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The Paths of Old Indian

15 08 2012

Wow, things have been hectic. Here’s a mini update of my life… I recently joined a Rotary club and they are keeping me pretty busy working on their website. If you aren’t familiar they are an incredible service organization and working with them has been an enriching experience. I’ve been on the road a lot, Summer always gets me itching for a road trip. Just got back from a great visit with my sister.

Basically, life has been pretty crazy. I wish I could be more active here but if you’ve read “What Shootabout is All About” you know this is a place for me to vent a little and relax. If I try to do that every day it turns into another “I have to get this done” so with no regret I’m promising that even if my posts are less often, I will do my best to make them high quality and personal, I wouldn’t be comfortable sharing anything less with you.

You may notice a few ads on the site now. This is mostly being done out of curiosity. I ran them for a while with them hidden from WordPress Users, an awesome feature, I’m giving them a trial run right now. For those of you who are interested I may try to write a post slightly more about what that experience is like. By the same token, I don’t want to lose anyone over this because you guys are a lot more important to me than a few dollars so let me know your honest opinions, I have pretty thick skin.

Camp Old Indian is a beautiful expanse of land nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I spent a week every summer for several years as a camper and in 2007 and 2008 I spent 2 months there as a Staff Member. This place holds my heart in a special way so instead of the usual technical tips I’m going to share a short narrative about one of the most spectacular experiences of my life. Quite honestly the story and the pictures stand by themselves and don’t fit together except for they both happened in the same camp. If you don’t feel like reading I won’t be offended, the story is more for myself, something I wanted to know was out there for someone who needs it to find it one day.

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In the Summer of 2008 I met someone who would change the way I looked at myself and others. I was no stranger to hardship. After 9 years of being home schooled, public high school ate me alive. I didn’t make friends quickly and the crowd I did get “in” with were outcasts themselves. My extra curricular was the Boy Scouts. The program pulled me out of my shell but it was a rough trip. My fellow scouts came from varied backgrounds but all were rough southerners who liked a good fist fight as much as the next guy. At 16, I was taking pictures and writing poetry, you can imagine the road to acceptance came with a few bruises.

Camp Old Indian was a place to be reinvented each Summer. The staff were amazing. Most of them tended to be on the nerdy side and even the “tough guys” had a hipster edge. These were my people, so I got a job there the first Summer I was able.

I finished my lifeguard training and set up shop on the waterfront. I spent most of my time at the upper lake teaching rowing but I came down to first lake to teach a learn to swim class for an hour every day.

I saw a young man sitting in the back with one of his leaders, eyes cast down and fully dressed in shorts and a t-shirt. I finished my introduction and sent the kids to get their buddy tags so we could go out on the dock. The leader called me over and introduced Isaac to me. Isaac had Autism. The leader, his father, let me know he didn’t expect much but he appreciated anything I could do.

I spoke with Nate who offered to take the rest of my class so I could work with Isaac. While the rest of the boys shuffled into the waist deep water, I sat on the steps and asked Isaac about the video games he liked.

He eagerly explained the finer point of Zelda, Mario and Donkey Kong, all the while  taking special care not to look at the water. After nearly 45 minutes I asked him if he’d ever swam. He told me he’d fallen into a pool once but that was the only time. I knew I had my work cut out for me but after an hour of talking I was Isaac’s friend and he trusted me.

The next day I sat at Isaac’s table in the dining hall. We talked about Baseball, like most sports I knew next to nothing so he was excited to explain the rules and what the different players do. I spoke to a few other leaders in Isaac’s troop and found out he had been talking about me. It meant a lot to know I was touching him simply by being attentive.

We walked down to the waterfront and I told Isaac I wanted to get in the water. After a bit of gentle convincing he agreed to sit on the dock while I waded. He looked a little nervous, still wearing shorts and a t-shirt but he agreed to leave his socks and shoes behind. We talked about fishing, yet another topic I have limited knowledge on. I made a big show of grabbing something under the dock and covered it in my hand. He became more and more curious as I peered into my clasped hands and to his delight, I revealed a sleek brown frog. I had him now.

The next day he arrived in a swim suit. He nervously stood at the top of the steps as a beckoned him into the shallow water. He eventually slipped in and after a few minutes was prowling the edge of the dock catching frogs and eagerly bringing them to me to examine. I released one into the water and showed Isaac how it swam. With the help of a body board, Isaac learned the frog kick.

On our final day after a brief frog hunt we moved to the other side of the dock where the water was up around his shoulders. He eventually was able to abandon the body board and use his arms and legs to pull himself through the water for short stretches. His face was filled with pure joy. A completely different boy than the one that joined my class Monday.

I spent the rest of the Summer thinking about Isaac. What brought him into the water. I realized it was me. It didn’t have to be me specifically but it was. He needed someone to believe in him, someone to encourage him, someone to teach him; and it was me. I was honored and profoundly impacted by this experience. The challenges I had to overcome were put into perspective. The most important “path” you can choose in life is to help others. Not for what you can get out of it, but because of what you have to give.

Thanks for bearing with me. I know this post is both longer and very different from my usual but it’s something I wanted to share. In the near future I have some more shots from Old Indian to share with a very exciting look at long exposure photography of a waterfall. 🙂

Thanks for stopping by and God Bless You!

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