To be completely honest, I was not in the mood for Kirby Cove this year. My days of being charmed by dusty hiking boots and campfire scented hair are long over. Besides, what high school junior in their right mind wants to finish a stressful week of school only to pack up and head straight to a campsite where the latrines are bottomless hell pits and it gets cold enough at night to seriously endanger any toes left poking out of a sleeping bag?
Despite this, I couldn’t manage any genuine irritation as I was shuttled across the bridge toward the Marin Headlands. Everyone who has been on this annual CW trip before knows that Kirby Cove has its own particular brand of magic; no matter how surly you are coming in, it always wins you over in the end. On the winding walk down to the campground, listening to the excited chatter of my friends, I could already feel my mood changing for the better. The spell was starting to take effect.
At first glance Kirby Cove looks like it might really be enchanted. Nature seems to be slowly encroaching on the man-made, with canopies of thin trees bending overhead and brush and stoic flowers creeping in on dirt paths. Down by the shore, a precariously constructed rope swing hangs over open water. You can grab your notebook and tuck yourself away in a corner of the forest or the damp tunnel of the old gun battery by the beach, where the sound of waves breaking against the shore is amplified a hundredfold. The scenery practically begs to be written about, to be filled with war heroes or musketeers or wild animals of your own invention.
The real magic of Kirby Cove, though, is what the Creative Writing department brings to it. Within a few hours of our arrival, the unspoken barriers between the age groups had lifted, and I found myself standing on a picnic table belting out “Space Oddity” with a group of equally tone-deaf freshmen and sophomores. It all felt perfectly right, even if our neighboring campers didn’t think so.
Later, after Heather’s husband Sam had read us two fantastically creepy tales by firelight, we all adjourned to the gun battery for our traditional game of Hot Seat, the details of which cannot be discussed due to Vegas Rules. I will say that I was touched by the outpouring of support and empathy that everyone showed not only toward their friends but toward everyone in the department. Creative Writing is a community where no one has to change any aspect of themselves to feel safe or accepted, and in the middle of high school’s high-stress social environment that’s both rare and invaluable.
When the last vestiges of daylight had ebbed away and the stars winked to life along with the multicolored lights on the Golden Gate Bridge, I watched cars crawling like slow, metallic bugs to and from San Francisco. My friends were sprawled out all around me, half zipped into their sleeping bags. A few yards away in every direction other small groups whispered or slept, the sound of their breathing mingling with the swish of the waves against the shore to form a comforting background noise. There was a sense of peace about the whole scene. We were all safe in the knowledge of being surrounded by people who we loved, and who loved us back. It’s moments like these which make Kirby Cove an indispensable part of the CW experience.
Sophie Mazoschek, class of 2017