And joy.  Lots of joy.