Last weekend I attended Patti Digh’s Life is a Verb Camp 2014. This was my second time going. It was a delightful, deeply personal experience. I’ve been telling friends and family about Verb Camp and they all want to know precisely what it is. Thing is, it’s not a precise thing. It’s not a conference where you attend sessions, take notes, network a little, and go home. It’s much more than that.
If you think of summer camps that a kid might attend, it’s kind of a grown-up version of that combined with the best family reunion you can imagine, combined with conference-like main and breakout sessions. Even those sessions are like attending camp because they’re participatory. Attendees join in, and it’s through that participation that something wonderful is shared. The shared sessions, activities, meals, and impromptu evening gatherings combine to create a deep sense of community.
We had writers, poets, singer-songwriters, photographers, yoga instructors, dancers, artists that work with just about medium you’d care to mention, heterosexuals and many LGBTQ people. Some make their living with their art, while others have day jobs. All of them are dedicated to their art, and to sharing their art. Hugs, laughter, and not a few tears all flow freely because everyone is allowed to be themselves.
Here are some highlights of Camp I’d like to share with you:
One Camper couldn’t return this year because she’s battling some signficant health problems. Another Camper made her a shawl, which we all took turns wearing and had our pictures taken with.
Another wanted to do something nice for everyone, so she bought some brightly colored lunch bags and used them as ‘mail boxes’ for all of us. We could leave notes and other mementos in each other’s bags, which made for some lovely memories and souvenirs.
A cancer survivor shared her treatment experience in the context of other cancer patients she met but didn’t make it.
A singer-songwriter took three or four tries to get through a song. We gave her a standing ovation to celebrate her, her songs, and her perseverence.
One Camper reminded all of us that another had a Kickstarter nearing its deadline, quite a bit short of the funding goal. We rallied and put it over the top.
I attended a hands-on session about improv (improvisational comedy). After Camp I found out that someone in the session with me lives not too far from me. I struck up a Facebook chat with her, and, long story short, she invited my girlfriend and I to her house to spend Thanksgiving lunch with her, her wife, and her family.
These things rarely happen at regular conferences.
But they do happen at Verb Camp.