Time Spent Alone
A personal reflection

 

    One of the high points of my visit to Sequoyah, in April 2002, was the time I spent alone after I bade farewell, first to my fellow Sequoyans, then to Barry Durand, who had been part of the effort to preserve and protect our priceless heritage.

       Then, it was just Sequoyah and me.

     Barry had told me of his impression, based on encounters with old campers, that although summer camp is necessarily a communal experience, revisiting Sequoyah after many years is deeply personal, often impossible to communicate in words.  This observation recalled for me one of the last Sequoyah brochures.

  

This Sequoyah brochure cover translates
the beautiful Cherokee calligraphy invented by Chief Sequoyah.

        Yes, Barry had caught the essence of Camp Sequoyah's Purpose:  to give boys time to be alone, to teach self-sufficiency, by engaging them in outside challenges, to pull them from the self-absorption of childhood.

      C. Walton "Chief" Johnson furthered this purpose by maintaining an exquisite balance between rigor and fun.  While Chief indeed emphasized self-reliance, he never meant the Sequoyah experience to be a Darwinian ordeal.  Certainly our cabins were without facilities, but they were designed to provide the basic comforts:  bunks, closets, good roofs, raised floors.  We got three squares a day, and activities were presented as challenges — but fun challenges.  For example, we might return from a "Sloppy Slurch" all muddy and wet, laughing ourselves silly, but next morning our aching bodies would remind us that the "slurch" up Reems Creek actually had been an all-day rock climb.  Chief recognized, that even boys who were not made for physical challenges could benefit by activities scaled to their abilities.  Thus, a camper was free to choose the difficulty of his weekly hike and to engage in crafts or riflery, instead of judo or canoeing...or swimming that frigid lake. (Now, there was a character builder!  Alas, I went the sybarite's way and opted for swimming, sailing and skiing the warm waters of Canoe Camp.)

      Though Sequoyah was enriched by father-son legacies, Old Sequoyans do not have a "Class of..." or varsity sports or fraternities on which to focus (and which schools exploit to maintain alumni support).  Yes, ours was indeed a communal experience, "stouthearted men who stick together man-to-man," but the focus was less on the social experience than our personal relation to the natural world around us.  But if we believe in the Sprit of Sequoyah, then we can preserve its legacy individually, by our lives and through our children, and by sharing your reminiscences and mementoes here.

       Returning to Sequoyah is a powerful experience, which transcends nostalgia.  To be sure, there's a Proustian sense of returning to a lost part of one's life, due to the air that envelops you as you step out of your car air redolent of fresh, sweet woods.  And no longer subjected to continuous trampling, the baseball-tetherball-frisbee field above the dining pavilion has become a verdant campus. 

      Then, there's the silence.  Only a few were lucky enough, as campers, to have communed with Sequoyah "off season," away from the bustle and cacophony of summer camp life.  This silence is a new Sequoyah experience, a profound one which, as never before, will transport you to the inner space of time spent alone.

Jack M. Rice