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Lighting the Magical Fire

Editor’s Note: This post was written by 2020 Smirkus Camp Coach, Lindsay Culbert-Olds

Photo by Amira Silverman

What inspires me about working at Circus Smirkus is the energy. There is an almost constant flow of positivity and a transformative spirit of inclusion that fills the campus.  We call this the “Smirkus Magic.”

What I have learned from working at Circus Smirkus is that there really is no “magic.”  This quality is not inherently present; Smirkus staff works hard to light this magical fire. The innocence and genuine excitement of the campers provide the fuel – just as in the circus ring, the performers put in hours of work backstage to create a seamless show for the audience to enjoy.

I first came back to work at Smirkus because I wanted to return to my circus roots. I now come back because I understand the direct impact I can have on the kind of magic Circus Smirkus creates for the future generations of Smirkos – I am “performing” in a new and wonderful way.

This summer the magic was created from a special sort of resilient energy. It was the sort of determined, powerful energy that makes a circus show happen despite the torrential thunderstorm that is happening outside the circus tent, and the kind of energy that makes an audience member smile and forget for a minute whatever sadness or fears they feel outside of the big top. We knew this summer would come with many challenges, but also with the deepest sort of joys and moments of healing and recovery. The staff was resilient in creating this summer’s season of “magic,” and the campers were resilient in how they arrived, with hearts open to a different kind of energy than what we were all experiencing in a COVID-19 world.

I will never forget that moment we all took off our masks, two weeks into the camp season. That was a magical moment, created by everyone’s hard work and mutual trust. I will also never forget our last moment as a camp, standing in a socially-distanced circle in the field, combining the feelings of isolation of COVID-19 with the energy of unity we had created this summer. Circus Smirkus was able to put on a show this summer, despite the huge storms raging outside the tent, and I think all of us inside and around that large tent were able to momentarily put aside some of the overwhelming weight that we had been carrying and give a huge, mask-free smile.

– Lindsay Culbert-Olds