August 07, 2003

Bill Grogan's Goat<br />

As an old working buddy used to say before taking a trip: "I'm gettin journey-proud."

I'll be flying home to the Hot of Dixie this weekend, back far south to Birmingham, dropping through the clouds into another realm-- a place both familiar and alien. It is the place I know best in some ways, but it is not the best place I have known. For reasons I still ponder, there is more to finding one's true place than the accident of birth or parental choice that lands you in the town you grew up in. And yet so many tendrils from those days and urban places extend under the surface of years, wrapping around the present like a climbing vine that will not die; the past is a growing thing-- not the central trunk or branch but an essential epiphyte, a honeysuckle twining that I carry along with me farther and farther away toward the edge of age. And so it is with Alabama, and Birmingham, and my old neighborhood of Crestwood, but especially with Camp Winnataska.

I had an affair with summer camp. While married til death-do-us-part to real life with its demands and raucous babel and ill moods, summer camp was a place apart, unfamiliar and forbidden, but permissive in ways I did not know at home. For the first time away from home for a week or more, I became a me I had not met while belonging to parents and neighbors and expectations of my city-self. Camp was my tiny woodlot magnified a thousandfold, full of other Lost Boys. Together we found Never-Never Land and each other, were in love with the place and bound to each other at first sight. When I think of home and belonging, Camp Winnataska is one of those venerable vines that grows verdant into my present, and one of the few places I must go while I am back down under those clouds in that Other Place I used to know.

I don't know where to begin, and I am certain that I won't be able to end this tale before I travel. And so I think I'll just slip back to those days remembering the sweet, warm smell of pine forest, and by recalling some of the old camp songs (many are unfamiliar in these lists, but more remarkable, not a few are the same songs my mother sang when she went to Winnataska by train when she was a young girl). If I write of this, I'll do it when I get home next week. I've called to make arrangements to get in to visit camp on Sunday, and still awaiting a reply. As a former staff member, I used to have the key to the gate. I would drive there with my fishing pole as a pretense to go and sit at the foot of Kelly Falls in perfect solitude. With my bare feet in the clear green creek, I wondered about worlds below the water and about time beyond that present when I would be a boy no longer.

Personal bookmarks related to this entry: The images of clouds and Lost Boys in this poem from August, 2001. Fishing and worlds above, below in Gone Fishing.

Posted by fred1st at August 7, 2003 06:25 AM | TrackBack
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