23 June, 2019 Soap that floats / ”instructional bath”
All one hundred of us bathed in the lake at Camp Waredaca in the 1970’s. Not at the same time, and we bathed with our swimsuits on, but every Friday we had “instructional bath.” Did you know Ivory soap is the only soap that floats? That’s what we were told to bring to Camp Waredaca every summer, because we took baths in a lake. More at the bottom, after lots of pictures. Also, that part about the only floating soap – not #fakenews. Try a bar of Ivory – it’ll float. Then you can waste your hard earned or easily inherited $ and buy one of every other kind of soap and try it out if you don’t believe me. But take my word for it. And donate the sinking soap to some oddballs who don’t take baths in lakes.
Snake warning – nearer the bottom of this post there will be not one but two snake pictures – and each picture has five snakes! So prepare yourself if you’re a person who responds irrationally to photographs of snakes. All five snakes are non-venomous (and extremely common) Northern Water snakes (Nerodia sipedon sipedon).
The June solstice was Friday (the day before yesterday) at 11:54 AM EDT. That’s when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Cancer, as far north as it ever appears above the equator. Every day (here in the northern hemisphere) will be shorter between now and Saturday, December 21. It’ll be a few weeks before you notice it though. One of my friends says that summer is almost over by the Fourth of July. The first time I heard her say that I was probably fifty years old or so; I’d never subscribed to that notion before and still don’t. But we’re all different.
Anyway, we are unquestionably in the time of the most sunlight which is why I’m seeing mockingbirds and hawks and bucks and snakes and flowers, flowers, flowers and more flowers.
Speaking of snakes, I’m going to insert the first of two identical snake pictures in a moment. I took the picture looking down from a footbridge in Deep Run Park this week. It has five Northern Water Snakes of various sizes on rocks. A couple big ones are obvious; if you have sharp eyes, you may be able to count all five. Farther down the blog I’ll post the same picture, but with red circles drawn around all the snakes. Look closely; I could have missed one or two. As you’ll see, they blend in well.
Yuki was out of town this morning so Mackey and Turner and I walked at Pony Pasture without him. We saw a Whitetail buck! His rack was currently not monstrous, four or perhaps six points. But he was strong and muscular and quite tall; I suspect those antlers will grow. They’re thick and still have a little velvet. Hunters call thick antlers “beamy” and by Pony Pasture standards these are beamy. And getting beamier. Maybe we’ll get to see him again:
On the same hike this morning, we were grateful to see (I was grateful to see – I can’t really speak for Mackey and Turner) the Virginia State Insect (I will never not-marvel that such a title exists) an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus):
Everything in this blog (and everyone who reads this blog) is solar powered, somehow. And this is the week in Virginia when we get the most solar energy every day. That’s why everything is blooming and growing. I’ve included Evelyn’s relatively new hibiscus here before, but it deserves a second (and probably more) appearance today. It’s a particularly garish display of photosynthesis, all this sunlight converts carbon dioxide and water into this. Who needs magic; this is science and it could not be any more eye-popping:
Daisies are never garish, but we’ve never had them in our yard before – until Evelyn planted several earlier this year. As soon as I saw it I was reminded – I’m not even making this up – of a 1972 (!) song called Daisy a Day by a man named Jud Strunk. I’d just typed the period at the end of that sentence when I googled Mr. Strunk and learned this. Which I suspect might come as a surprise to you as well. At least according to imdb.com “On the Apollo 17 lunar mission, a tape copy of his hit single “Daisy A Day” was brought along by the astronauts, making it the first recorded song ever played on the moon.” If you sought independent verification of that fact I suspect you’d come up empty-handed, but it’s an interesting assertion. And who am I to say; I haven’t sought independent verification. Here’s the inspiration for me in this blog post, courtesy of Evelyn and evolution and photosynthesis (and our backyard):
Gardenia next, and the first snakes after that.
Our tall outdoor gardenia struggled a little bit in the early Spring, for reasons that were not apparent to me. I never saw Turner pee on it, but there’s a >0% chance he did. The plant itself still doesn’t look particularly enthusiastic (the way for instance that hibiscus does) but it’s cranking out lush, fragrant blossoms almost as fast as we can snip them and bring them indoors to perfume our home. There’s no song (to my knowledge) about a-gardenia-a-day but that’s practically what we’re getting. I present here for your inspection (too bad you can’t smell it) our GOTD (Gardenia Of The Day) for Sunday, June 23, 2019, the first Sunday of Summer:
Here are five snakes on rocks ten feet below a footbridge at Deep Run Park this week. A little farther down the post I’ll put in this identical picture, with all five snakes circled in red:
If you scroll down to last week, you’ll see a picture I took of a rabbit on my way to work Wednesday morning. It’s standing in a little patch of unbloomed clover, facing toward the right side of the picture. That is almost exactly due north (360º). I drove past precisely seven days later – almost to the minute – and the clover had bloomed and what I’m guessing was the same rabbit was there. Only facing the opposite direction. I suspect that is insignificant:
Here is the snake picture above, with five snakes circled (maybe you can find more; I couldn’t):
On to a little snapshot of a story about a family summer activity from when we (and you) were a lot, lot, lot younger:
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The lake at Camp Waredaca was our swimming pool all week until Friday when it became our bathtub. On the list of recommended supplies for a stay at Camp was Ivory soap – the only soap that floats. The lake was five acres. During the week we had “instructional swim” in the morning – swim lessons – and “free swim” in the afternoon. Except on Fridays – before we went home for the weekend – when we’d have “instructional bath.” All five of us (me, my two sisters and two brothers) began as campers there in the early 1970’s. It was an overnight camp then, Sunday through Friday for eight weeks every summer. We typically went for two or four weeks. Until we were all eventually old enough to be “CIT’s” (Counselors In Training) or Counselors and stay all summer. Which we all did. Here’s a mid-1970’s picture of “instructional bath” at Camp Waredaca:
I used that picture without permission from the Camp Waredaca Memories facebook page. The consensus on the facebook page is it was taken in the mid-1970’s. I’m not sure who took the picture; let me know if you want me to a. Take it down or b. Credit you. Same for people in this picture. I’ll do either one in under twelve hours. The history of it was, Ivory was doing a commercial or a print advertisement (as I understand it) and we were sending them this picture. That may have been a 1970’s example of #fakenews but I don’t think there was such thing then. I mean, look at this picture. 1970’s, Camp Waredaca, Montgomery County, MD.
