Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Dolphin Finds the Sofa

One of the traditions at the Hippy Dippy Quaker Camp involves a camp fire ceremony wherein some of the boys are given a camp name by the group. They only practice this naming tradition at one of the five camps on the Hippy Dippy Quaker camp property which I'll call Camp Soaring Bird. Kids who attend Camp Soaring Bird, roughly 25 per summer, are at some distance from the main HDQ property - maybe a mile down the road and another mile up a hill deep in the woods. There's a pond at Soaring Bird where alumni, staff and campers go every Presidents' Day Weekend to cut ice to use in the ice house over the summer since there's no electricity at all whatsoever at Camp Soaring Bird. While no electricity is part of the primitive attraction of SB, health department regulations regarding refrigeration of food must be observed - hence the ice house.

I hiked up there myself once with Velvet and Buzz Kill and a full contingent of alumni, staff and campers, cutting through knee deep snow for over a mile. "Once" is the key point, here. Velvet and Buzz Kill enjoy the hell out of it, though, and they go every year:

Velvet took this picture of some folks cutting ice from the pond with a special saw just last February.

Velvet never got a Soaring Bird name because Velvet attended the more traditional camps at HDQ. Some people might argue that none of the camps at HDQ are traditional since the kids often run around naked. It's called The Fifth Freedom, and while some people might be shocked and horrified, I find the whole idea brilliant.

*Note* Nobody goes naked when parents are visiting except maybe in the sauna and even then they set time limits where after an hour, naked time is over.

The Fifth Freedom has always been very well managed. The camp is laid out so that the lake is at the bottom of the hill, then there are three sided cabins in the woods, then comes a dirt road. Across the dirt road, the woods are cleared for dining halls, meeting halls, farm buildings, barns and gardens. There's more woods at the very top of the hill, but for the most part, this land is cleared which means there's a clear view of most of the area from the road. Even Fed Ex uses that road, so nobody's allowed to be naked on the farm side of camp. You can only be naked on the lake side which includes in the woods by the cabins.

When Velvet was 15 and first at the High School camp, he challenged this limit occasionally by walking naked in the middle of the dang road. I'm pretty sure the staff didn't pay much attention to Velvet and just told him to stop being such an asshole.

Now, when the kids are younger (9 - 14 years old) they are in same sex camps. Soaring Bird is only for boys. There used to be a similar program for females, but the girls opted out. Maybe eating crickets got to the girls - I don't know the history. I have enough trouble with the outhouses because the walls only go half way up. This design is good when you consider how smelly it can get inside a fully enclosed outhouse - but it's a bit disconcerting when you're trying to pull up your pants because if you're not careful, you can moon the community. There are many outhouses on the property, and some have higher walls than others. Smart moms go to the nurses' office and use one of the few private, flush toilets on the property.

I will admit that the embedded Baptist voice inside me was originally scandalized about Fifth Freedom, but once I saw it in action (sort of, since nobody goes naked when parents are there) I immediately recognized its value as a method for passing along the notion that the human body and all it's functions are natural and unremarkable.

The camp is also very good at establishing the concept that everyone is in control of the space around his/her own personal body. With boys, this personal space is a big deal because they will run and tackle each other and roll around on the ground like a pack of puppies especially when chasing Frisbees and soccer balls in non-competitive sports. There will be no unauthorized tackling, smacking, hugging, what ever. Personal body space is absolutely respected.

Fifth Freedom becomes more intriguing when the boys and girls are naked together at the High School Camp. It might seem outlandishly provocative to toss naked boys and girls together as soon as the hormones have fully kicked in - but the same rules about personal space that the kids learn when they are younger in a same sex environment apply when they are older and in a mixed sex environment. The camp also recognizes that some kids' sexual orientation and gender expression can still be fluctuating, so the high school camp has a gender night dance where kids declare Male/Female/Other - that's later in the week after Relationship Night where they talk about sex stuff.

The girls often work topless in the organic gardens (which is technically on the Hill Side where you're supposed to wear clothes but since males work without shirts, females can too - except on parent visiting days when everyone wears shirts regardless of gender. It's only fair), and the boys have been watching summer after summer for years because kids frequently wander between the camps around the property. These boys don't have the typical American adolescent male fixation with tits. They like them and everything, but there's no race to see bare tits since the lake and the garden is full of them. Same with penises, as a matter of fact. And no touching anything without specific permission. I'm sorry to say that I believe that the Hippy Dippy Quaker camp may eventually abolish the Fifth Freedom in order to increase funding options. Some foundations frown on awarding grants for running around naked in the woods. Further, the camp is trying to be more culturally inclusive and Muslim parents often choke at the whole naked thing.

More camps should adopt Fifth Freedom, if you ask me. It's kind of backwards to keep kids together in a co-ed setting when they are little and don't care about sex, then segregate them after puberty because a Taboo is established and the race to lose your virginity kicks into high gear. That's how people get pregnant in High School - even though a single-sex environment may be best for academics.

