Another year, when I was about seven or eight years old, I decided it would be fun to be the ruler of the camp. “I am the queen!” I declared. My loyal subjects, who must have been younger to actually play along, had the task of hunting down my crush and pinning him on the grass so I could smother him with kisses. They finally captured him in front of Humility. I think he enjoyed the chase, but once he was caught and I claimed my prize, the fun was over for him. After seeing his reaction, the fun was over for me as well.
Honesty was the easiest rock to climb. Its whole side was slanted at about a forty-five degree angle, and there were plenty of nooks and ledges on its surface. Even the youngest children could sit on the surface of honesty. That made it a crowded rock, and prodded me to climb higher than the little ones. Whenever I climbed to the top of Honesty and looked over the steep side, I felt daring and proud, until I glanced across and saw other children my age perched on top of Faith. Faith was somewhat hidden from view by the same evergreen tree used to reach Love. It was also a rock with steep sides, and I never attempted to climb it.
What I remember about those days is the happiness I felt. I envision myself always smiling, laughing, hollering—I was savoring the joy of life without even realizing it. By the time I became a teenager, I still loved returning to Quinipet, but the sense of mystery and excitement had diminished. I attended youth group retreats and summer camp, but we didn’t climb the rocks anymore, and we didn’t explore the landscape that surrounded us. At one point they must have demolished the haunted house, because the hilltop was suddenly bare, as if the building had never existed.
One summer night, when I was fifteen years old, I isolated myself from the dance taking place at Jesse Lee to go outside and get some fresh air. The sky was completely dark, not affected by the light pollution to the west, and it was filled with an endless array of stars. Although I had been feeling lonely at the dance, once I was sitting on the lawn looking up at the sky, I felt a sense of pure peace. Maybe that was the last time I experienced the magic ofShelterIsland.
In spite of losing touch with the feeling of fascination that once existed for me there, some of my fondest memories belong to that island between the forks. To this day, when gusty winds blow through the trees, I hear the sounds ofShelterIsland. When the sky is dark and the stars are bright, I see a night at Quinipet. When the smoky smell of dying autumn leaves is all around, I am breathing the air along the main road of the camp. When I walk across a creaky porch or hear a screen door slam shut, I am back at Jesse Lee. Although the memories cannot be made anew, their richness will always remain with me.
Pages: 1 2