Updated: May 6
Many years ago, when I first arrived at Camp Vega, there were only 137 campers. My husband, Dick Courtiss and I both had worked at camps, but to now operate and own a camp is quite another story. Expanding and building all of the new fields, tennis courts, gymnasium, theatre, dance studios, waterfront docks, dining hall and numerous camper cabins, was challenging, to say the least. Developing and designing the campus to where we are today, was also a monumental task. Thanks to our Head of Building and Grounds, Arthur Dean, our goals were met earlier than expected. Arthur's talents were many, but designing and building structures large or small, was outstanding. Dick excelled at developing, and the two made quite a pair as the landscape was transformed to what we see today.
Sadly, Dick did not live to see his dream of having a field house at camp. He also missed seeing the camp's operation under the direction of Kyle and Emily Courtiss. He would be very proud, like I am, that our legacy continues in maintaining its excellent presence in the world camping community.
Our camp families and alumni were always our biggest supporters. Camp parents always tell me that their fondest memory of childhood was summer camp. Now, they get to see their daughter return home at the end of the summer with an increased self-confidence, sharing joyful moments of her days at Vega. As a camp parent myself, I was able to feel what they when Steve and Kyle returned home from camp.
Our wonderful staff is also our camp family. Caring selflessly each day for each of their cabin campers, or teaching out on the campus, their dedication and loyalty inspired my purpose of continuing in the camping world. The life lessons that we imparted to them, they in turn taught us. The mutual working relationship and trust that ensues in building a team of loyal supporters occurs when a balanced and trusting environment is evident. Apparently we did our job, since the camp continued to flourish and expand. Now we have more than 300 campers. Since I have been at camp every summer since 1975, can you imagine how many hugs and smiles I have received? I can't. I still have to pinch myself to feel how lucky I am.
So, back to Varna. Where did she come from? I first met Varna walking through the woods alongside our waterfront in the spring of 1975. At first I thought she was an apparition, but then I could see she was real. After seeing her warm smile and trusting face, I decided to talk to her. I asked her where she came from and why was she here?
She told me that she could not tell me now where she came from, but she would in the years ahead. In the meantime, she told me that she was the forest guardian of Vega and lived in the woods of Vegabondia alongside our sports field.
Varna then went on to tell me that no one ever sees her except when she reveals herself to the human guardians of Vega, the owners of the camp. Her words resonate in my mind today as if they were yesterday. "I want to partner with you in aiding in the joy and wonder the kids find here. I am the tooth fairy for the children and I also have times when I playfully make a candy tree or make stuffed animals alive. Of course, the campers do not see me do this and I promise you their stuffed animals are not damaged at all." She then added, "Very nice to meet you, Linda!" I will see you but you cannot see me. You can tell he campers and staff my name. You can also share that I live under the tallest tree in Vegabondia. It will be fun for me to watch them guess which tree home I live in."
'Poof', she was not there. Varna had disappeared into thin air.. I looked at the trees overhead and thought I saw the bough of a tree stirring. I wondered then if she could fly. I did not know that at the time. Later on, as each year went by, I learned more and more about Varna. I will be happy to share her diaries and history with you on this blog.
Visit: www.varnachronicles.com to see my latest book, 'The Night The Stuffed Animals Come Alive'.