For many of us this was an especially emotional evening because we held our last Spirit Fire of the summer. The Spirit Fire is another of the long traditions at Rockbrook, something that’s been a closing ceremony for every session since the camp’s founding more than 100 years ago. It’s a campfire ceremony held on the large rock (“Vesper Rock”) overlooking the camp lake. Surrounded by huge white oak and hemlock trees, the entire camp gathers there dressed in our red and white uniforms. In the same fire ring as generations of Rockbrook girls have done in the past, we build a great campfire. We begin near dusk, so as the surrounding woods turn from green to blue to grey and finally to black, the orange glow of the campfire looks gorgeous. With crickets and frogs chirping, and the sound of the waterfall into the lake faintly splashing in the background, we create an almost dreamy setting.
The Spirit Fire program provides an opportunity to recall and reflect upon the rich experiences we shared during the session. We sing favorite traditional camp songs and listen as fellow campers and counselors share their thoughts about their time at camp. For example, we sing “How Did we Come to Meet Pal” and “The Streams and the Mountains,” just two favorites. The speakers are selected from all age groups (Juniors, Middlers, Seniors, and Hi-Ups) and from both first-year and returning counselors.
The speeches tonight confirmed what we’ve all been experiencing this session— a profound closeness, a special feeling of connection and comfort shared with the others at camp. One word that kept coming up was “home.” Campers described feeling “at home” here at Rockbrook. One simply said, “When I’m at camp, I’m home.” And a counselor put it perfectly, “Rockbrook is my home, not because of the place, but because of the people.” All of these speakers realized that as camp enlivens the best part of ourselves, as we live those core relationship values of kindness and caring, we make the best friends of our lives. Through the day, we find our true selves relaxing into the generous arms of a supportive community.
That’s why the Spirit Fire is bittersweet. It’s a wonderful reminder of why these girls love camp, of why, for many, it’s their favorite time of the year. Nowhere else do they feel this good and have these kinds of close relationships. But the Spirit Fire also marks the end of the session and the time when we must soon say goodbye. Camp friends are the best friends, but they are also usually seen only once a year. Closing camp for this reason is always sad.
It’s been especially gratifying this session to see your girls enjoy the special experiences of camp, to learn and grow individually, and to forge so many close camp friendships. We are so grateful to everyone— campers, staff, and parents alike —for helping make this session so successful. Thank you! We know Rockbrook means as much to all of you as it does to us. We are already looking forward to being together again next summer.