Magical Moments


As girls start getting settled into camp and third session has started going full swing, most of them have found that they feel right at home in their cabins. I love looking at how different cabins look and feel. Some are decorated with fairy lights, a camp “bucket list” of all the things the cabin wants to accomplish throughout the session, plus many photographs of camp from years past and friends and family from home. Everything is starting to feel cozy, the noises of the night no longer so scary, the bunk beds and friends ever more inviting.

In addition to the physical space in which we are residing, everyone is starting to get more comfortable with one another. We are moving past basic questions and getting in to the ease that comes with being around good friends. This was particularly appreciated today because we got to hang out as cabins all afternoon—it was Cabin Day! For Cabin Day, we cancel the two afternoon activities and counselors plan fun activities for their individual cabins. Everyone looks forward to cabin day— it usually means an extra special activity, some good snacks, and, of course, lots of time spent bonding together!

Middle School Girls Camp

The counselors put a lot of work planning activities they think their individual cabins will enjoy, and it definitely showed today! One group of junior counselors knew their girls loved playing with hair, so they spray painted hair (it’s temporary!) and braided the girls’ hair. This made every girl have the opportunity to be wacky, but also to feel special as they all had fun helping each other to do some fun hair dos.

Another junior cabin loves fairies (which is something I hear more about at Rockbrook than anywhere else—there is something that is just magical about it). Their counselors planned a great adventure for them, and I loved hearing all about it from the girls! They hiked to Stick Biscuit Falls (the nearest waterfall from camp—you can actually see the waterfall from the new office building) and searched for fairies. Then, after romping around in the woods and finding an adventurous trail back down the mountain, the girls made their own fairy wings! In addition, they came up with their own fairy identities— I heard of a football fairy, a flower fairy, and a nature fairy! The girls told me that their cabin had made a pact to wear their fairy wings at every meal (while they made sure to point out that other fairy accessories were encouraged, but they were not required). This seems like a small detail of a camper’s time at Rockbrook, but these are the magical parts of camp, the things that give cabins a certain identity that they will remember for years to come.

Pokemon Camp Game

The middlers decided to do something as a line for cabin day, and I saw so much excitement as the girls raced up and down the lines. In light of the Pokémon Go craze, the middler counselors decided to bring Pokémon Go to Rockbrook! Each counselor dressed up as a Pokémon and some hid while others went around with the girls. Much like a scavenger hunt, the girls went from station to station and acquired different treats (that were in Easter Eggs) as though they were collecting Pokemon. Then, they got to decorate cookies that looked like the different characters. Finally, to cap off a great cabin day, they all had a “battle” in the gym by playing dodge ball. Everyone had an amazing time and all the middlers were grateful for all the thought their counselors had put into the activity.

For their cabin day, the seniors had a picnic for dinner and then went to Sliding Rock and Dolly’s. The picnic was perfect—the girls ate quiche, warm lasagna, fresh peaches (possibly the best peaches I’ve ever had), and banana pudding. We then played a large group game of “I’m a Rockbrook Girl and You’re a Rockbrook Girl too,” which is a tradition at these picnics and an opportunity for all of us to learn new things about others. Then, girls went down Sliding Rock— they loved the opportunity to slide as many times as they wanted. Though cold afterward, everyone was excited for Dolly’s, the local ice cream shop that names its flavors for the local camps.

No matter which adventure they were a part of, every camper enjoyed Cabin Day. It makes us all to feel more connected with our cabin and lets counselors be creative, choosing things their particular campers will enjoy. Above all, though, growing closer as cabins allows us to feel even more comfortable with each other, and therefore even happier and more at home at camp.

Girls Slide Rock

What Home Really Is

As second session girls prepared to depart, they wrote many of their thoughts about camp down for Spirit Fire. Girls from every line are invited to speak in front of the rest of the camp about what this summer at Rockbrook has meant to them. These speeches were particularly thoughtful; as such a long and beautiful session ended, sincere sentiments were met with smiles and tears as the girls prepared to leave. Although it is now third session, it seems like a great time to share this poem that two campers created and read at the end of second session spirit fire. I expect that all girls who have ever been to Rockbrook (or who are coming for the first time) will be able to relate to it.

Easy Time at the Lake
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It’s hard to explain what home really is.

Your friends at school,
Your group, your clique,
Pressure getting A’s,
Pressure fitting in:
Perfect.

