I was once skeptical of camps . . . until I found out how nice talking to an eight-year-old about turtles can be. Now I know that a summer job as a counselor can be just the right first step (especially for a girl) back to the land. It's a way to believe those Earth Mother dreams into reality and certainly beats sitting mournfully in a dorm while reading books on life in the wilds.
A summer spent among children can be an educational, joy-filled experience. There are other valuable benefits:
1. It gives you some confidence in living with nature. This is especially important for those who have lived with wall-to-wall carpeting and motel vacations all their lives.
2. It gives you a definite starting point for beginning your move back to the simpler life.
3. It starts you with some money. Lots of camps pay from 300 to 500 dollars a session.
4. It gives you time to be quiet and to think without being totally alone (a lot of girls are scared out of the forest by solitude when they try to "go it alone" all at once.)
5. It puts you in contact with other people who dig the woods and gives you a basic feel and knowledge of woodcraft.
6. A summer spent in the mountains (or wherever) gives you a real opportunity to get in touch with what is happening out in the hills: Not the people wandering through them . . . the hills themselves. Staying in one area the whole season will give you a chance to get to know the land — to learn what the woods have to say. If you can begin to understand just one creek or one ravine, you'll have the key to understanding the land wherever you finally settle.
One word of warning: Camps are definitely not for everyone. If you don't dig being with kids a lot, don't go. Most camps give their counselors ample free time, but you'll be living with children. Some of these children will be away from their parents for the first time and others have problems accepting the fact that they are always sent away to camp all summer. All these children need a lot of love. If you go, be ready to give: To the kids, the other people there, the animals and the land. You'll get it all back.
I'm off this summer to a camp in the Adirondacks to hunt for things that other people haven't looked at, watery places in the forest and quiet spots under the pines.
The American Camp Association is a great place to start your research.