The Spirit of Sparrow Lake

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The annual trip to Camp is a celebrated and ever anticipated PARC tradition. Though it has been happening for many years, it is only the second year that it has taken place at Camp Sparrow Lake, a beautiful perch in Severn, Ontario. It’s also the second time that Making Room has had the opportunity to come along for the ride, complementing the week’s activities and respite with art-making workshops, and taking the lead on the final campfire celebration.

On our first day, we gathered outside and made balloon lanterns, taking leaves from the surrounding area and pressing them in between the folds of tissue paper to create the exterior. We taught each other songs, experimented with different paper mache techniques, and saw many members stop by to make their own lanterns. As they were completed, we suspended each lantern on long strings of twine at the entrance to the dining hall. They looked like giant eggs! As they dried in the sun, we stained them in different colours by pouring on paint while spinning them.

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During the workshop we talked about the spirit of Sparrow Lake; what was unique about this place, and what was familiar. Folks contributed that the Spirit is made of trees, of wind, of the poetry of dewdrops, good food, campfires, music. It was a great way to settle in to this new and peaceful place for the week.

That night we had a song-filled campfire. One Dave, a harmonica and story-telling maestro, showered us with soulful songs, while another Dave led us in a sing-a-long from his repetoire of favourite songs.

The next day, Trevor and Jess began collecting giant branches to become the skeleton of the Spirit of Sparrow Lake, embodied in a giant sparrow puppet that we would build together. At the same time, a host of members including Carolyn, Robbie, Marlene, Laura, Ann LaPenna, and Anne Smart collaborated to add skin and feathers to the sparrow head by weaving thick strands of yarn through a chicken wire mold. Trevor found two gorgeous knots in pieces of tree bark in the surrounding forest to be used as the sparrow’s eyes.

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On our third day, Robbie, Carolyn, Mohammed and Michael did a huge amount of painting, covering a giant roll of thick paper with splatter patterns a-la-Jackson Pollack. While Jess and Trevor assembled the skeleton, these large sheets were cut into strips in order to make giant feathers to adorn the wingspan. The Spirit was so large that it would have to be carried by 9 people; 2 on each wing, 1 supporting the head and spine, and 2 people manipulating each leg. Members were eager to jump in into the process of bringing the puppet to life.

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A magical moment happened in the back field during the rehearsal for the final presentation at sunset. After learning a song-call that would be the sound of raising the puppet into a vertical position, the puppeteers all took their places and lifted the Sparrow together, practiced moving forward, walking and flapping wings. The coordination and concentration required to do this was a lot to handle, and the puppeteers had to do some serious collaboration to make the movement natural and cohesive. The Spirit was truly majestic in flight.

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Before evening fell, members were invited to write the names of friends the wished were present onto the lanterns from the first day, and they were lit in preparation for evening. As darkness fell, the Sparrow was raised once again, and with an epic chaos and cacophony of songs and shouts, we proceeded down to the campfire, holding up the wings and the lanterns, the Sparrow legs tearing ahead of the body. When we got down the hill, we were greeted by a roaring and welcoming campfire, and feasted on hot dogs and roasted marshmallows.

Late into the night, we got to sharing stories about many things, from first jobs to memories of camping. Meanwhile, the Sparrow watched over us from a nearby tree, its feathers rustling majestically in the wind. Michael led us with giant cardboard cue-cards in a sing-song of camp classics and Making Room choir favourites, and later we returned to the dining hall for the traditional Fish Fry, prepared by PARC members and staff. It was delicious, and we went to sleep feeling the Spirit of Sparrow Lake coursing above and through our bodies.

 

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