A Ground to Stand On

Routine is a ground to stand on, a wall to retreat to; we cannot draw on our boots without bracing ourselves against it.

Henry David Thoreau

Pull into the barn parking lot. Walk into the barn. Take down the feed buckets. Soak the grain and beet pulp. Pull the horses. Muck. Throw hay in Olin Gulch and Fish Creek.

This is what an average Monday morning has looked like for me - rain or snow, sunshine or freezing temperatures - for the past several months at camp. As one of the members of the year-round riding program team, getting to be at the barn each week to be around the horses and work with the other riding program staff has been one of the best parts of the winter. And, even as the current COVID-19 situation has continued to develop and our schedules and workplaces have been upended, this part of my week has stayed the same, and for that I am very grateful.

I’ve found myself thinking about routine a lot lately, and particularly about the ways in which routines can provide a sense of comfort and stability in uncertain times. As people around the country and the world have had to adjust to their new realities of quarantining and social distancing, many have found themselves somewhat unmoored without the ability to stick to their daily or weekly routines. For some this might actually feel somewhat liberating - a break from the ordinary! A chance to get away from the repetition of long commutes in rush hour traffic and the tedium of sitting at an office desk all day! Indeed, there is much to be said for shaking the habitual and getting a chance to switch things up. But there is also, I believe, great value in the kind of structure that routines can provide for us.

At camp during the summer, no two days ever really look the same. Any given day, campers and staff set out for various activities and trips, and none of these will be exactly the same. Part of the amazing thing about being at camp is having the ability to be spontaneous and enjoy experiences that are unique and out of the ordinary. But, at the end of the day, what grounds all these adventures is in large part the routines we return to. At the end of every week each camp hikes to their special spot for Vespers, where the members of the community get together to sing songs, take in the views, share stories, and recharge for the upcoming week. Moments like these, the things that we return to over and over, offer us the stability we need to get back out there for new challenges and adventures.

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Over the past few weeks here in Florissant, as we’ve begun to feel the effects of the pandemic more and more, things look significantly different than they did several weeks ago. Rather than heading into the Big Spring Office each morning, we’ve been working from our respective homes, plugging away in preparation for the summer. With these changes, having routines to come back to, like working at the barn each Monday morning, has provided me with a sense of normalcy in contrast to the craziness of the world right now. For myself in particular, taking care of animals who rely on us each day and are blissfully unaware of what’s going in the outside world has provided me with some perspective, as well as a reminder that animals and the natural world remain consistent throughout these times in all that they have to offer us.

Again, none of this is to say that we should live our lives solely based on routines and tightly constructed loops. In these unusual times we can and should challenge ourselves to use the time we have to try things that we don’t (or tell ourselves we don’t) usually have time to do. Pick up a new instrument. Write a poem. Explore somewhere new if you can (while properly social distancing, of course). What I mean to say is that having some sort of routine and consistency, especially when so much in the wider world is uncertain and beyond our control, can be grounding and give us the peace of mind to live our best lives.

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Charles Nunziato
About Charles Nunziato

Charles first came to Sanborn as camper when he was eleven. After working four summers as a wrangler and two seasons as a field instructor at HTOEC, Charles joined the year-round staff as the Riding Program Manager for Big Spring. Charles has a B.A. in Comparative Literature from Reed College and was an English teaching apprentice in Leadville, CO before returning to camp in 2019. Some of his favorite pastimes are playing guitar, reading and writing, crossword puzzles, and horseback riding.