We had an incredible opportunity a few weeks ago to stay at our friend’s camp on the Clarion River in Pennsylvania. I am still savoring the silence that we captured. I have been to this camp many times over the years with a large community of families. Erie-ites trekking in with loads of food, tents, dogs and kids. Many of my memories involve chasing our children and momentarily glancing up at the beauty captured deep in the Pennsylvania woods. My memories involve canoeing, camp fires overlooking the river, hiking and companionship.
This trip however was very different. It was just us, a family of four. And due to the remaining chilly temps we knew that we would be spending time inside, something I hadn’t done in the past. And for whatever reason, as parents we zoned out on a very important piece of information that created some pretty significant issues for our four year old the first hour after we arrived. The reality is that this camp is really a hunting camp. It also could be considered a museum for embalmed creatures big and small. During the first hour of screams I too could step in to our four year olds perspective. Everywhere we turned we were greeted by deer heads, screeching owls, black squirrels, fish on plaques, a huge turkey and the topper….. a huge black wolf! “Is he real?” she screamed. Damn, he really did look real. And spooky too! These legitimate fears then turned in to the fear of the ant on the floor, the mosquito on the wall. I was witnessing her own “live” nightmare. She eventually calmed down and for the second hour spent time outside and methodically chose spots in the cabin that shielded her view from the animals. By the third hour she was peeking her head in and out of the “living room” where most of these animals lay to rest. She did this on her own without prompting. we remained the witness.
That evening while preparing dinner I heard our daughter talking to someone. “Who are you talking to?” Her reply, “Oh, the deer, I am talking to the animals.” Although not feeling 100 percent safe that first evening, she was more than comfortable by the last. As our time progressed at the cabin she was then able to ask questions about the creatures from a place that was grounded. It was really a gift to be in a space where I could watch my daughters process without my usual distractions. Observing someone face their fear, move in to it at their own pace and eventually make friends with it was an honor to witness.