I don’t even know how to write about this camp.
If I could have whispered my wildest dreams into some secret part of my heart, I don’t think even those would have dared to wish for such extravagance.
And perhaps it feels so luxurious because of its subtleties. There are the big moments, yes. The lavish and extravagant scenes: the spiderweb that took over the truss while the dungeon was empty; helping a friend tie someone to a tree with barbed wire. And those moments are incredible and powerful and fun and evoke all sorts of strong emotions.
But right now, trying to process through the past week in my brain, what I remember is subtlety. I remember curling up under a blanket and watching a movie while the fatigue subsided. I remember the vulnerability of learning, of doing without certainty that I could do it well, in the presence of people I care about and respect deeply.
“Embrace the violence of it.”
I remember single lines of dialogue that ricocheted through me like beams of light cutting, intersecting, creating planes and angles inside my muscles to pull and dance and press against. I remember the moments that brought the nebulous future into the terrifying present, that pressed against me in stubborn refusal to be ignored. I remember when “will be” became “is” with an unapologetic acknowledgement of things that I was too afraid to name.
“I am so fucking in love with you.”
I remember her eyes, sharp like a hawks with the crystal clear laughter of waterfalls. I remember the timbre of his voice as we sat together in the corner watching, low conversations barely audible over the frenzied dungeon sounds.
“Would we be friends, do you think?”
I remember watching the most breathtakingly beautiful scene I have ever encountered, one that paralyzed my limbs and made my heart ache in a way I didn’t know it could. The tender cruelty, the shattering beauty is etched into my skin in a visceral way, one that radiates from me with more golden light than I knew I contained.
I am so completely in love with each of these people and the ways in which they move in orbit with one another.
I remember new and inexplicable dynamics that intrinsically work when I don’t stop to think about them too hard. I remember the pressure of his hands on the back of my head, pressing and holding me down. I remember moments of this,when this is just sitting and talking and being near. Of burying my head under blankets and feeling sheepish and apologetic, but mostly just vulnerable and open and raw in ways I am not accustomed to being.
“Why are you sorry?” he said. “It’s a good thing.”
I remember time. God. So much time, time I would never have dreamed would be offered. Time I could accept because it came after words, words that came before presence, words that exist in rarity and are cherished when offered, words that gave me reason to trust. Words to anchor into.
You don’t leave me out here alone.
I remember symmetry: tucking the blankets around my shoulders, tucking a shirt around my legs. I remember brazen moments of self-trust and pushing through moments of panicked insecurity. I remember walks and talks and swimming in the minds of other people. I remember pushing myself, and not always fully knowing what that means or how that measures up, knowing that my push is someone else’s baseline and reminding myself that I am strong in my own ways, even if it’s not the ways I wish I was strong.
“It’s all subjective,” he reminded me. “What is hard to one person isn’t to another. What hurts one person doesn’t hurt another. If it’s tough for you, then it’s tough.”
I remember the trust of a first inhale, the bad influence of each sip. I remember sleeping past noon and nearly touching the ground and realizing that being teased meant I was opening up enough to allow others to see joy in me. I remember every person that asked me where I was all camp, and realizing there were no words to explain that I was allowing myself room to breathe.
You’re calmer with me. It’s like…you slow down.
I remember being full of fire and completely inside my own skin. I remember the way he looked at my eyes and saw the shifts in color. I remember dancing and thinking that this, this is what integrates me, this is what I bury and lose myself in. I remember thinking that seeing this is the way to see me truly alive.
I remember swallowing fear and breathing through pain. I remember laughter and material that stretched far more than expected. I remember watching the people that I love find connection.
I remember being present. So present that the memories begin to blur and run together, one day bleeding into the next because I am realizing that the more I exist in the present, the less precise my memory is. And standing here, on this side of camp, that’s a tradeoff I’m willing to accept.
I let my heart guide my hands. This camp was full of unexpected, extravagant gifts and moments of poignant, visceral connection. Some were mine to live; others, I had the privilege to watch.
Oh, but my heart is full, and aching in a way that is both wrenchingly painful and unambiguously blissful.
I don’t know how to write about this camp. I know that something structurally shifted in me, and I’m not sure what, or where, or even how, but I know why. And that why, the copious outpouring of love and affection and care and sense of intrinsic fit… that is something worth cultivating, strengthening, honing, building. There is something beautiful here. And now, laying in my bed, so many thoughts and words and emotions spilling out and swirling around, I remember that I found abundance where I had only dared dream of enough.