Our Love of Love: It Is Not Only a Memory

Editor’s note: This week’s blog post comes to you courtesy of Ben Richter, now a composer and a camper at YPI from 2000 to 2004.

Every year, my heart is at YPI, though a decade has passed since I was last a camper. The intervening years far outnumber the years I spent at YPI, and still, always, it is home.

YPI is where I discovered most of my greatest friends in all the world. It’s where I discovered that I was a writer, a musician, a creator. But still, it is even more.

Home is a funny concept for many of us young artists who have drifted to the corners of the world. In my own drifting I ended up for some years at the unexpected base-camp of The Hague, Netherlands, where I composed my heart out and managed to scrape together a master’s degree while finding all manner of excuses to go exploring and wandering into the unknown.

Yet during the two weeks that YPI occupied in the 2011 calendar, I found myself in a happily parallel situation. I was at a different kind of summer camp, a music school in Germany. I had the enormous privilege of working with a group of dancers and musicians who performed a new piece on which I collaborated with another composer and a choreographer. We were a gathering of young artists, far from home, in the lush greenery of July and August, sleeping a bit less and somehow fitting more music and more dance and poetry and inspiration into every day in a way that energized us rather than exhausting us.

YPI Dance at Westover, circa 2002

YPIers dance at Westover School, first week of 2003

In August of 2013, I was in the Czech Republic for a music festival with 34 other young composers (ages 19 to 50), and the taste of YPI was palpable — I couldn’t go for a day without thinking of it. We were all meeting each other, immediate friends over our love of music and experimentation, and our love of love — a place of honesty and creativity that was somehow a little bulb of the best that this world can be.

In these places, Jeff wasn’t there, I couldn’t go to the stone steps to sing songs with Sal, I couldn’t sit with Helena and Wyatt and write twelve new songs in a row as time stood still. But nevertheless, in fleeting and wonderful moments, I really felt like I was at YPI. Within myself, in the place in my heart that YPI created, we are all there. And I know those friends, though far-flung in the physical world, feel the same way.

Again and again, I think of YPI, my home for two weeks each summer 2000-2004 and the home in my heart that doesn’t go away:

  • September in The Hague, singing in a wordless choir that wandered through the enormous library, occasionally bewildering, occasionally enchanting. In the enchantment, I nearly thought I saw some familiar and beloved faces.
  • October, in a cold-feeling, warm-looking, soaring church in Friesland, where a new-music chamber orchestra breathed the tones and sounds that had arrived with me not as I sat at a piano but as I sat simply dreaming of the space between memory and time, of Sardinian mountaintop ruins, Georgia swamp secrets, and Westover cloudwatching.
  • November in Brno, winding castleways, roofs, and ramparts rising everywhere, greatrock housebeasts’ looming wrought iron doors — again mirroring the arches and passages of Westover nights, the gates of the library and the mysterious and forbidden observatory tower, bringing me to memories of YPI;

but it is not the place I am remembering.

It is the feeling when creation and love and hope and timeless freedom all rise without effort and blend into an ineffable higher level of being.

It is a flooding rush of heat in my chest, and it is not only a memory.

It is home.

It is that home in which I live all my best moments, the place where I feel the sacredness of imagination, the place where imagination is confirmed to hold far more substance than physicality.

And in this home, I am not alone — you are with me!

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