I was very hesitant when Isabella, who was returning to Morning Star Camp this year without big sister Gabbi, wanted to stay for two weeks.I thought that this was a very long time for a homeschooled girl to be away from her family. Not that I didn't trust the Sisters implicitly, I have seen few religious with a deeper love and appreciation for the needs of children. I couldn't wait to hear of the lessons in virture, sports, woodlore, crafts, friendship and the Faith which Isabella would bring home from her stay at camp. Plus, the sense of pride and independence which comes from sticking it out during inevitable bouts of homesickness.
I decided to allow Isabella to stay the extra week when we arrived at the Camp, and she immediately disappeared to find last year's friends, leaving me with her bags. She quickly found her cabin, got her things, and installed them in her brand new bunk, and returned to lobby for the second week. I paid the fee, and enjoyed a tour of the spanking new Monfort Retreat (see a slideshow of the construction here) located on top of a mountain in Washington New Hampshire (all right, it's technically a hill, but, to a flatlander like me it's a mountain).
Buildings are log cabins, and we watched them going up by means of beautiful slide shows set to music during the school year, so I was anxious to see the nearly finished product. The cafeteria is cavernous, with high ceilings dotted with rustic chandeliers, and a piano which fills the room with music. Excess noise is absorbed by the log walls, and a large covered outdoor eating area ensures that the girls will be in touch with the natural beauty of the woodlands, no matter what the weather. The log chapel will have arched screened windows, looking out on the quiet lake, and the river which feeds it. A log crucifix over the altar is reminiscent of the one Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha may have made for herself in her long house, not too far away in upstate New York. I breathed in the moist balsam-scented air, one of my favorite smells in the world, and enjoyed the peace of the place. Nothing to hear but the sounds of nature, punctuated by the delighted squeals of friends reuniting and discovering their new campground. Three circles of fragrant new log cabins named after saints greeted the girls.
It was hard to tear myself away from this piece of heaven, but the sisters assured me that plans for a mother's retreat were in the works, so with that promise, and a good push from Isabella, who wanted her adventure to begin, Gabbi, Christy and I left Camp Morning Star to begin the long ride home.
My cell phone had no reception at the camp, and that had been our planned means of communication, so my contact with my middle daughter was limited to two brief phone calls, where she sounded so animated about her adventures in camp, that my missing her was well worth it. Her father was so intrigued by my vivid descriptions of the primeval beauty of the rustic camp set deep in the pine woodlands, that, despite painful sciatica, he offered to drive up to retrieve his nature girl at the end of the two weeks. We left before dawn, using the road Gabbi and I mapped out to go home, and were the second family to arrive at Camp, to the utter shock of Isabella who expected us to be late. She was two shades darker, and that included her clothing, died deep brown from the black mud left by the construction around the camp, but radiantly happy. We helped her clean up the cabin, retiring the mattresses for the season, checking out her upper bunk (which she did NOT fall out of) and admiring the names of the cabins. Hers was Blessed Kateri. Each morning, at reveille, if her cabin didn't show up in their PJ's for prayers, they would be a sister, calling, "Blessed Kateri, time to get up!"Daily Latin Mass and rosary marked their days, and everyone wore their scapular. Girls were cheerfully helping the sisters clean up, and carrying one another's bags to their parent's cars.
Isabella and I took Christy for a tour of the lakeshore, where the rowboats and kayaks were launched, and where, in the future, there will be a beach. I loved seeing her familiarity with the camp, which, only two short weeks ago had been uncharted territory for her. I had been worried that the suburban girl might be overwhelmed by the north woods, but Isabella was in her element in the woods, much like her mother at her age. I always dreamed of a vacation like Isabella has had; adventure in nature, camaraderie and the Faith all blended into two unforgettable weeks.
I'll let Bella tell you about what she did when she gets a chance to write, and she will show you her fascinating photos of nature and girlish antics.
None of them, I regret to say, are of her, since her camera was packed deep in her bag when we arrived. I forgot to ask for it, since I was so taken with the sheer beauty of the camp and wanted to experience it as fully as possible before it was time to leave. I'm sure Isabella will show up in the camp slideshow, which we'll be linking to here.