The love and care from mom and dad,
The entertainment from brothers and sisters
A variety of choices
From restaurants to malls:
The usual.

It’s hard to explain what home really is.

Your friends in your cabin,
A fun group, but not a clique
The pressure fitting in is not as much of a challenge
Growing, learning to be myself:
To be my type of perfect.

Love and care from counselors and directors,
Entertainment from the hi-ups and CA’s, our role models
A variety of choices:
Adventures, activities, creativity:
Not the usual,
Once a year…

But home.

How can two places, so special, so different, still be home?
Stripped away from air conditioning, electronics, and carpeted floors?

Home away from luxury–
More alive,
More real…

It’s hard to explain what home really is.
I guess we all have two.

Written for Second Session Spirit Fire by Karma B. and Sam H.

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If This Isn’t Nice, What Is?

One of the things [Uncle Alex] found objectionable about human beings was that they so rarely noticed it when they were happy. He himself did his best to acknowledge it when times were sweet. We could be drinking lemonade in the shade of an apple tree in the summertime, and Uncle Alex would interrupt the conversation to say, “If this isn’t nice, what is?”

So I hope that you will do the same for the rest of your lives. When things are going sweetly and peacefully, please pause a moment, and then say out loud, “If this isn’t nice, what is?” -Kurt Vonnegut

Girl Camp Swimming

Girls savored today as it was the last normal day of camp. Tomorrow, we have banquet, and the day after is the play and Spirit Fire. Today brought us opportunities to finish mermaid laps and Rockbrook running miles. It was a day to give away friendship bracelets and to relish the simplicity of talking to a circle of good friends in front of the cabin.

We have been at camp for quite awhile at this point, and with the end looming so close, I wanted to step back and consider those moments where all is well with the world. These are not the big moments that might stand out in our minds when we think of camp, but the little ones where everything is just going right. There are so many small and beautiful moments at camp, but they happen so quickly that if we don’t acknowledge them, we can take them for granted. We live good lives at camp, and when I zoomed out my perspective, I began to consider the small moments of loveliness that I can overlook after spending many days in this wonderful place.

At camp, we live in a world where…

  1. A fresh-baked muffin greets us every mid-morning. We ate fresh-baked, cinnamon apple muffins that were still warm from the oven. We get a new muffin flavor every day, which makes the rainiest days cozy and gives all of us a little extra warmth from the bakers. It’s a social time, too, as the news of the muffin flavor travels up and down hills and girls bring muffins to their friends who are in hard-to-reach places. I think that starting the day with a muffin makes the day that much better.
  2. We spend all day playing outside and learning new things. Sometimes, we become so caught up in exactly what an activity is doing every day that we forget that we are spending our days playing. What kind of day could be more incredible than one that includes kayaking on a lake, making a pinch pot, and hiking to Castle Rock…all within about six hours? These are days lived fully, where we appreciate every ounce of free time we have.
  3. Camp Girl Friends
    Girl Archer at camp
    Our best friends are our neighbors and we all like each other and are the kind of neighbors who would gladly lend a cup of sugar (or a pair of shoes or costume)! Each line forms a beautiful community of girls who are comfortable with each other. At this point, every cabin has girls from other cabins popping in and out of it; the cabins are much more cohesive than they were three short weeks ago. It is so convenient to be surrounded by good friends all of the time, always ready for a game of cards or a walk to the camp store. The counselors know all of the campers on their line, and when we gather together, there is a feeling of community that encompasses the entire room.
  4. We can choose how to spend our free time and we engage fully throughout that free time. Today, I played tennis with a camper during a free swim, and we had a great time practicing strokes and improving our skills. Many of the girls in my cabin ran with Rockbrook Runners. Then, for another free swim, we took a cabin hike to Castle Rock, a huge rock face that overlooks camp. Sometimes, free time will include One Direction dance parties or badminton tournaments. This time is not always so structured, but if anyone has an idea, we try our hardest to make it happen. We value this time and we try to make the most of it, even on the days that means relaxing and talking to friends on the porch.
  5. We are explorers of the world (or at least Western North Carolina), and we never know what we are going to run into! Our corner of the world is filled with animals and vegetation. The juniors teach the rest of us to explore the world–they are constantly sticking their feet in the creek looking for salamanders and skinks. Other girls decide that they want to romp around the forest and see waterfalls. Camp give us the place, the tools, and the friends to explore the world and teaches us to be more observant.

