Fall arrived just a few days ago and already I yearn for summer. I think back fondly on the summer days I spent at the Järvemetsa campground in “Camp Võluja” in July. My home was in the part of camp named “The Old Stumps.” Yes, I also thought it was an interesting name for our little group. But why not – we’re all veterans of camps long ago and all over 40 years of age (frankly, many of us are way past our 40th birthdays.) So, there we were – The Old Stumps. (Actually, Urmas mentioned that perhaps next year we should call ourselves the “Assisted Living Camp.” Certainly worth considering…)
It was truly a joy to be an Old Stump! Nskm. Maano Milles used his 50+ years of scouting experience and knowledge to lead our camp. As seasoned campers, we built ourselves a comfortable and welcoming camp home. Approximately a dozen campers from near and far were there for the entire week, and our numbers nearly tripled on the final weekend. Every face was familiar to everyone – what comfort! So, how did our group compare to all the other groups at Camp Võluja? When comparing ourselves to the kindergarten, brownies and cub scouts, we weren’t up for running around our campsites and in the woods squealing with joy like they did. As for the girl scouts and boy scouts (the girls’ number one priority was the boys and vice versa), we just didn’t feel a need to chase each other around any more. And as far as the senior girl scouts and boy scouts go, we couldn’t figure out how they always looked so fantastic – we couldn’t even keep a decent hairstyle with all the heat and humidity. So, thankfully, in our little corner of camp, we were just a bunch of longtime friends having a great time – some with graying hair, some with expanding waistlines. But these are things that just don’t matter to people who have bonded through years of scouting and decades of friendship.
At the entrance to the Old Stump camp, our group had erected a mighty gate. We also had a very cozy gathering “tent” and a wonderful campfire site. Our daily activities were varied and interesting. One group decided to churn fresh butter from cream (with a paint mixer, I might add) to serve to our guests with the classic Estonian pastry – “kringel” – one evening at the campfire. Others made old-fashioned felt the old-fashioned way. Many helped out in the kitchen and in all the other parts of camp – wherever help was needed, an Old Stump could be called. We also tried to teach the younger campers about what camping was like in the old days. The evenings were great, with lots of music and singing for hours at a time. The campfires brought back heartwarming memories – even bringing a tear or two of joy to several of us... Bottom line, I think I can safely say that every Old Stump enjoyed their time in Camp Võluja.
Shortly after returning home from Lakewood, I witnessed a very special moment – a baby wren on its first flight. I watched as the bird’s parents flew from the nest on our porch to an old stump in the yard. There they started singing loudly – calling to their two babies to join them. The first one was brave and flew right from the nest to the stump. The second, and smaller one, perched on the nest, afraid to take that first leap. Mom and dad kept calling him and coaching him. He finally took flight, but only made it halfway to a chair on the porch. He climbed up the back of the chair, finally took another leap and glided in right next to his family. I thought to myself how fortunate I was to see this event – how mom and dad coaxed and guided these baby birds on their first flights. And, then I thought of how similar that was to being an Old Stump at Camp Võluja – we tried to help and teach the younger ones, and, in turn, they tried to help and teach us.
I hope to see all the other Old Stumps from Camp Võluja (and all you other veteran campers out there!) back in Lakewood next year! And, I close with the last line of our camp motto: “Long live the youth, and long live the Old Stumps!”
A VERY CONTENT OLD STUMP
Summer camp memories: an Old Stump’s perspective (3)