I think it was when I woke up to ethereal piano notes drifting across the forest and, after climbing from my sleeping bag and crunching up the bark covered path to the main field, strolled to the group of six people practicing capoeira as the dawn sunlight filtered through the redwoods.
Or maybe it was when I screamed at the top of my lungs, joining a mob of 50 or 60 people named things like Nacho Supreme and Chupa Chup in urgently imploring a person named Sunset to “let’s go,” as she brought the full weight of her army of groupies to bear in a life or death game of Rock Paper Scissors Rockstar.
It could have been when I was lying down at the end of a day, my head propped up on a pillow shared with Nacho Supreme in a tea yurt itself shared by dozens of prone people while a live band dressed somewhere between traditional Native American and traditional Hippie pranced around us singing (we were all fully clothed).
But really, the most incredible part was the rules:
Rule #1: No technology
Rule #2: No names
Rule #3: No “work talk”
Rule #4: No time
These created a structure ensuring that, whether you were competing in nose jousting, writing fiction on a typewriter overlooking a river, or doing standup for the first time on stage, whatever you were doing, you were 100% there. No expectations on who you were supposed to be, nothing to do, nowhere to go. Just here, just now, just us.
Laura (Nacho Supreme, who did standup on stage) and I (Skittles, who learned Capoeira, at least a little) call this magical place deep in the redwoods of Mendocino, California, “Camp.” Others call it Camp Grounded. We went for my 30th birthday in 2015, and had the honor of meeting its amazing founder, Fidget Wigglesworth, AKA Levi Felix, along with so many incredible people who we will only ever know as Honey Bear, or Chief.
In those 72 hours without time, I lost myself for the first time in a long time, in the pure joy of being. As Fidget said: “We’re all fucked. We’re all going to be fine. We’re all in this together.”
Laura and I were devastated to learn in the years following that Fidget was battling brain cancer, and later that he had passed away at 32 years old. I was 32 then as well. I was heartbroken that the world lost such an amazing human being, but will forever be grateful for the magic that he gifted to all of us.
I imagine he’d be smiling now, underneath that great big bushy non-ironic mustache, to learn that Camp Grounded has been rebooted.
Maybe I’ll see some of you there. Although neither of us will know it.