As these girls prepare to leave and we begin to reflect on what distinguishes camp from the rest of the world, I think these are five things that we have really been doing at camp. To cap off a beautiful day, I went to the Rockbrook Garden with a small group of campers. We showed each other the zesty verbena plant, plucked some strawberries off the vine, and smelled the gentle lavender plant. I realized that at Rockbrook, there are so many moments where I just need to step back and sigh, “If this isn’t nice, what is?”

Happy Nice Camper

Where Everyone Has a Place

Ever since Harry Potter Day, I have been thinking a lot about personality. In the context of Harry Potter, it comes down to which house would I be in? The brave and chivalrous Gryffindor? The friendly and loyal Hufflepuff? The intellectual, witty Ravenclaw? The ambitious, cunning Slytherin? Of course, personality is not so neatly cut between these categories (and that is never how it was originally intended in the series). Still, the diversity of personalities at camp is possibly its greatest treasure. Rockbrook, in particular, is a place where girls from many personalities can fit right in and feel at home. Girls are free to be honest and bold, or shy and peaceful; there are times when outgoing and loud girls let their personalities shine, but also times for quiet contemplation. Today’s agenda displayed how Rockbrook is able to play to all kinds of interests and personalities, and how everyone can find a part of the day that fulfills their needs.

Everyone was looking forward to today, a day that allowed us to sleep in and get some needed rest as we prepared for our final week at camp. We awoke at nine and then went to breakfast in our pajamas. Krispie Kreme donuts were placed on our tables, a favorite Sunday tradition, and then we went back to cabins to get in whities and get ready for chapel.

camp girls guitar singing

We stood in a horseshoe shape and raised the flag before quietly reflecting on the walk to chapel. Chapel is one of my favorite spaces and times at camp. So often, camp is loud: singing in the dining hall, cheering on friends on the hill. During chapel, though, we find a peaceful place to reflect on an important theme of camp. Today’s theme was bliss, or the light continuous feeling of happiness. The senior line led chapel this morning, so two girls played guitar as girls filed in. Then, they led song such as ‘Let’s Go Fly a Kite’ (complete with kites as props), ‘Unwritten,’ and ‘Wildflowers.’ The girls spoke about what bliss meant to them and how it related to life at camp.

After chapel, we cleaned cabins and tried to get our belongings organized. Sunday provides a perfect opportunity to reset for the week ahead. Then, we gathered on the hill for another Sunday tradition, Assembly on the Hill. This is a time that is loud where girls and cabins get recognized for their efforts throughout the week. All of the lines sing their line song loudly and then line heads present cabins and individuals with awards. The Mop Award is for the cabin that has the most points from inspection, and the Spirit Award, Manners Award, and Bend-a-Back Award go to individual campers who have been examples of spirit, etiquette, and going above and beyond for others. It is a challenging decision because there are so many reasons every camper could earn each award! Then, all of the mermaids and bull’s-eye club members were honored. Assembly on the Hill is a great time to show your cabin pride and so many girls cheered loudly for their friends as they were honored!

This afternoon, we had Miss RBC. This is a time-honored Rockbrook tradition where cabins gather together to present a short skit, song, or dance in front of the rest of camp. This year, we have asked campers not to use background music (they couldn’t use an iPod) so they had to be more creative and come up with their own music. Their talents were amazing—some cabins performed skits about life in the dining hall; some cabins danced and stomped; some made Rockbrook versions of songs (“We started as Pen Pals, and now we’re besties” was substituted for “So here’s my number, now call me maybe”). This was an event where every girl could get involved. Girls have a lot of practice planning performances because they plan skits most nights during evening program. In our cabin, many girls love dancing, so they were able to patiently teach everyone a dance that everyone agreed on in record time! The performances were met with enthusiastic response for every cabin, and we were all thoroughly entertained while listening to a representative from each cabin answer fun questions like “If you had a pool of Jello, what kind would you jump in and why?”

fun camp girls as friends

For twilight tonight, we had a very special event: a string trio and quartet from the Brevard Music Center came to Rockbrook and gave us a performance as we ate dessert! One of the musicians talked about the different periods in musical history (baroque, classical, and romantic), and they played examples of each. Girls had the opportunity to ask about the instruments and the experiences of each musician. Sitting there listening to beautiful music after an action-packed and energy-filled day could not have been a better end to the day. Many girls loved the opportunity to listen to fine music and get lost in their own thoughts as inspired by what was being played. It was a calmer, more contemplative (yet still interactive) way to spend the evening, and it made me appreciate how everyone could take something beautiful away from this day.

