We sat on the dock with legs dangling over the edge. The water made a gentle sloshing sound along the shore. Crickets chirped and frogs croaked. We looked over the water, enjoying the bright, white reflection of the moon. The moon was full tonight and it seemed so close. Millions of stars dotted the night sky.
James sat beside me, quiet and still, as if any movement or sound he made would make the scene evaporate. He had never been camping before. Living in the city, we don’t get to see the sky like this. The moon is the most visible thing, and maybe a few stars, but street lights block out so much of the light that’s present in the night sky. Here, in almost perfect darkness, it felt like I was seeing every star ever created. The deep blanket of darkness was covered with diamond-like shimmer.
I looked over at my 9-year-old sky watching companion.
“What do you think, James?”
“Is it always like this?”
“Out here, yes. It’s like this most of the time.”
“Are there bears out here? I don’t want to get eaten, Miss Pauline.”
“No, there aren’t any bears,” I laughed, “but there are foxes and other small creatures in the woods.”
“I wish I could stay here longer.”
“A few days ago you said you hated this place. You wanted to go home.”
“Yeah but,” he paused thoughtfully, “I think I like the quiet.”
“Yeah! At home, it’s loud. There’s traffic all the time and our neighbors have parties late at night all the time and they talk real loud on the front step. There’s always police or fire trucks going by with their lights flashing. Sometimes it’s so noisy, I can’t fall asleep.”
“I know what you mean. The city is very different from this place.”
“I used to think quiet was when all that stuff wasn’t happening. But I guess I didn’t really know what quiet was.”
I smiled. James had come such a long way since we arrived at Camp Chitkowsu. He was scared and uncomfortable in this new environment, but with a little coaching and spending some one-on-one time with me exploring the woods, he came around. I think he’s is going to be quite the little scientist! He asked a lot of questions on our nature walks. Sitting out at the lake tonight was the reward for his good behavior and attitude this week.
“I can’t wait to tell my friends about this place,” he said quietly, as we stood to leave the dock.
“Maybe they can come next year,” I suggested.
“That would be cool! Will I be too old to come back next year?”
“Nope! I’m hoping you come back every year. Maybe when you are too old to be a camper, you can be a camp counselor. What do you think about that?”
“Yeah,” he said with excitement, “I want to do that! Then I can show other kids what quiet looks like.”
“You mean, ‘tell,’” I corrected.
“No, I mean ‘show.’ I can’t tell anybody about this kind of quiet. I have to show them.”