Sharing the Magic

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I wish I could tell you about the one defining moment when I realized I was completely in love with Canoe Island. Some single incident that convinced me that my French summer camp was my true home. But the truth is that this knowledge came to me, as I think love comes to most people, over a gradual period of time—through hushed voices in tepees lit by an orangey lantern glow, through the lulling rhythm of waves lapping against the rocky shore, through the sweetly musty and well-loved smell of the library, through the joy of learning a song in another language. I felt happier each year I came back to Canoe, and my happiness gradually settled into the recognition that I loved this place more than I had ever known I could love something before. My short summer weeks spent at Canoe Island were moments spent truly alive.

I found myself truly alive again one September weekend, savoring the last few days of summer on my favorite island. At seventeen, I was past the age limit for regular campers, but I had returned for Canoe Island’s family weekend and I couldn’t have been more excited. It was late Saturday night and Joseph, the camp’s executive director and resident nature expert, was taking us to look at bioluminescence. Peering over the edge of the high dock into the pitch black water, I glimpsed a small miracle: glittering life forms scattered beneath the water’s surface, blinking on and off like twinkling stars. Somehow, even after three summers here, I had never seen this.

I followed the group down to the lower floating dock, where we drew oars through the water, creating brilliant showers of sparks. At last I headed back up, my mind still filled with awe over what I had just seen. I was planning to return to my tepee for the night, but my stepmom stopped me first.

“Marisa, would you take Louis down and show him the bioluminescence?” She motioned toward a small boy of about nine or ten, whose eyes held a quiet curiosity.

“Sure,” I agreed, picking up a kayak paddle and leading the way back down the steep ramp.

At water’s edge I struck the paddle into the water, showing Louis the trail of living fairy dust that appeared in the wake of each long stroke. Louis’s dark eyes followed the paddle in silent wonder.

“Do you want to try?”

“Yeah.” Taking the long paddle in his small hands, he forged a bit of his own magic in the murky water, breaking its stillness with gentle splashes.

“How does it work?” he asked me, keeping his eyes trained on the glowing dots of light.

“That’s a good question. I don’t know. Why don’t you ask Joseph?”

Joseph was consulted, science discussed; meanwhile, a sudden happiness had dawned in me. It didn’t take long to figure out why. I saw in Louis myself as a camper—not just myself, but everyone eager to learn and experience and discover the wonders of the island. Yet I was still a camper too, or so I had thought at the beginning of the weekend. I realized at this moment that I had become a teacher, a mentor. And in some way that felt even better.

Describing a place like Canoe Island to those who haven’t been there is a nearly impossible task. I can gush about French classes and activities, about tepees and overnights. But what really makes Canoe special is an overwhelming sense of magic—something I can feel in the cold fresh morning air, something I hear in our campfire songs and see in the sparkling water at night. I can think of no greater gift than to be able to share this magic with others, to pass on what Canoe has given me in the hope that it will someday mean just as much to someone else.

I’m standing on the dock, looking up at the stars, breathing in this very magic, alone with my thoughts in the darkness. But for one soft voice, one small figure disappearing into shadow.

“Merci, Marisa.”

“Of course, Louis…de rien. Bonne nuit.”





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