Category Archives: The Pine Needle

View from the Doctor’s Cabin Porch

by Sumner Ford

I find myself missing boredom. It used to be a common part of my life and often seems like a feature of childhood that necessarily recedes as gray hairs appear. Spending my summers at Pine Island has taught me otherwise. When we consider the camp experience, boredom is not one of the values espoused by Clarence Colby, Dr. Swan, Jun Swan, Monte Ball, or Ben and Emily Swan. Only recently has it come to be seen as a benefit of PIC.  

Pine Island hasn’t changed. For my younger self, it was a place to escape the boredom of a house in the boonies with elderly neighbors, no internet, and a rabbit-ear antenna that occasionally picked up the Saturday morning cartoons. As anyone over 20 knows full well, our world has changed a bit since then. So much is gained with each technological improvement; the generalized drive to consume information during every waking moment seems to be quickly approaching 100% efficiency. While Pine Island changes little from year to year, our world turns on a dime every month.

Not a moment of our lives is wasted, or at least it feels that way. Podcasts on crime, history, news, and sports replace the silence or static of rural car rides—and some people listen at double speed to fit in more! The agitation of waiting in line melts away as those in the queue disappear into the pocket portal that is their smartphone.  

When I return home from camp these days, I find that my readjustment time has doubled. The transition used to be easier. At camp, I’m attuned to the quiet moments when there’s nothing to do but let my mind wander.

Those “dull” moments, in which the only activities are daydreaming and observing, are vital to my happiness at Pine Island, largely because the boredom only lasts for a minute before my mind turns inwards. Without the temptation of a phone, the transition from boredom to contemplation is seamless. Out in the world, it fascinates me to watch people join a line and immediately pull out their phones. What would Pine Island’s activity line be like with phones? Less chaotic, perhaps, but gone too would be the organic interaction, the chance to stare off into space, the time to examine and analyze thoughts.  

In the weeks following camp, I’m acutely aware of the benefits of letting person-to-person interaction replace screen time. Still, the temptation to pick up my phone during a dull moment often overcomes this sort of macro-level understanding. It’s an ongoing project, building structures into my life that force me to leave the phone at home, or simply in my pocket.  

Pine Island doesn’t teach this; we don’t have a “limiting technology” activity, and that’s probably for the best. But in its own subtle way, Pine Island still teaches us all a powerful lesson.  Every year I watch campers, previously terrified of a summer without the latest and greatest game, realize the benefit of boredom, the gift of space, and the joy of relying on others.  

Back home this fall, lost in thought on a hike, I wondered how many anxieties were addressed and great ideas cultivated while kayaking across Great Pond, sitting in a hammock, or waiting in line to enter the dining hall.  How many of those moments would have been lost had a phone, computer, or Bluetooth speaker been available nearby?

Our understanding of boredom is changing as people listen to music while they hike, check scores while in line, and facetime rather than write. As a society, we’ve dismissed so many previously valued activities as inefficient. At Pine Island, we believe giving our minds the space to breathe and contemplate is a perfectly efficient approach, and that boredom—while only a small part of the PIC experience—is most definitely beneficial.

A note from Needlenews the Needlenosed Newshound

Akka Lakka! from Needlenews the Needlenosed Newshound, aka the editor of Pine Island’s annual newspaper: The Pine Needle.  I hope you’re all well and having a great fall.  I’m cranking up to produce another stellar edition of a publication that has been in print for over 100 years, and I’d like to hear from you.

Please email with updates on your life that you’d like to share with the Pine Island community.

If you’d like to submit a story or drawing for consideration, please send that along, too!

All news and submissions must be received by November 24th.

Don’t miss this opportunity to be published in one of the world’s great periodicals!

The Editor, The Pine Needle

Photos and Stories from our Summer

Pine Island’s 120th season was another great one! Our campers earned ranks in their favorite activities; paddled and hiked throughout the remote north woods of New England; produced and acted in riveting Saturday Night Shows; and most importantly, created a community in which each boy’s participation and energy was needed and valued. It was not without challenges, but our unflappable community met each one with grace and good cheer.

