by John Dinner – Staff 1998-2001

When this project began, the 41st story was already reserved for this one.

If you were lucky enough to be there, you may already know what this story is about. This is my version of that magical evening.


A song.

But so much more than a song. I’m certain it did not start out as something with me in mind, and it may never have been the intention, but it is how I remember it, and it has stayed with me for the 16 years since.

At the time, it was the most moving series of moments I had ever experienced in a life full of moving moments. It took my capacity for love and increased it exponentially. Not love for another person, that was still to come, but certainly this prepared me for that. No, this was a deepening for the love of life. A love of moments. A love of being able to breathe and to recognize being in the presence of something supernatural. A growth in understanding that we are surrounded by the supernatural, we just need a moment to crystalize it, to see the connections that exist. This was my moment.

It was the end of a long, frustrating number of days. Days that started out with high hopes only to be lost in the confusion of living a camp life while trying to stay in tune with life whirling around outside. It was during a time when connecting to the world outside of camp wasn’t as convenient as today. Sure there were cell phones, but we didn’t have reception at camp (gasp!). However, in looking back, I’m happy I didn’t have that trusty cell phone and its camera in my pocket, ensuring I experienced what I experienced unfiltered.

As it was, a grand scheme of me taking in The Dave Matthews Band concert in Toronto, in the middle of summer – a plan concocted with so many moving parts and favours asked it had my head spinning, my heart filling and my excitement growing in the days leading up – fizzled the moment we joined the “real world”. Long story, short (not usually my strength), it was not too be.

So I returned to camp, resuming it’s familiar, hectic rhythm, only a little more humble and a little more wise (funny how those two always seem to go hand-in-hand), as we prepared for Cheese House and Special Day. Awesome, energy consuming days. By the time campfire rolled around that Sunday evening I was exhausted, frustrated, and mostly looking forward to its end.

However as camp does time and time again, it doesn’t necessarily give you what you want, but it will almost always give you what you need.

It started for me with the group of CITs (I know, I know…LITs) I was working with who had, unknown to me, put together a wonderful tongue-in-cheek song about me abandoning them for a concert in Toronto, with a nice little re-write about how it all fell apart in the end, as I most assuredly deserved, seeing as I had abandoned them. It was awesome. It brought me out of my funk.  I laughed. I cried. I laughed a bunch more. And without it, I’m certain what was to come would have still been amazing, but it opened my eyes even more to just how in-tune people at camp are with each other.

I felt it washing over me again for the first time in days.

Surprisingly, I was called out again. Usually, I love the spotlight, but it had been a rough few days and I wondered what could possibly be next.

I could not have ever imagined.

I was asked, along with everyone else, to turn from the fire and face the Craft Cabin. Greeting us was a sunset just far enough below the trees to darken them from where we sitting, with the blue sky and white clouds bright enough to provide the perfect backdrop for all to see. It was spectacular, and a view not often appreciated at campfire as our attention is usually drawn inward to the fire, or out across the impossibly quiet Hart Lake. Little did I know in that moment I was looking at the most wonderful stage I will ever see.

Perfect lighting. Perfect sound. Perfect timing.

It started with a note on guitar, maybe a bass, or a drum, or a trumpet, or a violin – please forgive me, for at this point I still had no idea what was happening and was sure it might leave me, quite rightly, a little more embarrassed. And then more notes and soon musicians began appearing over the crest of the Craft Cabin roof connecting those notes. Not just one or two on guitar. It was a whole band. It was THE band. The folks I had marveled at for their talents throughout the previous two, three and four summers. The Band who had filled those summers with endless joy and wonderful sounds. They were already the band and the soundtrack of my summers at camp, and they were playing a Dave Matthews Band song. They were playing Dave Matthews for me!

After all the favours asked, and small inconveniences assumed by others, including these musicians, it was they who were still looking after me. And it was glorious.

It was a song called #41. I will never, ever forget it for as long as I live.

Thanks for that.

Camp Big Canoe

Camp Big Canoe is a not-for-profit overnight recreational camp for kids ages 6-16 in Muskoka, Ontario, Canada

1 Comment

Steve Salt · June 22, 2017 at 9:01 pm

I’ll never forget that. Still gives me chills.

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