It's not lost on me to this day

We found ourselves at a sprawling garden center last weekend, in search of orchid bark. I am proud to say that we emerged an hour later with only orchid bark, a cactus, and a pot for the cactus. It could have been much worse.

Although my husband and I are entirely lacking in gardening skills, we more than make up for it in optimism. As we meandered through row after row of promising greenery, I had to keep reminding myself that we do not, in fact, have a garden, but rather a small apartment with an equally small porch. Our shopping experience went something like this, repeated in cycles:

“Oh, and we could get that box thing and put some of that flowery stuff in it and put it on the porch or something!”

“Yeah, but do you think the flowery stuff goes in a pot or in the ground?”

“Hmm… maybe let’s just start with the cactus and see how that goes.”

I am experiencing the same tug of war when it comes to my summer plans. Like Roxanne, my bag is heavy with summer books, and my reading list is miles long. Summer just seems like the perfect time to read and do and plant and make all of those things I’ve been meaning to. But while summer’s long days burst with possibility, they call for rest and spontaneity too.

So I’ll start with one book and one cactus and see where they lead. I’ll leave my lists in the cloud and perhaps return to them after I’ve had a bit of time to wander. — Lisa


The latest dispatch asked, Do you have a favorite memory of camp?

Erin wrote:

Though filled with a few tears, there was a greatly anticipated dance the last night of 8th grade summer camp. Oddly proportioned, awkward bodies mashed into the lodge in hopes of connecting with that one special person or conversely, of avoiding the dance floor altogether. The dance, however, was the least memorable moment of the night. Afterward, a gaggle of us girls left the lodge on high as we conspired against the boys who, earlier in the week, had peed on the side of our cabin. The bravest of us (or least concerned with getting caught) had snagged a solitary plastic cup from the party and independently decided the best route of action.<br><br>After she peed in the cup, we filled out of the bathroom making our way to the boys' cabin, laughing hysterically and shouting, "Who wants some apple juice? It's fresh and delicious!" The Brave One ran as swiftly as possible up to the top of their stairs without spilling the cup of revenge. Just as the boys arrived back from the dance, she dumped the contents onto the stoop and bellowed in triumph while the rest of us fled for our lives, not without a great sense of accomplishment.

Brad wrote:

I actually never went to camp. In theory, I missed out and would have had a great time exploring my early teenage years like so many others. But I was a sensitive kid and had dealt with some bullying at school. So when my class at school had a weekend trip to camp, I was less than thrilled at the prospect.<br><br>I did sign up, probably on the recommendation of my mom, combined with my own “how bad could it be?” self-psyching. But the day before they were set to leave I decided it was all too overwhelming and I told my mom I wanted to go to my grandma's house instead. I felt safe there; I felt respected there.<br><br>Bullying still doesn't make any sense to me as an adult, but luckily there are generally accepted modes of conduct when dealing with other adults that most people follow. And if someone is offensive to me now I can just walk away. From that perspective I was impatiently waiting for adulthood from about the age of six. I'm happy to say that being an adult is as great as I thought it would be for all those years. Now I try to make up for my lost camp experiences by going on trips or just hanging out in backyards with good friends.

Sara wrote:

At the end of Girl Scout camp, the counselors handed out personalized awards to each of the girls. I was deemed "Most Inquisitive." As this wasn't yet in my seven-year-old vocabulary I asked, "What does inquisitive mean?" With my counselors' roaring laughter, I quickly became aware of the irony, and it's not lost on me to this day.

Drew wrote:

I grew up in Australia and was incredibly fortunate to live near the Royal National Park (the second oldest national park in the world, established in 1879—the oldest being Yellowstone, of course!) We didn't have formal camps, as are common in the USA. Instead we took ourselves into the wilderness. A little "Lord of the Flies" in retrospect, but without the crushing brutality.<br><br>Our usual camp site was on the water's edge of the Northern fringe of the park on the Port Hacking estuary at Southwest Arm Creek. To get there we would load our gear and provisions for the trip (usually a long weekend because we lived so close) into what we called "tinnies". These were 12 foot long aluminum boats powered by 8-12 horsepower motors. The trip has us skipping over the water at top speed past houses which I can only imagine would be astronomically expensive today, filled with the anticipation of the days ahead. As we headed out of the bay passing Main Bar and the National Park hove into full view it felt like we were going to be a world away—and for a time, we were.

Marjorie wrote:

It would be impossible to pick one favorite memory of camp, the collection is vast. But every summer my family would go camping for a week at the beach just north of Santa Barbara, Calif., with three to five other families. As we grew older our parents would let us stay up late roasting marshmallows and telling jokes, just goofing off and enjoying each other's company. I sort of felt at the time that we were forging life-long friendships and indeed we were. These people remain to be my closest and dearest friends.

Uncommon reads

Big Breaks and Breakthroughs, a recent talk by the fabulous Diana Kimball:

Notice is not a verb that we use. It's not vidid enough, it's too quiet, it doesn't scream action. But I think that just noticing is one of the greatest practices you can establish for yourself and one of the greatest gifts you can give someone else.

What Is Nostalgia Good For? Quite a Bit, Research Shows by John Tierney:

Nostalgia has been shown to counteract loneliness, boredom and anxiety. It makes people more generous to strangers and more tolerant of outsiders. Couples feel closer and look happier when they’re sharing nostalgic memories. On cold days, or in cold rooms, people use nostalgia to literally feel warmer.

Bite-sized updates

We added two new pages to the site this week. The first tells a little more about our giving plans. The second is an early take on the timeline page, a look at highlights from the past year and to come.

Also, an Internet high five to the good people at iDoneThis who included Uncommon in a list of 8 Awesome Newsletters.

Your turn

What three things would you do with a week free of responsibilities?