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It’s six thirty in the morning, and birds are fighting with each other in the distance. There’s squawking and squeaking, and by now, everyone’s woken up, though we’re supposedly allowed to sleep for another fifteen minutes. The sky’s painted gray and speckled with clouds, giving no indication it’s the middle of July. The decaying wood floor creaks like it’s fifty thousand years old instead of fifty, and I’m very, very aware of the fact that I’m sleeping on a not reinforced deck that’s probably about twenty feet off the ground. I lie in my sleeping bag for a few minutes, reveling in its warmth. I know that the minute I get out of bed, it’s going to be freezing, so I’ll enjoy the warmth while it lasts. Just as I’m about to drift off into a dreamy sleep, I hear something. A trumpet playing a variation on the traditional tune of reveille—something one certainly doesn’t hear every day. I reluctantly get out of my nice, comforting sleeping bag and rush into the freezing cold room where we change and get ourselves ready for the day. I pull over my head my Stanford sweatshirt so that I can annoy the counselors who go to UC Berkeley—several have actually decided that it’s better to call me “Stanford girl” instead of my real name. Rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, I wander on over to the cafeteria, where we wait in line for food that may or may not be contaminated with salmonella. It tastes a bit like dog food mixed with a tiny bit of sugar and salt, then slapped in a microwave in the hope it’ll be edible. Everyone in my cabin group—including me—eats at superhuman speeds, before we rush back to our unit in an attempt to make the most creative design possible with twelve beds, twelve mattresses, and twelve sleeping bags in maybe five minutes, at best. This time of the day is when I can best smell the redwoods, the rusty and old scent. While everyone is scrambling to get their beds in order, I take a few seconds to appreciate the beauty of Cazadero—a magical, music-filled summer camp.



Everyday, we have the same morning schedule and scramble. Despite our adrenaline filled creativity attempt, my group fails to come up with anything more creative than putting the beds in a shape that might resemble a star in some parallel universe. In this universe, however, it looks amazingly similar to a dog that just got twisted in the most unnatural position for several hours, and is now attempting to squirm. It’s sort of an unspoken rule that our unit is never going to win anything for creativity, unless the deans manage to get the whole dog reference. Something tells me that’s an impossibility, and our unit should just forget about winning the milkshakes. I run down a river of creaking old steps, carrying my clarinet behind my back. The black case is covered with so many stickers that it looks like a three year old’s room exploded. It gets out of alignment a lot, meaning it’s hard to open and close, and the inside is falling apart so much that I’ve learned it’s in fact foam behind the black leather. Just as I’m about to attempt to fix the leather for about the millionth time this week, I hear the familiar chords. The G, B, D, and G which tell us that we need to go somewhere. The notes sound perfect together, a G major chord. It’s a light, happy chord, and the notes convey that beautifully. Though our schedule doesn’t change; it never loses its beauty.
This bell signals that it’s recreation time, the time of day when we basically can do whatever we want. I rush down the stairs, managing to avoid injury this time. They creak and sigh below me, glittering with silver duct tape that’s been used to keep it together. I make a straight right turn as soon as the stairs are out of my sight, and walk past the gigantic redwoods. They tower over everything here—the lodge, the amphitheater, and I can even see a huge one shooting up from where I sleep. The floor of this redwood forest is made of their bark, with occasional bits of gravel. A pool rests in the dead middle of two of the largest trees, its clear blue water sparkling in the tiny ray of sunlight coming through. I can smell the chlorine in it in the air around it, but the rest of the camp is infused with the rusty, loving scent of the redwoods. It smells like home, or a log cabin, but no matter what kind of memories it evokes, it’s always one thing—peaceful. I wander to the creek, where we have master class every morning. The creek is directly across from girls’ camp, however, you have to go down a rather steep slope to get to where the clarinets have sectionals. I look at the ground beneath me—it’s a mixture between a light red and the darkest orange, filled in with little rocks that pop out like diamonds in a mine. Tiny weeds are thrown in there, and the campfire made of rocks isn’t far from me. There’s still some smoke from last night’s campfire in the air, but the redwood scent manages to overcome it. I feel one of the rocks stabbing at my foot, and quickly kick it off towards the fire, where it kills an ember that managed to stay alive overnight. Having this free time is such a luxury.
The creek is essential to all that is Cazadero Music Camp. Reed rush, what clarinets, oboe, and bassoon players sometimes use to make reeds less thick, grows along the edges, quietly showing that it’s a music camp. I pick up a piece gently, being careful not to let it fall apart like a clump of sand, and rub it across the surface of my reed. Most people would much rather use a reed knife than a basic piece of rush, however, I have a very valid reason not to. The last time I tried to use a reed knife, about two days ago, I ended up with a two inch long cut that oozed out blood for a good five minutes. My stand partner was not amused with the strawberry red patterns that appeared on our sheet music. I walk along the edge of the flowing creek, tiny rocks lining its bed. Each one is different and individual—one of them has music notes carved into it, while the others are more natural and abstract. Reds and greens and grays make a colorful flowerbed out of the creek, while a few fruit trees create a cover and make the colorful rocks less apparent to the naked eye. These rocks contrast with the green water—a water that is actually clear, but appears green due to the trees. It’s not green because of the pollution—the creek is one of the only bodies of water I’ve seen in California that isn’t overly polluted. The river creates its own music—the sound of a light alto voice carrying a harmony that most people wouldn’t notice, yet for the lucky few sounds truly beautiful. Most people at Cazadero would probably notice this—it is a music camp, after all. That’s another thing that makes this place so magical for me, and anyone who loves music—everyone knows what I mean when I say something like augmented fifth, and the deepest conversations are about the differences between Mozart and Brahms. It is wonderful to be in a place where there are like-minded individuals and where there is this incredible creek.



