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Welcome to NBTSC Year #25!

Time: A Rhapsody

What has been is, what is shall last
The present is the focus of the past
The future perishing as it arrives
Becomes the present and itself survives.

Time is not progress, but amount
One vast accumulating store
Laid up, not lost
We do not count years gone
But added to the score of wealth untold
To clime nor class confined
Riches to generations lent.

-Elinor “Gigi” Hagerman Llewellyn

3 campers playing music and singing in 1996
Except for the wristwatch, this 1996 pic could be straight out of 2019. We strive to evolve where we need to, but we’re so grateful that some of the best things about NBTSC stay, essentially, the same.


For the 25th year in a row, I (Grace) taste excitement, gratitude, and a sprinkling of mischief as I anticipate the next season of Not Back to School Camp. I love the sychronicity that while we complete our own quarter-century, we also share with the rest of the Gregorian-calendar world the year 2020 (and its implication of clear vision and hindsight) plus the expansive hope of a fresh decade. 

In celebration of all this accumulated time, this year at NBTSC we plan to communicate often via blog. (Also facebook and Instagram. If we get ambitious, we’ll branch out – twitter? youtube?)

You’ll hear from me occasionally, with memories and ruminations. Other camp admins will share their perspectives and reveal what transpires backstage before each session. We’ll bring you guest posts and interviews featuring camper alumni (all the way back to 1996, plus recent Culminati), staffers past and present, current campers, a camp parent or two. We’ll share camp recipe favorites. We’ll reminisce  – I love my grandmother’s spin on time gone by, reflected in her words above. And we’ll muse about future possibilities.  

We welcome comments and we hope you will join us here. On that note, I’ll share something personal. At the end of each December, I participate in the collective ritual of reflecting on the past year and setting intentions for the new one. Over the decades I’ve shifted from a disjointed and quickly-abandoned laundry list (eat more salad, get up earlier, go for more walks)* to a more meaningful statement about who I (incrementally) hope to become.

*I do still work with these types of laundry-list goals, but as a monthly undertaking rather than a yearly one. Way more effective for me that way. For extremely helpful guidance I turn to James Clear and a few other habit gurus.

This year, catalyzed partly by sadness about our unwelcoming federal government (the harsh immigrant and refugee stuff especially), I’m pondering how my life can serve as an invitation, a welcome, to others. Thoughts range from “have more people over for dinner” to “how can I be truly present with other humans?” to “could I find time to volunteer with Community Supported Shelters?” to “can I rustle up some cash for RAICES or Doctors Without Borders?”  (Not to be all savior-complexy; I’m also pondering the flip side: how I can better notice, acknowledge, accept, and revel in the overtures that others extend to me, whether these overtures take shape as a smile, an email, an invitation to DJ at an ecstatic dance retreat, or the suggestion that we instigate a monthly brunch date.) 

My personal 2020 intention to be welcoming extends to my vision for this year’s NBTSC. At this point my influence at NBTSC is both significant and limited:

Significant because as the executive director I still make – or at least sign off on – all the major decisions including who will staff each session, key changes and new directions, policy shifts, etc. And because for our first 20-ish years my hands were deep in almost every aspect of camp, from the development of evening events to our menu to how we scheduled our worktraders to our detailed expectations for staff advisors to how we engaged with people who violated camp agreements.

Limited because I no longer tinker with all the micro-domains of camp, nor participate in every session – in fact, these last few years my attendance has been pretty minimal. The synergy of each session staff team, combined with the specific campers who gather, obviously influences camp way more potently than many of my policies and other attempts at ship-steering. Even back when I showed up at every session, ran every meeting, stayed up late every night, and had hugged every camper** and learned their name by the end of the second evening – still, even then, one person and their stubborn vision is not much of a counterweight to the collective forcefield of a wild, creative, energetic, passionate human throng such as ours. 

**None of us, of course, hug every camper these days. Probably there were always folks who didn’t want to be hugged but who rolled with it as best they could. Now, like the rest of the world, we’re much more mindful about consent for all kinds of touch.  Still, it’s one of the big things about NBTSC: there’s a ton of hugging.

So anyway (digression is my dna), I intend that this year we deeply welcome, even more than ever before, each human being who is part of our community. That means every camper and every staff person. It also means – in different ways – parents, the site staff of Camp Myrtlewood and Farm & Wilderness (who so beautifully welcome us), alumni, and miscellaneous guests and support people.

I don’t yet know all the details of how we’ll bring this intention to life, come August. That will depend mostly on the specific genius and generous spirit of session director Matt Sanderson – whom I trust and admire more than words can express – and the rest of the 2020 staff.  But I’d like to begin today, January 1, by saying that I’m so glad you’re here*** – for starters, right here on this blog with us. (Also – back to the personal realm – maybe in real life, if you happen to pass through Eugene, Oregon. I do love to connect face to face, and when camp’s not in session there sometimes arises an opportunity to chat relaxedly over a cup of tea in my garden or kitchen.) Please, open the door and come on in.***   

***a couple songs I love – which almost made it into the playlist for that ecstatic dance retreat I’m DJing this Saturday night – and that express what I’m going for in 2020.

Singing, oops I mean signing, off with love and gratitude,

Evan Wright and Grace Llewellyn at Not Back to School Camp, 2002
That’s me and longtime NBTSC director, staffer, beloved friend, and former camper Evan Wright in 2002 (in the Myrtlewood kitchen, pre-remodel).











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