For a glimpse into the creative, imaginative, and active lives campers led at Pine Island this summer, we invite you to read the 2022 Mid-Summer Pine Needle, a publication of camper articles, poetry, and artwork. This is the result of a special journalism session that several campers participated in this summer. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

We’ve also compiled some of our favorite photos from the trail and around camp into our 2022 At-a-Glance gallery. Special thanks to the staff, campers, and parents who contributed to this album, including Kiran Dhawan, who took this incredible drone shot, and Kate Skogen, who volunteered her photography skills at the Farewell Ceremony.

“Pine Island Sunset” by Kiran Dhawan 

It was an incredible summer and we’re grateful to our campers for stepping out of their comfort zones to grow, learn, and challenge themselves; to our staff for their creativity, patience, and care; to our volunteers for their valuable time and skills; and to our camp parents for their trust in us. Our season depended on every one of you, and every one of you came through to make it another great summer.

Thank you

Club Honk ’21 Heads Outdoors

By Corinne Alsop

After a year apart, Club Honk was a reminder of the importance of music, performance, and tradition at Pine Island Camp.

Early one morning near the midpoint of the 2021 Pine Island season on the day of Camp Picture, Club Honk, and the Regatta, the camp vans departed from the Whitehead boat landing full of campers and staff who were in the middle of their week’s stay on Whitehead Island. The Pine Islanders on their way from Whitehead would be staying only through the end of the day, but what a day it would be! Because of Covid protocols, this would be the first time the camp community would all convene in one place this summer.

Despite a morning rain squall, when the time came to head up to the Honk lawn for the show, the sun was shining, the camp was fed, and the island was freshly cleaned by the squall. Campers and staff, greeted by waiters in their usual silly garb pulled from the costume box, took their seats in the outdoor amphitheater the LTIPs had spent the morning arranging. Chairs and benches fanned out from the back porch of Honk Hall across the entire lawn. Streamers stretched out from the eaves of Honk to the trees that surround the lawn. Nalgenes, strung like multi-colored lanterns, swung lightly in the cooling western breeze. The osprey, perched in her nest, watched as the first performers took the stage. “It feels like a music festival. More fun than Coachella!” said Madison Olds, distinguished Pine Island Head Cook. 

Campers took the lead in this year’s show. The show began with “Club Honk,” a rewrite of “Roxanne” by the Police, led by Kathy Flores and Corinne Alsop, and was followed by a stunning rendition of the Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House,” performed by Arlo, Wyatt, Charlie, Santi Costa Peuser, Nat Burr, and Matthew Hawkins. Daniel once again thrilled the audience with his beautiful voice as he performed in the waning light. George Baldwin, swimming instructor and accomplished singer, belted out an impressive medley of his favorite country songs. David Effron showcased an original composition entitled “Way of the Lake.” The Club Honk favorite, “Piano Man,” was taken on by Wyatt and Charlie alongside Matthew Hawkins. 

Not only were the acts well rehearsed and excellently executed, but the nature of the outdoor venue made the audio and visual experience better in a big way. Singers and instrumentalists were able to belt it out without any overwhelming reverb or other auditory interference — the music wafted over the audience with ease. Oftentimes, because Club Honk takes place in the middle of July, the event can get uncomfortably hot and sweaty in the dim light of the indoor stage. Outside, with the sun setting gently over the Kennebec Highlands, the air stirred with passing lake breezes and the audience was continually cooled and comfortable. 

Once the Hippy Cowboys took the stage to close the show, the audience couldn’t help but leap to their feet and begin dancing around. Outside, there was plenty of room to move chairs aside and cheer and dance to the Hippys’ rockin’ set as a community, all together at last, celebrated reaching the halfway point in the summer with great success. After a year apart, Club Honk was a reminder of the importance of music, performance, and tradition at Pine Island Camp. 

The ageless Hippy Cowboys and their fans rock out at Honkapalooza

This piece was originally published in the February 2022 edition of The Pine Needle.