I have never heard of kids getting pregnant at the Hippy Dippy Quaker Camp. The policy is: We think you're too young to be having sex because sex complicates friendships and it takes away from the community when kids pair off privately - but we're not blind, and if you feel you absolutely must have sex, here are condoms. Think, Children, Think!

While I have never heard of a pregnancy, I have often heard about weed - which brings me to my living room.

Ever since Velvet got home from Fair up at HDQ, there's been a kid here whom I call Dolphin Finds the Sofa. He must have a real, birth name - like Eli Rabinowitz. No one knows it. He's Dolphin. Velvet has other friends with Soaring Bird names like Hearth Fox, Sage Otter Glows and Spring Rhythm, who is a magnificent pianist. Then there is Circle Seeker who sold weed until he graduated from High School and became an Orkin Man. Circle Seeker is the one who made it a mission to get Velvet high for the first time. We've called him Dime Bag ever since. Dime Bag is no longer an Orkin Man. He took a year off college to travel in South East Asia, Africa and Europe.

For the moment, my concern is Dolphin since he's been here three nights now. His parents, who live in the Bronx, told him to come home yesterday, but he got high and fell asleep on the couch. That's MY couch. He rode his bike from the Bronx up to Vermont. It took three days, and his parents gave him money for food and lodging along the way. He spent the money on weed and slept in a grave yard, among other places. I doubt his parents have a clue about the grave yard, but they know he's on my sofa. Personally, if my kid landed in somebody's house for three days, I'd want to talk to a responsible individual in that house. These parents wouldn't know me in a line up.

Dolphin is a nice boy, but enough is enough already. He's a bit younger than Velvet and follows him around like a minion. I had forgotten how much Velvet enjoys having minions until Dolphin found the sofa. When Velvet was one of the older boys at HDQ in the all-boys camp, he had an entire troop of minions to boss around.

The good news is that since all these kids have been trained in Leave No Trace wilderness skills, they know that all the carrot cake and pop corn that dribbles onto the ground attracts rodents - so they are quite neat about eating. The living room is not a mess until the other guys come over, but even those boys have been trained to take the Old English 40 bottles to the recycling when they leave the apartment.

Frankly, I'm thinking this is all part of G*d's plan to make separating from your child easier when s/he goes to college. I have been remarkably calm throughout Dolphin's visit except for yesterday when I woke up at 8:00pm with a tequila hangover. I don't normally get tequila hangovers from lunch - but it was that kind of day since I worked crew on an Off-Off Broadway matinee (And Sophie Comes Too) and went out afterwards with actors and playwrights to Cowgirl Hall of Fame which had amazing blood orange margaritas.


Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!) said...

The Cowgirl Hall of Fame?

I dunno if it's the original model or not, but there's been a Cowgirls' Hall Of Fame on Guadalupe Street, across the street from and between the Railyard and the Santuario, in Santa Fe for 10 years, AT LEAST. The food is excellent (was, anyway, the last time I was in there), they pour full pints, and the selection is extensive. One of my favorite joints in old Santa Fe.

Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!) said...

"It's called The Fifth Freedom, and while some people might be shocked and horrified, I find the whole idea brilliant."

I totally concur, but am curious as to identities of the "first Four" freedoms? Speech? Weed? and?

PENolan said...

I just asked Dolphin and Velvet who can't remember any of the freedoms except Freedom of Speech and Freedom from Fear. Apparently, at Hippy Dippy Quaker Camp there are too many freedoms to list. The boys think that the only one that matters right now is the Fifth since people are taking it away.

I'm glad my child sees all these freedoms as so secure he's only worried about his freedom to run around naked in the woods being taken away. And I suppose we should be glad that the fellows coming to town meetings with fire arms aren't naked too.

As for Cowgirl Hall of Fame, no affiliations menitoned on their web page, which is boring compared to the one in Sante Fe. And since there is no 's on Cowgirl, we can assume there is no copyright infringement.

johnieb said...

Freedom from Want & Freedom of Religion; from clothes and of weed sound like good additions to me.

The Anglo-American Atlantic Charter of 1941.

Gail said...

Hi Trish-

I am intrigued by the rules of the 'Hippy Dipper Quaker Camp'. Really, I had no idea. "Fifth Freedom", who knew? :-)

You never cease to amaze and surprise me with your life experiences. :-)

And ya, time for Dolphin to find a new couch.

Love you

PENolan said...

Hey Gail - We gave him a hug goodbye about noon, thank goodness. Now it's just the regular crew.

Johnieb, welcome!

Liberality said...

amazing blood orange margaritas

wow, sounds good--may have to try one...

Anonymous said...

Believe the camp has toned down the nudity recently, which is too bad.

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