I went to summer camp for two summers in a row. I absolutely hated it. I hated the mosquitoes and bugs and pooping in the woods. I hated that every time we camped, a monsoon of rain flooded the campground, our tents, and soaked our sleeping bags. I hated kayaking in the lake and tipping over. I hated cooking my food over a fire and it still being cold and I hated the stupid birds that crowed and chirped so early in the morning.
Looking back at thirteen-year-old Taron’s summer camp experience, I wish that I could have appreciated it more. If you would have told me now, that I would go to the woods for fun, to decompress, I would have clearly called you crazy. Now I realize, the noise and chaos is what I didn’t like. I sit here on a broken dam that is graffitied by college kids who have since graduated. The comfortable silence washes over me like the pebbles in the stream at my feet.
One of the things I remember most about summer camp was the bugs. Even now, I can feel their sharp bites on a thigh they merely saw as a roadblock in the way of a new adventure.
At the time, I hated ants. If I’m being honest, I still hate them. I liked that, just like me, they had a life of their own. They had a goal and a purpose and they were willing to fight anything that got in their way. These little black bugs were powerful, strong, and fearless. I have the bites on my thigh to prove it.
Ants were my creatures. I created a life for them as I waited for someone to ask me to be their friend on the dining hall stoop at 4H camp. I create a life for them now, as I sit in peaceful silence with crows cawing in the trees above me.
The ants continue to march forward. They focus on the issues in front of them and tackle each issue one bite at a time. They use the community they’ve built and lean on each other for support and guidance.
Regrettably, one of my favorite activities was stepping on anthills and watching the colony rush out. I know, I know- I was an ant bully and I shouldn’t have destroyed their home because I wouldn’t like it if someone destroyed mine. But I thought the community was so fascinating. When one ant is in danger, they all are. They collectively work together to neutralize threats and rebuild their home. These ant colonies are what teacher’s envisioned for group projects. Every ant has a role and they work together toward an intended outcome.
If I’m being quite honest, I haven’t seen an ant since the world began to shut down. It makes me wonder, did the ants know that my Earth would stop spinning? Why did the world collectively realize they hadn’t seen an ant in months? Had I simply been so wrapped up in my own head that I forgot there was one outside of my own?