Ten Years in Balsam
The following is the back story of the water bottle found in Balsam – from the water bottle’s perspective…
I remember her clearly. The first camper to come into my life. I was sitting in a box, in the dark and hot canteen, with all my cohorts. Some red, some green. I remember the lights flickering on. The usual commotion of campers lining up for the afternoon canteen run. It was especially hot day, because I remember welcoming the breeze of the window opening, despite dreading the onslaught of children, one possibly coming for me.
And then it happened. I was mid sentence with big red, when the hand snatched me up out of my box, all my friends descending form sight. I was racing to the window. The one-way window, where things left the canteen, never to return. The light was getting brighter, and as soon as I breached the walls, I felt the soft touch of another hand sweeping me away. Blinded by the sun, all I could feel was the small warm hand, a quick pulse, and the fast motion of swinging back and forth…back and forth…I thought I would be sick. And then as my vision adjusted, I could see the world around me. Trees and rocks, wooden buildings and children everywhere.
It wasn’t long before I was filled with water (broccoli tasting water I might add) and began my journey of use for my new friend. I followed her everywhere. To classes, off the diving board. I was given a home in her cubby. I even trekked into the woods a time or two sleeping close by in case she thirsted late in the night. And after camp, I followed her home and became part of the family of mugs and glasses, bottles and thermoses. Sometimes I went to school, and stayed at the bedside, other times I would ride through the dishwasher when her mother thought I was too dirty for drinking. Let me tell you, the dishwasher was my favorite. It was like a summer pool party with sprinklers and slip’n’slide. And then, before I knew it we were back to camp. And though I saw the canteen, I never went back, and neither did I want to.
Every now and again, I would see some of my friends from the dark warm box, and we would catch up on our paths. For the most part we were all relieved to be out. But every so often you would see one who had lost his or her Librarian, or was doomed to some Cabin 6 Boy’s “Unbreakable Nalgene Challenge”. I was happy that would never be me. And so it went for some years. Camp and back. My last year with her at camp, we left for an adventure. One I would stay on for many years longer than her.
We trekked out far. Farther than we’d ever been. Off trail and into the wilderness. And then we sat, alone. Just the two of us for a long time. She wrote a lot in her journal while I studied our surroundings. As she fell asleep, so did I in the tall soft grass. I’m not sure when it happened, by I went sideways and rolled a bit in my sleep, and when I awoke, she was nowhere to be seen. I knew she could not have gone far. I was filled with Gatorade, she had a taste for it. But I continued to wait. The days came and went sand still I sat. Some days I was approached by mice and raccoons, all who would small and play with me. The leaves fell, the rains came, then the ice and snow. I hid beneath it as the sweet liquid froze, pressing against my flexible plastic walls. And then one day in early spring, as I thawed myself in the midday sun, came the bear. At first he just smelled and licked me. What started as tickling quickly escalated to a full on brawl. He clawed and bit as I held true to my “unbreakable nature”. Finally, frustrated the bear ambled off, beaten and tried. I was bruised, but ultimately un-breached. This cycle went on for many years. I’m not sure how many, but I would spend my summers absorbing the UV radiation, Winters blanketed in snow, and my springs standing fast against the onslaught of hungry bears.
I did finally break down one season. It must have been those long hours in the sun, and the bitterly cold nights. I knew it before the bite even came. But as I let the rancid fluid go, I felt lighter and freer than ever. The grasses and the mountain air surrounded me, and I finally felt myself becoming part of the earth. And for more years I lay in wait for the earth to take me back.
It was mid summer on a dreary afternoon when I heard the voices and the sounds of snapping branches. Too many raucous sounds to be animals. Into the clearing wandered a group of children. Some gave me a passing glance while one met my gaze head on. He wondered over and cradled me in his arms, retrieving my cap from a few feet away, joining us together once more.
“It’s got an Eagle’s Nest Logo I’ve never seen”. Before I knew it I was the bell of the ball. Every camper wanted to hold me, and examine my battle scars. And just like that I was gone from my life of solitude. Spirited away with a vaguely familiar sense of home. I was passed around the bus and when we stopped I was given a heroes welcome at the camp where it had all started. I was applauded and gawked at.
When I saw her I recognized her immediately. Ten years between us, but I knew exactly how she swung her hands while walking, and glimmer of mischief in her eye. I knew we were both happy to see one another, more out of sheer coincidence than anything else. It was camp that brought us together, both in the beginning and now. But I am no longer destined for her companionship. I can no longer fulfill my original task. I have been reassigned. From now on I will live as a reminder of the magic of camp. The circles it creates. And I will bear the names of all those adventurous enough to find a long lost Nalgene