Annaka Recommends: “The Circle Game” by Joni Mitchell

The sixth and seventh grade girls I worked with as a camp counselor this summer were still beautifully entrenched in youth. They loved dipping their straight-limbed bodies in the lake. Fake Australian accents. The rhythmic weaving of friendship bracelets — green to blue to maize to back. Giggling when groups of older boys passed us on the trail.

One night we sat in a circle on the wooden floor of our cabin and discussed our days: the highs, the lows, the best and worst of what the dining hall had to offer. We talked about femininity. Beauty. Love. Grief. When I asked the group for their favorite quotes, answers swept around the ring: words of authors, advice from parents, snippets spoken by actors.

When my turn was upon me, I looked around our group. I saw pink-printed fleece pajamas and thought of how soon they would fade to nightclothes of satin and lace. The braces — it would be only a few months before their wires were to be torn from newly-straightened teeth. The headbands and bracelets — all relics of plastic soon to be cast aside for imitation metallics. And lyrics spilled from my lips:

Sixteen springs and sixteen summers gone now

Cartwheels turn to car wheels through the town

And they tell him,

Take your time, it won’t be long now

Till you drag your feet to slow the circles down

And then there was silence. Contemplation. A camper’s hand pressed to my back.

Before bronze fades to silver, then gold, then collapses into black, before the last of the beach’s sand has slipped through our careless fingers: there are our moments together. There is our little right now. There is love. Support. Innocence. Hope. There is camp.

And the seasons they go round and round

And the painted ponies go up and down

We’re captive on the carousel of time

We can’t return we can only look behind

From where we came

And go round and round and round

In the circle game

For my girls, the air is still rife with magic; I’m blessed to be able to help them breathe a little deeper.

(Song recommendation by Annaka Saari)

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