As research for this blog post (not making this up) I bought a bar of Ivory soap Monday and have been showering with it all week. I can’t tell much difference. None, really, with the soap I’ve been using (Dr. Bronner’s). Here it is floating in my sink earlier – don’t try this with Dial, Coast, Irish Spring, Dove, Dr. Bronner’s – they’ll go straight to the bottom, and you’ll have to drain all of the water out of the sink before you’re able to recover them. That wasn’t an option in the lake, so, floating soap:
The label (trademark) is generally unchanged from what I remember from those long ago years of Watergate, the Bicentennial, the Concorde, etc:
“Instructional swim” was swim lessons in the “crib” – a roped off section in a shallow part of the lake – if you were young and not a strong swimmer. If you were older and stronger and a better swimmer, instructional swim was out on one of the square plywood rafts tied with braided nylon ropes to algae covered cinderblocks on the muddy lake bottom eight or ten feet below. As I recall there was no true “instruction” during instructional bath. It was just time taken out of instructional swim for an end of the week bath.
See the raft out there on the lake behind everybody? Before you were able to swim out there on your own, you had to pass a “raft test” under a lifeguard’s supervision. You had to swim out to the other side of the raft, tread water for ten minutes then swim back. Then you were allowed to go out there during “free swim” and do cannonballs off the raft or race around it or around both rafts. This picture cuts it off – there was another identical raft out of the frame on the left side of this picture. Most times of the summer there was little or no “standing around” on the rafts unless you were a lifeguard – the horseflies were vicious and well named. It’s commonly thought that they’re called “horseflies” because they’re found around horses. The ones that tried to bite us when we were standing on the raft lifeguarding in that summer sun were called horseflies because they were almost as big as horses.
In order to paddle a canoe around on the lake alone (and to go on canoe trips away from camp), you had to pass the “canoe test.” Similar to the raft test, but you had to start out on the near side of the lake and swim to the other side while a lifeguard (counselor) paddled a canoe alongside. Then you had to tread water for ten minutes again and swim back across the lake. It was a daunting prospect for some people. I’m fortunate to come from a family of strong swimmers and I have good memories of it. At least I think I do. I was a lot scrawnier than I am today.
My two brothers and two sisters who were also campers and counselors there may recall it differently. Plus various Camp Waredaca alumni who drop in here on occasion. Please comment in the comments section on this blog or shoot me an email or a text or (this is the least effective) give me a call. I will update the scenario in a future blog post. Plus I’d just love to hear from you! I have done zero research for this except look at this picture and a handful of others on the Camp Waredaca Memories facebook page. But the memories of my summers at Camp are in every way indelible. Especially now – late June was right in the middle of Camp season.
I would love to hear anyone’s comments about this post or about their experience at Camp Waredaca, or about any other camp. Camp Waredaca began in the 1930’s (really!) and the overnight part of it stopped I don’t recall when – someone enlighten me – maybe in the middle or late 1980’s.
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I was just about to close out this blog post when I looked online for a little more info about Camp. It’s been thirty plus years since the overnight camp closed, but the friendships I have from Camp and friendships my siblings have from Camp are lifelong. If I had any kind of self-discipline or any writing talent other than the most pedestrian kind, I could write a fascinating book about it. Because the setting was in every way magical, and I don’t even believe in magic. Rationally you’d think that people chose camp, but (irrationally) it seems like camp chose people. Of course that’s the way memory works; I’ve forgotten all the people who weren’t well-suited to it, and I know there were many. But Gus and Laurie and Katie and Susie and Mark and Jeremy and Robert and Gretchen and Susie and the other Robert and Rob and the other Katie and Kathryn a.k.a. Kelly and Beth and Steve (RIP) and Mr. and Mrs. B (RIP) and Joe and all the ones I’ve left out and so many more. If one of them is sitting next to you now or you’ll see them soon, ask them what they would have been doing if they were at Camp this time of year. They’ll smile. They might share. Plywood cabins and canvas tents and singing at Chapel and Mr. Butts and the Sliding Board Tree and horseback riding and riflery and camping trips and night hikes and a camaraderie I never experienced before or since. It was in every way priceless. And in many ways indescribable; I wish I was better at it! Where the campers slept, there was no electricity and no hot water. Ever. You’ve probably seen me in a “simplify” hat or t-shirt or sweatshirt. Life at camp was real, real simple. Once you’ve had a taste of that simplicity, at least in my own case, you learn there’s a lot of happiness there.
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Have an excellent week,