I quietly pick up my standard issue black clarinet and sheet music, being careful not to accidentally drop it for the millionth time, and wander my way towards the amphitheater, also known as the shell. There isn’t a piece of trash anywhere—people care enough about this camp to throw their trash away when they’re done, something that’s rarely seen elsewhere. However, even though there is the absence of metallic chip bags and fluorescently colored candy bar wrappers, color is everywhere. People are making thick American-colored lanyards, and rosewood violins are being played almost everywhere. A lime green and neon yellow cello case rests on a table, while its owner plays a Bach cello suite. He makes that cello sing—manipulates it and harmonizes it, turning the air distortion into something beautiful. The wood comes alive in his hand, like it does for many people here. I stop for a few seconds to watch and open my ears to his music, but continue walking along shortly after, knowing that I can probably ask him to play for me again if I really want to hear him.
I continue walking along through Cazadero. The gravel crunches underneath my feet, and I nearly trip on the few paved surfaces. A few birds chirp happily in the distance, a much-needed difference between the arguing I heard from them earlier this morning. Now it sounds much more like they’re playing with each other, and the previous arguing was simply a farce to annoy the whole camp and get us to wake up early. I chuckle to myself upon realizing this, and meander my way over to near boys’ camp—not realizing I managed to miss the entire shell and now have to walk about a quarter of a mile just to get back there. I sigh, but honestly, it doesn’t feel that bad. I’ve hardly seen this part of camp, so looking at it will at least be exciting—plus, it’ll kill the twenty five minutes until band rehearsal. To the left, I spot a mouse wandering its way through a barrage of trees. Its white, plump self tells that it must be eating food from the cooks, either stolen or generously given to him by campers. He glances at me for second, than scuttles on its way, stopping every once in a while to inspect a tree for what he thinks might be a berry. I turn away from him, and look to what is ahead of me.
On my right, there’s the suspension bridge I have to cross to actually get into the camp—it wiggles and wobbles, making you feel very uncomfortable and unstable. There’s a huge, red and white sign that looks somewhat like a stop sign saying that only five people are allowed at a time, and I can’t imagine that making anyone feel comfortable going across this bridge. This year, for the first time, there’s the idea of music going over the bridge—young people experiencing the kind of things they’ll be playing as they cross over a bridge to a different world. I see the bridge as a metaphor linking the lackadaisical real world on the other side, and the only-for-two-weeks-every-summer world of music that is Cazadero Performing Arts Camp.





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