Several Squam Art Workshops ago Elizabeth and her crew put a book in our totebag. A book that chronicles the history of Rockywold-Deephaven Camps where SAW takes place. I admit, I never read it. I put it on the shelf and it sat there with lots of other books and remained unopened. But this year, someone (I’m assuming it was Elizabeth during her opening night remarks, but my memory is shot at this point so I can’t be sure) spoke of it and of the two women, Alice Mabel Bacon and Mary Alice Ford, who began the story that would lead to this camp and eventually to the experiences we all had there this week.
So I came home Sunday and read the book cover to cover. And I was blown away.
I was stilled by their story. The dedication they had to this spot, yes. But also their dedication to serving others, which they believed was essential to living our best life. I was impressed with their vision, their tireless work against prejudice, their belief in tradition and creativity. Their celebration of nature and their understanding that Squam Lake and the Rockywold-Deephaven Camp was a place where families and friends would come year after year to relax, reflect, reconnect, and rejoice. A place where nature would provide spiritual grounding. A place that would be near and dear to so many hearts for decades to come.
One line in the book jumped out at me, a way the camps have often been described, champagne in a tin cup. A place so simple yet filled with the finest bubbles--beautiful scenery, cool mountain air, a clear lake, loon song, coyote howl, warm fires, good healthy food, sturdy docks, a generous and attentive staff, solid cabin walls, stepping stone paths built by many hands a century ago. Spaces to create, to laugh, to cry, to commune, to sit in silence, to meditate, to find yourself broken open. Spaces to put yourself back together again. A place of belonging and inspiration. Frank Perkins, the camp manager during the 1980s, greeted the guests with the words “welcome to your spirit’s home”. Oh, yes, Frank, you could not have been more right.
I finished reading the book and then dug through a box to find a copy of an email I had written to Elizabeth after returning home that first year. I had explained to her that coming to SAW was not simply about the art classes, but also a stretching and pushing myself in a direction I had never gone before. Deep down I knew I would discover something about myself if I could only be brave enough to journey alone to that beautiful spot. So many people have been transformed there during the last four years. I have read beautiful blog posts and emails and letters retelling stories of shifts and changes in many lives, some small and some tsunamis of epic proportions. My own life has gone through a metamorphosis. Sometimes so painful, difficult, and emotional I would think I couldn’t take another step. But I would keep the memories of each of my SAW experiences in the forefront of my mind, remembering the way I had felt seen, heard, and accepted; felt the connectedness with nature and my fellow humans that Alice Mabel Bacon and Mary Alice Ford were intent on creating when they birthed the idea for the camp at the turn of the century--intrinsically knowing this was how I wanted to feel all the time, in every aspect of my life.
And this year in Brae Cove I felt it once again, surrounded by women who get me I was reminded of something I know in my heart: life is simple--take risks, love deeply, create beauty, serve others, respect nature, be brave. I believe there are two women, gone from this earth for many years now, who would be so proud to know Squam Art Workshops has taken up residence in their beloved camp. A place where we let out our hearts. And let go.
I think from now on I'll be drinking my champagne from a tin cup.