Emily Quartemont, dance leader for August Camp, and her cousin Graysen Brady invite virtual participants to join in Seven Jumps.
By KARRI BRADY
Every year, many of us make the trek to Tyler, Minnesota for a week of Danebod Camp. We drive from varying distances - through the corn fields, past the wind farm - until we see the iconic, brick folk school tower off in the distance. That first walk around the campus enlivens fond memories of camps past and eager anticipation for the week to come.
This year, like most summer gatherings, camp was canceled. Pretty much everything we do at Danebod spreads COVID-19: singing, dancing, discussing, hugging, joke telling, and the laughing that results - everything - spreads the virus. In a year when people have lost their lives and livelihoods, missing a week of Danebod Camp may seem small, but it was pretty big. Especially for those of us who have been going for decades – and that’s almost everyone over twenty years old.
Reactions to the pandemic have been individual and personal, and generally fall into two categories: the immediate and the long term. In the immediate, our gatherings moved outside or online; we stayed home, learned to social distance, and got good at washing hands and wearing masks. But the long term is ever-changing and uncertain. We don’t know when the pandemic will end, what changes are permanent, and, for Danebod campers, when we’ll be together again. So, in the immediate, we mourned; then we looked ahead, transferred plans to next year, and went about our lives. But as August approached, we couldn’t ignore the longing, the call to Tyler. We were going to have Danebod in whatever way we could.
And we did.
Campers worked together to create nightly, virtual sing-alongs with Rita Juhl at the piano, leading songs from World of Song interspersed with videos of campers singing at home. Our dance leaders posted “dances of the day.” Kits for woodcraft and heart baskets were delivered for crafting at home. We met online for a discussion, social hour, camp member meeting, and even a trip to the Kronborg. Some families found a way to gather in smaller groups to create mini-camps. We used social media to connect us all through pictures of æbleskiver, tie-dye shirts, frikkedeller, camps of years past, and each other. By the end of the week many of us felt like we’d almost been to camp!
That week of “Danebod at Home” reminded us what we all know to be true— we may hold camp in Tyler, Minnesota but the essence of Danebod is not there. Danebod is not the folk school building, the gym hall, pop stand and pavilion. It’s not the church, the history, the food, or the World of Song books. It’s what happens when we’re together - the exhilaration, the joy, the acceptance, the connection.
That’s what we carry in our hearts when we leave camp every year - the Danebod piece in each of us. Sure, it may seem smaller when we’re not together in person. But it’s in there, and in this year of multiple challenges, we need our Danebod piece more than ever.
Come to think of it, couldn’t the world use a little Danebod right now? - to know what it’s like to chain around the gym hall and look forward to dancing with someone new or greet the day singing "Golden Light of Morning Bright!" to listen with an open heart to a discussion that challenges your own thoughts and beliefs or discover and share your skills on a craft project! How many people could benefit from an afternoon nap in a lawn chair or delight in paying a ridiculous amount of money for chocolate chip cookies because it supports a good cause and it’s fun!
Missing camp hit us hard because it’s such a part of us. It was like we lost a piece of what makes us who we are. It’s also why we were able to have camp anyway. Danebod will always find a way, because camp is inside of each of us.
Please visit danebodfolkcamp.org/next-camp/ to check out our “Danebod at Home” sing-along videos.
Bridget Lois Jensen