When camp is not in session, and our grounds seem pretty peaceful, it is easy to come in contact with the other communities that make their homes on our site. Perhaps our most visible, but perhaps our least publicly acknowledged community are the trees that shade our paths, that provide wood for our fires, and that give us warm summer breezes on hot days.
Between Camp Betsey Cox and Camp Sangamon, there are about 160 acres of land. Communities of maple trees, oaks, birches, poplars and a variety of evergreens make their homes on this land, much to our delight.
In the summertime, our woodlands appear to be a solid collection of green leaves. From the ferns that cover the ground to the various green leaves that seem to touch the sky, even the cloudiest days surround us with happy green! Most of you know that the summer months are the months when the trees do their hardest work. They are busy daily with the task of turning the water and the minerals that shoot up from their roots, through their trunks and up to the leaves into sugar. Do you know, the average maple tree on camp property, if you picked and piled everyone of its summery green leaves, could become a heap that might weigh as much as 35 pounds. The sugar in those leaves, although different from the sugars in sugar cane or sugar beets, is enough for one tree to provide sweetener for three pecan pies! (Hope Jahren, Lab Girl) That’s impressive! Of course, the trees are much less interested in pecan pies than hungry campers might be. Their work is to assure their own survival through the other seasons of the year. The tree’s sugar is their food.
In the fall, those of us who have the good fortune to pay a visit to camp, know that the oranges, reds, purples and evergreen colors blend to create a beautiful natural kaleidoscope. Sitting on the porch of the Blueberry Hill Hotel is like visiting an incredible outdoor art museum. The colors astound us! And then…one late October or early November week, the colorful trees will drop their leaves in an organized week-long toss-off. While wind and weather would have taken a few along the way, it is an interesting fact to know that trees actually have a planned leaf drop around this time. And this will happen whether the weather stays warm or crisps up to that fall weather we New Englanders love. The trees respond to light and the darkening pre-winter days.
Wintertime comes around, and the trees that have “hardened” (prepared themselves for the cold days ahead by sending off moisture back to their roots and holding onto the sugars), stand elegantly in the quiet forest. Snow makes the forest exquisitely beautiful and chilly mornings coat the trees with a veneer of frost that makes winter visitors think they have arrived in fairyland.
And then…as people begin to grumble and whine about the length of those late March winter days, spring appears as if from nowhere. We have many blossoming trees on our property, blossoms that later give us fall apples to turn into cider or, on the vines surrounding the archery field, blossoms that produce wild grapes to be made into jams, jellies or fresh grape juice.
The camp tree community also offers lessons to us about life in our own human community. Think about these ideas from Ram Dass, an American spiritualist:
“When you go out into the woods and you look at trees, you see all these different trees. And some of them are straight, and some of them bent and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it. You see why it is the way it is…And you don’t get all emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree.
The minute you get near humans, you lose all that, and you are constantly saying ‘you’re too this, or I’m too this.’ That judging mind comes on. And so I practice turning people into trees. Which means appreciating them just the way they are.”
Trees are such important members of our community. They are there to befriend, to admire, to climb, and to care for. All that we do at camp! Get ready to meet several new tree friends upon your arrival!