Saturday, April 28, 2012

Aloha Nostalgia

I'd rather be outside.  And it's all Aloha's fault.

Yesterday after spending all day at choral festival down in Alexandria, I drove to the Belle Haven Marina and ran to the National Harbor and back.  It was one of those perfect days where you could wear a tank top and shorts and feel completely comfortable, where sunbeams bounced off ripples in the river and a cool breeze kept your feet moving just a little faster than usual.  I do my best thinking on solo runs like this, be it alongside the Potomac or on the stream valley run trails.  This is my heaven on earth.

My thinking yesterday was about Aloha -- how it has shaped my life and made me the person I am.  (For those of you not familiar, Aloha is not a strange reference to Hawaii but rather a summer camp I attended from age 7 to 21.)   This is where I first swam in open water, where I first ran on a trail, and where I first did a road cycling trip.  I ran my first "marathon" around the lake (okay, the Lake Morey Marathon was a misnomer.  It was 6 miles... but at 11 years old it felt like a marathon.)  Looking back on these experiences, I am amazed at all the things we did in our seven weeks each summer.  We put on a full length musical, went white water canoeing, sailed in regattas, built fires, slept under the stars, and trekked the Appalachian Trail.   Some of the accomplishments we achieved are even more impressive to me now -- such as the Purple Albatross Swim (5 miles!), hiking Mount Washington (the tallest peak on the east coast) in a single day, or spending 5 days in the wilderness with only what we brought on our backs.

I was the camp bugler (yup -- I was in charge of waking up the entire camp population.  It's amazing they didn't sleep til 10 a.m. most mornings)  I clearly remember waking up in my open platform tent one morning about ten minutes before I had to blow Reveille -- my 10 year old campers were fast asleep and the world was silent except for the sound of the birds chirping -- and thinking there was nothing better than waking up to this.  To fresh air, swaying trees,  and a view of the green mountains.

Aloha was like a parallel universe.  We weren't allowed to have any electronic devices, which in the 80s wasn't so unheard of, but I imagine now it is a crazy shock to the kids.  After spending 10 months a year glued to their text messages, Facebook, and MP3 players, they are forced to unplug.  As I recall, after a few days we didn't miss our stereos or hairdryers.  During our free time, we were unbelievably creative.  As young campers we devised our own games, crafted friendship bracelets, told each other's fortunes, and wrote songs and skits.

I want my children to have these experiences.  The price tag is nearly what I will pay for Susie's private school tuition next year, so I am not sure if we will be able to swing it (though they will be in public school by then.)  I consider what I learned and experienced during my 80+ collective weeks at camp to be just as valuable as what I learned during my 13 years of schooling.

When I was a public school student we spent three days on location at a camp.  When I first started teaching, the children did an overnight trip at an outdoor education center.  That was soon shortened to a day trip, and as far as I know the outdoor education center is no longer used.  There is a focus on testing and these outdoor experiences the children used to have are no longer deemed valuable.  This makes me sad.

I could go on and on and on, but I won't.  The bottom line (and the connection to my Ironman blog) is.... I love triathlon and running because I'd just rather be outside.  And it's all Aloha's fault.  And I am so grateful.

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