Dina L. Relles

writer. editor. curious + common.

I’ll spend much of this summer at my alma mater overnight camp with my three sons. I’ll work in the front office while the boys enjoy programming designed for staff kids. Each day, we’ll step outside to the dewy chill of early morning air. Come nightfall, we’ll huddle under fleece blankets in a modest bunk–two rooms adjoined by a bathroom–with a shared porch.


our home in the woods

It is the way we disconnect and reconnect. Internet access is spotty at best. The rhythm of life slows to a stripped-back simplicity. The nights are black and still, with no dishes to wash or house to keep. After the camp quiets and the boys are kissed goodnight, it is just me, my words, and the wilderness.

my utterly unrealistic reading stack

my utterly unrealistic reading stack

Yet there’s a steady buzz in the front office. And we eat our meals in a communal dining hall that accommodates several hundred people. Walls are thin, and little separates you from nature or neighbor. It’s a strange confluence of constant community and soul-searching silence.

It is the way we mark time. We did this last year, and that we’ll be back there again signals another year has passed. It leaves me thoughtful of all that’s come between summer’s brackets.

Frankly, we’re in need of a change. Our routine has grown rote. We cycle through our days like a tired, monochromatic wardrobe. I’ve prepared the same dinner each night for two weeks straight (pasta, chickenless nuggets, edamame, if you’re curious), only to use the leftovers for lunches. The boys have fallen into an undesirable habit of waking in the 5:00 hour, and I know: we all sleep more soundly at camp.

Sometimes we need to shift perspective to truly see. It’s time to take in the tiny new freckle on the small of my oldest son’s back. To listen carefully as he fills my ears with the complicated details of last night’s dream. To step away from the minivan that shuttles us everywhere and be within walking distance of all our destinations. To sit on the earth. Summer is for slowing down, for noticing. And this narrowing, scaling back, stripping away–it’s also somehow an expansion. It is in this smallest, simplest life that we see what looms large.




I may not be as connected or responsive over the coming months, but you can be sure I’ll be writing, and living, in my cabin in the woods…surrounded by all that matters.

Wishing you a wonderful summer of stepping back, sinking in, taking stock…whatever suits you.

There once was a time Before Computers–a second B.C.–that we’re now using our computers to delete: a time before e-mail, msgs, apps, and urls, when privacy wasn’t a setting and attachments were to people, when search meant finding something in the real world, and being connected meant you weren’t alone. – Adam Ross’ blurb on Book of Numbers by Joshua Cohen


18 thoughts on “when search meant finding something in the real world

  1. Amy says:

    Beautiful Dina, this post is sustenance for the soul. Thank you, so much. xox

    1. Thank *you.* What a kind thing to say. Wishing you a most fulfilling summer. xox

  2. Tara Borin says:

    This sounds like a beautiful respite. I love your writing, and have only recently come across your blog. I’ll take the time to read back through your posts, and look forward to reading more from you at summer’s end.

    Enjoy your time in the woods!

    1. Welcome, Tara! And thank you so much for these kind words–they mean a lot. I’m glad you found me & I look forward to checking out your blog too. Have a wonderful summer, however you spend it! xo

  3. Reading this makes me envy what you are going to experience this summer. I know it will surely not be easy and fun all the time, but it’s an experience like no other and your boys are so lucky to be growing up with it, and what a great change for you too! To be virtually forced to unplug for a summer is the healthiest thing I can think of- yet so so hard!!

    1. No, certainly not fun and easy at all times, and thanks for acknowledging that, but yes, worth it. I look forward to catching up with you upon our return and swapping summer stories!

  4. jsolot says:

    Your summer sounds amazing. My husband spent his summers at a camp in Pennsylvania. His mother was the camp nurse and he went every summer, starting as a little boy until he was a teenager. He would love to take our children there. Enjoy your respite. 😊

    1. Aw, lovely to hear about your husband’s experience–and to know that he still has such fond memories of it! So heartwarming. Thank you for sharing that, Justine. I will think of it often. xo

  5. Oh, I wish I could do this. It sounds absolutely magical. And The Writing Life is one of my all-time favorites. xox

    1. There are highs and lows, as with anything, but it’s all heightened here, if that makes sense–intensified. And yes, magical. Looking forward to The Writing Life! Have a wonderful summer, Lindsey. xo

  6. bam says:

    ah, dear dina, your resolve in stepping away resolves me too, to make up a use for a word. more and more, i yearn to unplug, ground myself in the earth and the heavens that swirl just above. what a blessing for your boys, for you. i will love knowing this summer that you are off under the leafy canopy, tucking your back-freckled boy into bed, under thin blanket or rough sheet, depending on what the summer offers in the heat and humidity department. i will think often of you and the boys, and my heart will melt and the world will feel lighter.

    and, ps, my heart melted at the image of the books in your stack. thank you. xoxo

    1. Such drastic measures we take to disconnect these days! Yet so necessary. And oh your beautiful book–I started it earlier this year, but life intervened. I’m hopeful this summer will lend the space to savor each gorgeous word. Regardless, I will be thinking of you often, feet sunk in the earth, arms filled with children, face turned ever skyward…xoxo

  7. Nina Badzin says:

    What’s scary that I remember you doing this last year and it seems like YESTERDAY! I hope you’re having the best time and enjoying that camp atmosphere. I have Book of Numbers sitting on my kindle by the way.

    1. Right?? It feels like no time has passed since I was last here, and yet every day here feels like forever–if that makes sense. Time moves slower at camp, in a good way ;). Thanks for reading, Nina–and I look forward to sharing thoughts on Book of Numbers someday! Josh Cohen is one of my oldest and dearest friends. Wishing you a wonderful summer!

  8. Mike Levinstein says:

    It is awesome that you’re able to go back to camp. I frequently dream about camp, my bunkmates, my campers, the adventures we had in the woods, and the downtown we spent on the boys’ campus hill. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to return after nearly 20 years especially with my family. Enjoy the summer!

    1. Thanks, Mike! It’s wild to be back here after all these years–still the best place on earth. Grateful to be able to be here with my family and give back to the place I love…

  9. jamella28 says:

    Hi Dina so glad that you guys are all enjoying camp. The boys have grown so much. I miss and love you all!

    1. Aw…we miss and love you too! Thanks so much for reading & commenting, Jamella. It means the world. So much love to you & hope you’re doing well…we’ll try to get down for a visit in the fall. xoxo

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