By Margaret Loomis
Our folk music and dance community has given us many invaluable gifts, including friendships that may span decades. Some camp friends we see frequently, or now and then, and some only at camp once a year. Some of these friends become our cabin mates, either by happenstance or by design.
And speaking of design… when you think about packing for camp, what goes on your list? Clothes for hot weather, and chilly weather, and don’t forget wet weather, instrument(s), song words, comfortable dance shoes, earplugs, sheets and blankets, toothbrush… the usual stuff. And what else?
When we move into our cabin, we set the stage for our week. Here’s a sample list of extra items that appear in Cabin 16 at Iroquois Springs at the beginning of camp each August: two room-size oriental-style carpets and several long Balkan carpet runners to fill in the gaps, small bedside rugs, occasional wall hangings, five extra fluffy bathmats for underfoot luxury in our bathroom, fantastic strings of bright, colorful lights for our porch, a collection of illuminated Indian stars for indoor cabin mood and décor, a collapsible rocking chair for our porch, extra folding chairs for indoor entertaining (and music practice), a round brass table for Turkish coffee-making apparatus and assorted snacks (which can also be found in cabin cubbies), three AeroPress coffee makers and gourmet coffees, a communal hanging rack for clothes, several wall clocks, an electric tea kettle… and a minimum of three santouris. Sometimes as many as five. Oh, sorry, the santouris aren’t part of the “extras” list, they are essential for our cabin.
Cabin 16 is “Santouropolis,” so named for our santouri population and supportive, accommodating cabin mates who are accepting of early morning tuning (“plink, plink, plink”) and even say they enjoy napping during our afternoon practice sessions. But you don’t need santouris to have an inviting, warmly decorated cabin where you can enjoy snatches of time between classes, parties, practice sessions and other commitments; or where you can invite new and old friends in for a moment of music, talking, snacking, or drinking your beverage of choice.
So… how does a cabin like this happen? For us, a group of long-time camp friends who have mostly “bunked in” together for many years, it has evolved over time – we’ve been lugging all this gear to camp for just about as long as we can remember. Much of it is now routine, but there is also some planning involved, and we typically chatter amongst ourselves over email for a month or so leading up to camp. If someone can’t make it in a given year, it’s “Who can bring fans this time?” or, “Who will bring bathmats this year?” Or nightlights, or extra rugs.
Why do we do this? Because it’s fun and it makes us happy. We enjoy our home-away-from home. It’s collaborative. It’s atmospheric and visually pleasing. We enjoy it when a cabin mate brings a friend by, or someone sticks their head into the cabin looking for one of us, and their eyes widen in surprise as they look around. Admittedly, bringing all of our cabin accoutrements got a little more cumbersome when we moved to Iroquois Springs in 2005, where we’re not allowed to drive up to our cabin to drop things off. But we’re still schlepping our gear, and we still feel it’s worth it. Even for just a week.
Anyone can spruce up their cabin space to make it more comfortable and appealing. If you know any of your cabin mates ahead of time, you can do a little pre-camp planning. If you don’t know who you’ll be living with for the week, you can bring a few items on your own, for your own area and/or for shared areas – a rug, some lights for your porch, something bright or fun to hang on your walls… get creative. Start somewhere and see where it goes, and maybe you will inspire others in your cabin to join in. Your own, personalized cabin atmosphere might just evolve over time. We do all plan to be going to camp forever, don’t we?