Your Stories

Anything becomes interesting, if you look at it long enough. 
-Gustav Flaubert.

We grew up south the 45th parallel.  For us, to go to the lake, you call it a cottage.  For others, raised above that line, you call it a camp.  Folks in the north like the rustic sound of "camp," as if you could pull out a couple of stakes and be done with it.  That is why a place called Camp Van Vac is such an mystery.  It is a camp that is a hundred years old.  

I have since discovered that such camps have long lives when they are pitched on the mother lode.  Unlike Las Vegas, where one goes to seek anonymity; Van Vac is a place to be known.  What happened there did not stay there.  It was the stuff of legend.  

There is a postcard, sold in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.  It is a picture of a road sign.  The sign says, "End of the World 3, Houghton 5."  It is so with Van Vac, a place located beyond the end of the world.  It is a place where one can venture, in idle conversation, to find common cause with the rest of the human race.  . . a place where work on a jigsaw puzzle is not about the picture, but about fellow puzzlers.  Of such was our era in the Van Vac story.  We were far away from the hard scrabble existence of Van and Kate Harris on the burned out shores of a northern lake.  Camp was, for us, a place of imagination, encouragement, rest and encounter.  

The early days of the week are a kind of fog.   New residents walk about with our "seeing eye coffee cups".  We never venture far from our cabins, where the urge to nap might leave us collapsed along the path, like spent balloons.  But gradually, we get up our courage to join the afternoon group on the dock on sunny days, or dip into a good read on the rainy ones.

The small things that one does not notice become central to camp life.  Weather bursts of horizontal rain can keep the conversation going for a long time.  The evidence of wildlife, whether fish, bear or wolf occupies the same space.  

By day 7 or 8, the urge to express oneself in pictures or paragraphs takes over.  The fruits of a good life, well lived, bubble up to the top.  They take their place in one's soul, even as the annual departure looms near.  

The one great gift of Camp Van Vac is to be the jumping off point for a few days in the wilds of the Boundary Waters.  But that sort of thing is for the adventurous and the young.  

Flaubert had it exactly right.  There is something about looking at it long enough that creates of a frazzled soul, a verdant point of interest.  Here's to your next 100 years, Camp Van Vac.