It’s my last full day at Fishtrap, which one participant dubbed “camp with pencils.” We’re near Joseph in far northeastern Oregon, a land of high mountains and real cowboys. We live in tents and yurts, attend workshops, eat cafeteria-style meals, listen to readings every night, and finish off our days with music around the campfire or drinks at Russell’s in Wallowa Lake. At any time of day or night, you can see people huddled over their notebooks or laptop computers writing. It’s as if we have finally found people just like us. These people come in all ages and stages of life.
Fishtrap has a substantial youth program, so there’s a large cadre of teens here. Some have come with their parents or grandparents, each participating in their own programs. Others are here on scholarship with adult chaperones. We also have college-age interns. I’m loving hanging out with the young ones. Last night a high school girl borrowed my guitar and played a great song. You could tell she’s just learning to play, but I felt such a camaraderie, as well as a little motherliness. I’m thrilled at the talent just blooming in these kids.
In my songwriting workshop, we have two college girls, a few baby boomers like me, and Alfred, who is 86 and amazing. We have different levels of life experience and musical training, but we’re all trying to write good songs.
One of our assignments was to interview each other. I traded interviews with Ryann, a senior at Whitman College. She’s beautiful, intelligent, talented and so young. I’m sure I’m way older than her mother, but it’s never as if she’s a kid and I’m an old lady. I’m proud of her and glad to claim her as my friend, and she’s excited when my songs come out well.
There is a beauty in being able to connect with young people who are not our children. I have noticed that the folks who brought their own kids frequently had their writing and socializing interrupted by the needs of their offspring. I didn’t have to worry about that, nor did I have to keep checking in at home.
Childlessness can be tough, but there are ways to bring young people into our lives as their friends, their mentors, their teachers, or their aunts. I highly recommend it.