Camp. If you live in Maine, or spend at least part of your summertime in this magnificent state, the word “camp” is a surefire shortcut to a smile. Furthermore, that smile likely has roots back to some of the finest memories of your childhood.
In Maine, the word camp has two distinct meanings. The first camp is a place where energetic counselors, seemingly wise beyond their years, impart upon you a knowledge and love of the great outdoors. This is experiential learning at its finest. It’s the perfect antidote to classroom learning, and its lessons become woven into your very fabric. Chances are high that you will carry these childhood experiences with you for the rest of your life. For all of these reasons, our camp programs at Maine Audubon are exceptionally popular and often sell out quickly.
The second meaning of “camp” in Maine is a simple cabin, often overlooking a body of water. Here, you also learn about Maine’s outdoors, but rather than counselors, the wisdom is passed on by family members – who might have gained their knowledge in Maine Audubon camps and programs. Like many in Maine, my camp is tiny, spartan and low maintenance. The focus is not on the structure, but the outdoor space that surrounds it. When people talk about their time at camp, they rarely regale you with tales of being inside. Rather, the stories are about swimming, paddling, campfires, fishing, exploring, and observing nature – including participating in our annual Loon Count. These camps also become part of our fabric – and that of our family. That is why they are cherished and often passed on from one generation to the next.
L.L.Bean had a sign at his camp, the Dew Drop Inn. It read simply: “If you get lost, head straight back to camp”. Whether we realize it in the moment or not, our camp experiences are almost always the foundation to our connection with the natural world and to the development of our core values. Going back to camp in either the literal or figurative sense is a re-centering experience. In the hustle-bustle of everyday life, it provides time to reflect on what is really important in life.
Going to camp can be a life changing experience. We have staff members who trace their affinity to Maine Audubon’s mission back to attending one of our camps during their youth. One of these is Eliza Donoghue, our Senior Policy and Advocacy Specialist. She honors the experience of attending Maine Audubon camp programs by making a career out of passionately advocating on behalf of Maine’s wildlife and habitat.
As you’ve seen in the news, the first regular session of the 129th Legislature just adjourned. Eliza is pleased to report that there were many big wins for Maine’s wildlife and habitat. Eliza will be posting a full update soon, but notes that Governor Janet Mills signed bills into law that will reduce carbon emissions, increase renewable energy development, cut plastic pollution and keep Maine’s rivers and lakes clean. Of course, our advocacy work is far from over. The legislature still hasn’t agreed on whether to send bond questions to Maine voters in the fall – Maine Audubon will be working with its peers to secure funding for the Land for Maine’s Future program and for Stream Smart culverts.
Eliza is not alone. It is not lost on me that the combined result of all of Maine Audubon’s members, volunteers and staff is that Maine’s wildlife is largely thriving (we have more loons, eagles, piping plovers, etc. than we did in prior decades) and that means that all our collective “camp” experiences are richer. As I have said before, an essential element of the Maine experience is enjoying our distinctive and amazing wildlife and habitat. By working together, we ensure that will remain the case for future generations.
How have your “camp” experiences shaped who you are today? How are you ensuring that succeeding generations enjoy the same opportunities?