Time to get back into action. Though the gardens here at The Shed have been growing madly, I’ve lain fallow over the Silly Season with sun glasses on my nose, soaking up good food, exploring the planet, enjoying much camaraderie. And now it’s time to follow up on my promise to keep this blog alive with stories about day-to-day life with the Shedders.
Let’s begin with an exploration…
Pretend you are Google Earth and imagine the little town of Bellingen (pop. 2,721), on the Bellinger River a few kilometres into the hinterland from the coast. It’s known as an artists’ town, and like most towns favoured by creative types, it’s a visual treat. It has big rolling hills and pastures in the background, and is full of interesting architecture and excellent cafés, dress shops and bakeries.
Zoom in a little and you might be surprised to see the high school bursting with activity during the summer break. You could count roughly 1200 people of all ages inhabiting the campus. You’ll see espresso and icecream wagons, people scattered at tables under the big trees visiting or reading the newspaper, classrooms full of intently focused artists and artisans. You might see a blur of Spaghetti Circus kids, 6 to 16 year olds tumbling and stilt-walking and flying through the air with hoops and ropes. If you’re doing your Google search in the evening, you might spot David Helfgott, renowned classical pianist, giving a free concert on his home turf. (He’s likely not receiving the standing ovations he does in Vienna, because here he’s just a comfortable old shoe.)
Zoom in even further and you might spot the Shedders. That’s me in Joy of Singing, belting out harmonies with about 50 other choristers under the incredible tutelage of Brian and Imogene. You can find Eve over there in printmaking, and Daniel chording and humming to himself in Songwriting. You might be amazed to see Rick in African Drumming, completely immersed with the rest of his crew in bass, slap and tone. And there’s Judy in Beginners Guitar, a rapt smile on her face as she picks out a pitch-perfect new chord. (No point looking for Michael, who’s home battering away at a big paper he’s writing for his neuro-science course. He was initially enrolled in Afro-Cuban dancing, but a multi-ligament knee surgery and this wretched paper have him chained to his desk.)
It’s Camp Creative, an annual week-long affair in its 27th year. And what, you ask yourself, would have the Shedders here altogether at summer school when we could be taking advantage of an opportunity to find some time-out from our closely connected lives?
I reflect on this very question as I look out the window while our choir director focuses on the tenor section, leaving us altos to sit quietly on pause.
I see three things that stand out about Camp Creative – three key reasons that have 1200 people leave their homes to go back to school, summer after summer. One is self-expression. It’s not called Camp Creative for nothing. People come here to discover a new facet of themselves and bring it vibrantly to life. I think of Rick losing himself (or finding himself?) in his African drumming, filled to the brim with a brand new life force. I’m deeply touched by his enchantment with this new discipline.
Another reason is learning. Camp Creative is a place for people who want to learn something, to experience good teaching and come away with more arrows in their quiver. To understand more about the vocal cords and how to have them do what you want. To learn about plates and solar etching. To tap into the mysteries of that beautiful wooden box we call a guitar.
The third thing that stands out for me is relationships. People attend because they like people, like to make new friends, enjoy swapping stories and finding out about families and ailments and what kind of a year it’s been for someone else.
So…back to pondering on the Shedders, as the leaders in my class shift their attention to the soprano section. I see that we are six people who have these three things in common: we like to experience self-expression, to learn and to build relationships. There are many things we do not have in common, but these important qualities are part of our strong bond. It’s not a coincidence that these housemates – with the exception of Michael, who would surely be with us if he could – are here below the Great Dividing Range celebrating life together in this particular way.
Friday morning bright and early the five of us meet up at a café in Bellingen for breakfast. I have a feeling of settling in with family, with important things to share. Daniel gets out his iPhone to play for us the wonderful new song he’s written and recorded. I wail a few bars of a gospel tune that won’t get out of my head and Rick demonstrates his latest bass/slap/tone rhythm. We swap stories about people in our classes, about feelings of triumph and being intimidated. Judy sheds a few tears straight out of being irrepressibly moved. We wonder how Michael is faring back at Michells Island.
We are home away from home.