Friday, February 10, 2012

Flashback Friday III

Part of the fun of being a twenty-something is doing all sorts of strange things to earn a buck. Eventually you settle into a career and begin to forgo the spontaneity, indecision and uncertainty that are hallmarks of your young working life, but until then, you might end up looking like this:

June 2006

It's a fact that in the summer of 2006, I earned money to dress like this every two weeks.  I was a "village chief" at Camp Ockanickon, capping off a total of six summers and a trove of unforgettable memories.  Each session ended with what we called the Blue Feather Ceremony in which one or two boys from each village would receive the blue feather, camp's highest honor.  Shortly after I finished my time at camp, I got a blue feather tatooed on my right triceps - such is my love for this camp.

Knowing my time at camp was coming to an end, I spent my final year there trying to take advantage of it all, which mostly took the form of running its many trails.  With nearly 600 acres and a spiderweb of trails strung about its landscape, camp is a runner's paradise.  I trained for the first marathon of my life on those trails, usually at dusk, often setting out around the lake and trying to make it all the way around before darkness enveloped the woods.  It was during these runs at dusk that I often encountered several deer.  Two or three off in the distance, eating calmly, raising their heads to watch me bound past, sometimes breaking into a run themselves.

I continued running into the summer, despite the heat and prevalent exhaustion, so much that when it came time for the first Blue Feather Ceremony of the summer, my village chief name became obvious.  Though we took pains to be historically accurate and culturally sensitive to the area's rich Native American history, it didn't stop the village chiefs each year from assuming pseudo Indian-sounding names for this ceremony.  I took my inspiration both from Dances with Wolves and the countless deer I'd seen over the past year.

Looking out over an audience of impressionable young boys, eagerly awaiting the announcement of each village's blue feather recipient as the firelight danced weakly on the trees around them, I bellowed into the darkness, "I, Chief Runs with Deer, declare the Mohawk Tribe, of the Ockanickon Nation, to be in council."

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