A Device-Free Summer

When UJ and I were kids, we spent a few weeks one summer at Camp Y-Noah, located somewhere in northern Ohio.  We took hikes, made crafts, swam in a pond, sang around a campfire, slept in a cabin, learned how to ride a horse, played capture the flag, and ate camp food in a large mess hall.  We also shot bb guns, tried to hit a target with a bow and arrow, and used an outhouse for the first time.  As a tubby, bookish kid, I wasn’t a huge fan of camp, frankly, but it was a good experience to try different things.

ssnl-campynoah-2Those camps are still around.  And, surprisingly to some, they remain attractive to kids — even though many of the camps ban the smartphones, iPads, laptops, and other electronic gizmos that kids are supposed to be addicted to these days.

According to the American Camp Association, there are about 8,400 sleepaway camps in the United States, and about 90 percent of them ban campers from bringing personal electronic devices.  And while some kids — and, surprisingly, parents — try to sneak their way around the rules, and camp counselors have to spend part of their time on the lookout for devices that violate the camp rules, most campers apparently quickly adapt to a life that is focused on the outdoors, without texting, or YouTube, or handheld games.  When they’ve got other fun things to do, the urge to constantly text their friends is apparently less compelling.

I’m not a diehard opponent of technology; electronic devices are a reality of the modern world and kids inevitably are going to use them.  But I do think that it’s good for people to step away from constant connectivity now and then, and enjoy some fresh air and exercise.  I’m glad to see that so many camps have decided to stick to their (bb) guns on this issue and take steps to get campers to leave their devices behind and see what nature offers instead.  I’m not surprised that kids are enjoying the break.


Rain Affective Disorder

Central Ohio has had an extraordinary run of weather this summer.  It has rained at least once every day since June 23 — that is, more than two weeks straight — and the forecast for the next two days is for more rain.

IMG_4036We wake up to the low rumble of thunder and the flash of lightning.  We can’t take morning walks because of storms.  Traffic is clogged and slow on our commutes to work because of the downpours.  During the day we look out at angry skies and hear the rain slamming against the window.  At night the patter of rain lulls us to sleep.

When you live in a place, you come to accept the prevailing weather patterns there — or you move.  In Columbus, we understand that the winter months will be overcast and gray, but the trade off is supposed to be sunny and hot summer months where you can play golf, ride your bike, have cookouts, go to the swimming pool, and catch lightning bugs at night.  So far, that hasn’t happened.  People who bought season-long family pool passes are tearing their hair out.  Kids at camp are sitting in soggy clothes, sick to death of doing crafts rather than learning how to paddle a canoe.

People here are trying to maintain a positive attitude about this.  Our lawns look great.  Our reservoirs are full.  And we know that, someday soon, the rains must inevitably end.  But the constant nature of the rain can’t help but have a gloomy impact.  During the winter we endured the bitter, and now this summer we’re not getting the sweet — and the summer is almost half gone.  Our window of opportunity is closing.

Rain, rain, go away!