Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Who's Driving?

What gets you going, and doing the things you know that have to get done? What keeps you on task? How do you balance the gotta do's with the wanna do's?

I had a conversation with my son about this the other day. As a child, my mom or dad would structure a good part of my day and provide direction for my activities. My dad had two driving beliefs that have also stuck with me. They are, "Do something constructive!" and "Finish what you start!" I hear those words when I am doing things around my house, and they are primary drivers of my life.

I was fortunate to go to summer camp in Algonquin Park, Canada. Little did I realize how much those days of fun would also shape my life!

The camp, begun in 1925, is on a narrow peninsula in one of the thousands of lakes in the park. To get there campers would meet at the train station in Toronto, board a camp train to Hunstville, Ontario, climb on a bus and ride to Cache Lake, and then climb in a canoe and paddle to Tanamakoon Lake. It was a long journey, even for energetic kids!

I loved camp! I loved it all. I loved the activities. I loved hearing the call of the loons on the lake. I loved the crisp, cold nights and early mornings, when a bell would summon us to flag raising. We'd tumble out of our warm sleeping bags, shoving our legs and arms into our camp uniforms. We'd scramble to get to flag raising where we'd stand in loose rows around the flag, with bleary eyes and tousled hair. Every morning the Camp Director, Mrs. Raymer (who was, in my opinion, as old as the hills around us, but who was, in fact, quite a bit younger than I am as I write this) would lead us through the daily ceremony. I remember fidgeting, and wanting to swat a mosquito, and my stomach grumbling as I thought of the warm oatmeal that would be mine at the dining hall, and becoming lost in thought as I gazed at the mist rising from the lake. I remember the feeling of one knee sock up and the other having annoyingly slipped down around my ankle, but not wanting to risk the chance of 'that look' from Mrs. Raymer if I moved. I remember having to learn the words to "Oh, Canada" the year we changed from singing "God Save the Queen". But mostly, I remember "The Salutation to the Dawn".  The ceremony would often end as Mrs. Raymer would recite this poem. A directive to us to be busy and productive and have a good day. 

Salutation to the Dawn

Look to this day! 
For it is life, the very life of life. 
In its brief course 
Lie all the verities and realities of your existence: 
The bliss of growth; 
The glory of action; 
The splendor of achievement; 
For yesterday is but a dream, 
And tomorrow is only a vision; 
But today, well spent, makes every yesterday 
a dream of happiness, 
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well, therefore, to this day.

I don't recite the poem. I don't even have it memorized. But I often think about how each day can lay the foundation for a better tomorrow. And, that's what gets me going and shapes my day.

Thanks, Mrs. Raymer, for touching my life in so many ways!


  1. You liked camp a lot. I hated it. I got sent off to a camp in the Sierra Nevada mountains for two weeks every summer after I got out of elementary school. Just wasn't my thing. At the time, I was antisocial and really only wanted to be left alone to read. Group sings and "capture the flag" were not my thing.
    Looking back on it now from half a century, I wish I'd made more of an effort to get something positive out of it.

    1. Hmmm, yes, I can see what you were like. I taught a ton of kids and I bet there were a few just like you! In fact, my son 'escaped' middle school by keeping his nose in a book. He hated the social circles and pressures in his environment.

  2. I would have loved that camp! I won a camp trip one year for a week, I wrote the winning essay. My parents were not pleased...who would do my work for a week? I went and had a blast, my one and only time at camp.
    I am a list maker and if I don't have a list I say what is the most important thing I need to accomplish today? Then I do it! :)


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