classical music at summer camp

We lived a lovely day today. Chapel and the string ensemble gave us time to be contemplative and reflect on all of the action we have lived. Miss RBC and Assembly on the Hill gave us times to be loud and enthusiastic, basking in the spirit of camp. In the coming, final days, we will find other activities that meet our needs. Activities like curosty, needlecraft, and yoga give us a calm space to center ourselves whereas sports and games, swimming, and climbing give us more opportunities to live out loud. At Rockbrook, some girls like to have conversations in small groups whereas others love big groups and being the life of the party. Some girls love crowds and spirit, and others love the calm peace of nature. Most girls love both, which is great, because Rockbrook is able to provide an atmosphere that suits every type of girl and that celebrates every type of personality.

Life on the Wild Side

“The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.”
–Joseph Campbell

One benefit of going to camp in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina is all of the adventures that await us in our own backyard! The outdoor staff at Rockbrook relish in the opportunities they get to introduce campers to all of the excitement that surrounds our camp. One hike has been particularly popular this year. It’s called the Wet ‘n’ Wild Hike. The adventure staff haven’t really explained it beyond that—they want to leave a lot of the surprise in it for girls who have not gone yet. Still, I have been pretty curious about it every time I hear it announced, so I decided to try to get the inside scoop from some of the campers who went on the hike today.

My anonymous source, a member of the elite outdoor staff, gave me the full story. For the sake of this post, we will call her Rita. This morning, Rita made a cryptic announcement that a Wet and Wild Hike would be happening. Murmurs filled the dining hall: campers had heard about this hike, but what would actually happen on it? After twelve lucky girls signed up, the trip was off! Rita co-piloted the van and tried to find tunes the girls would love to set the right mood for their hike. They drove into Pisgah National Forest and got out of the van at Cove Creek. The real adventure was to begin!

The hike begins with a walk through a few fields and campgrounds. At this point, the campers are somewhat confused because there is no water present. Eventually, they bump into the creek and the real adventure begins. There are tiny, rambling trails, and they walk through a confusing and twisted path until they hear the sound of a waterfall. They stand at the base of the waterfall, eating muffins and discussing waterfall safety. With at least 712 waterfalls in Transylvania County (the county Rockbrook is a part of), it seems most relevant to have this conversation. After the refreshments, the girls played with a baby skink, a lizard common in the area, and enjoyed playing in the waterfall.

teenagers waterfall pool below

After that, they voyaged back toward the van and the second part of their hike. They carefully crossed slippery rocks (Rita says they always make sure to note that “there is no shame in crab walking”) and they get on yet another side trail. The girls are elated to find that this leads to a miniature sliding rock—a natural rockface they can slide down! The girls enjoy the perfect day and slide until they are content. Rita says that, at this point, the hike “feels like Eden.” There is such simplicity in the hike, just girls purely playing outside!

The third part of the hike is Rita’s favorite. After hiking on another side trail, the girls arrive at potholes. After talking about how potholes form, Rita talked about how they couldn’t swim in it because it only went knee-deep. Then, Rita fell backwards! The girls were nervous for her, but she popped out of the water laughing. In fact, the potholes were about eight feet deep, so the girls enjoyed swimming and playing in them. On another pothole, water shoots the girls out into the deep part, and the girls took advantage of this many times.

Following such a full hike and pure bliss, it was time to scramble back up the hill and get back into the vans. The girls were told to keep the hike a secret, for the outdoor staff wanted the surprises to exist for everyone who has not yet gone on this hike. They were then treated to a feast of a lunch: homemade chicken soup, chips and salsa, and pineapple—what a perfect meal!

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Mini session seniors and middlers got to continue our Wet ‘n’ Wild adventures today for cabin day! After enjoying a delicious picnic dinner and playing a few rounds of “I’m a Rockbrook Girl,” a beloved game, we all got to go to Sliding Rock! Sliding Rock is a natural waterslide that is in Pisgah Forest. It’s sixty feet long, and girls start at the top before taking a wild ride down freezing cold water before plunging into a pool at the bottom. Counselors are standing at the top to help girls get settled and prevent slipping, and life guards are in the water at the bottom, throwing girls floating tubes and reeling them in! The girls can go two-by-two, so many choose to go with a friend or a counselor. Campers are given the choice of whether they want to slide or not, but we had a particularly excited group last night, and many chose to take the plunge! Some girls went as many as five times, and everyone had a perfect time!

