2005. No child at Camp Treetops is allowed a wrist
watch. To spend a summer as a camper here is to live by lunch bells
and lifeguard whistles and the occasional rumble of thunder. As
I water the tomatoes to the tune of a Czech composer’s concerto
for two saxophones and orchestra, NPR’s Robert Siegal intermittently
breaks in with three-minute updates on what’s going on outside
Adirondack Park. During these polite interruptions, where I learn
of terrorist bombings, Supreme Court rulings, and the latest summer
box-office hits, I marvel at the difference between so-called current
events and what makes “news” in my world. I could tell
you about the recent infestation of potato beetles in the eggplants
and the prolific growth of the coreopsis. I could report on the
number of heads of lettuce we have harvested since April and the
approximate weight of compost spread on the annual flowerbed last
week. I could attempt to distill the past month of my summer into
a spreadsheet of facts worthy of reporting on nationally-broadcasted
radio…But then I wouldn’t really be telling you about
my life at Treetops. In appreciation of being watch-less, barefoot,
and slightly grimy—which is how I plan to spend the next month-and-a-half—I
offer this journal entry as the anatomy of a summer day (I guess
in true Treetops fashion, the reader should imagine a couple of
guitars, a drum circle, and a pack of barefoot kids to sing the
following lines to the tune of a Joni Mitchell song…):
A bit after the birds start calling: Roll over and glance out the
window to assess the weather situation. Has Hurricane Dennis bestowed
upon us a vinyl rain suit morning? A breezy flannel shirt beginning
to the day? Apply copious squirts of bug dope and SPF 50, in either
As the children trickle out of their tents and onto the grass:
Stroll down to the garden. Cut several heads of green Romaine and
red leaf lettuce with a few campers and counselors. Pick strawberries.
Eat the strawberries. Wash the lettuce. Hose off feet.
Fifteen-minute bell (large bell rung by the kitchen staff): Meander
to the Junior Camp kitchen to drop off the produce and check in
with Paulette and Rose, who keep us fed and happy. Make a note to
myself that Paulette requests mint, parsley, and fennel for her
tabouli salad and spinach pie. (Said note now resides in a small
spiral-bound notepad that most Treetops staff members refer to as
“Little bell” (small cowbell rung by a camper): Breakfast
time. Cross my fingers for something involving strawberry-rhubarb
sauce and/or this season’s maple syrup.
Post-breakfast: Compare “brains” with John, my boss.
(See above note.) Compose list of urgent to-do tasks for the morning.
In the past two weeks, such tasks have included mulching our 435
foot-long flower bed, pruning the tomatoes, declaring war on the
potato beetles, spraying the Brassica plants with Bt, and hand-weeding
the carrots while contemplating the meaning of life.
Fifteen-minute bell: Make my way back to the dining room for a
much-needed respite. Scrub hands vigorously to remove the dirt that
isn’t yet semi-permanently tattooed in my skin.
“Little bell”: Lunchtime. Hope for a really good salad
As the sun climbs overhead and the black flies draw blood: Post-lunch
hangover. Steal naps behind the sunflowers while weeding the annual
flowerbed. When awake, greet various pedestrians and passing cars.
Contemplate the worth of organized religion while eradicating red-rooted
pigweed and lamb’s quarter.
The sun is reminiscent of mid-day Ecuador: Re-apply SPF 50, generously.
Consider jumping in the lake. (A few weeds later) jump in the lake.
Drag myself up the lake hill for juice and crackers.
Thunderclouds; a passing rain shower: Meet a group of kids and
counselors for pre-dinner garden chores. Spend the next half hour
or so directing the group to frolic around a newly-planted field
of hairy vetch and oats—a kid-friendly version of covering
Fifteen-minute bell: Greet John and our new flock of Boer goats.
“Little bell”: Dinner. I am dreaming of some variety
of gooey dessert.
As the sun sets over the lake: Assess the likelihood of a frost
by consulting the Internet and/or flipping a coin. Battle with crumpled
sheets of Remay to cover the basil and annual flowers. Curse the
Remay. Curse USDA Zone 3b. Curse the no-see-ums.
Goodnight, Moon: Fall asleep to the occasional bleating of lambs
being weaned. Dreams of broccoli and tomatoes donning Remay cloaks
to declare war on vicious tribes of potato beetles dance like children
in a freshly-seeded field in my head.