After Sliding Rock, we all piled back in to heated vans (some of us were very cold after our adventure) and headed to Dolly’s for some well-deserved ice cream. Girls look forward all session to their trip to Dolly’s, a local dairy bar that offers special edition ice creams named for local camps. Some girls have a favorite flavor (Illahee is very popular, a combination of cookie dough and brownies, other girls love Rockbrook, an extremely chocolaty concoction), while others try to branch out and try all of the flavors. Every girl also got a sticker with the Dolly’s logo, which many put on their trunks and water bottles when we got back to camp. We all sat around in rocking chairs or at tables enjoying ice cream and singing our favorite Rockbrook songs. It was fun seeing the two lines together—girls got to interact across the ages and get to know other campers they are less likely to meet. We ended by singing both the Senior Line Song and the Middler Line Song before we heard a familiar, “Hey Rockbrook, this train is leaving the station!” at which point we got back in the vans and returned to camp, ready for bedtime after such an exhilarating day.

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Part of the beauty of our summers is that they give us the opportunity to get Wet ‘n’ Wild on a daily basis. We aren’t nearly as shy as we might otherwise be of “getting our hair wet” (literally and metaphorically) as we might usually be. Some girls are adventurous by nature. They jump in to wild adventures because they look fun. Others (and I might be in this category) are more reserved because they consider how cold they might be after, or how tired they might be because of a long hike, or how they could slip on a rock. Rockbrook has taught me to be more adventurous, though, because I have learned that when I say ‘yes’ to any adventure, I never have regrets. By the end of Sliding Rock, I wound up thoroughly chilled with a minorly stubbed toe. Yet these minor discomforts were discounted by the thrill of going down Sliding Rock with a good friend and being able to have a shared experience with the rest of the senior line.

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Rockbrook gives us the room to decide for ourselves when to leave our comfort zones, but I think we all do in our own way. Maybe we decide to go down Sliding Rock because our friends cheer for us and convince us that it will be worth being cold. Or maybe we go on a kayaking adventure that frightens us because we are just learning to be more confident about skills. We might try riding the bull on a whitewater raft even though we may fall out. It will happen for each girl in its own way, but I think living at Rockbrook makes every girl a little more in touch with her wild side.

Kinder than is Necessary

“Kinder than is necessary. Because it’s not enough to be kind. One should be kinder than needed…If every person in this room made it a rule that wherever you are, whenever you can, you will try to act a little kinder than is necessary – the world really would be a better place.”

–RJ Palacio, Wonder

Many of my campers love the book Wonder by RJ Palacio. In it, a boy named Auggie, who was born with facial abnormalities, goes to middle school for the first time. Through shifting perspectives and realistic characters, the book ends up being an excellent argument for kindness.

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This book resonates at Rockbrook particularly because, in many ways, Rockbrook’s foundation is a culture of kindness. There is something gentler about being here, something that causes everyone to be a little more patient with each other, to go out of our way for someone else. With mini session girls starting their first day of camp, it was fun to see how they were welcomed into camp and became a part of this culture.

In Jewelry Making, girls made beaded necklaces. I saw many girls not making it for themselves only, but giving their necklaces to friends. They put their friends’ initials on them–entire cabins now match with beaded necklaces and bracelets. They enjoyed having a fun and colorful identity for the entire cabin to sport around camp! I’ve also seen many friendship bracelets being given to good friends. I even saw one girl giving a particularly intricate bracelet to a friend on the first day of camp! We all wondered how she had made the bracelet so quickly, but she said that she had been working on the bracelet throughout the year, ready to give it to a friend when she finally saw her at camp! It is impressive to consider how much these bonds continue throughout the year.

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Hodge Podge is an activity where girls make really fun crafts. I don’t know of a better way to describe it–they make flubber, which is a gooey playdough-like creation. It doesn’t make much of a mess, but feels really weird and makes fun sounds! They also tie-dye shirts and fun pillows. Today was a flubber day, and the girls had so much fun talking to each other and making flubber. After, everyone let their friends play with their fun creations and it became a hit in the cabins.

I see this culture of kindness the most frequently in the dining hall. Our dining hall is wonderful and neighborly, and even though they are in close quarters, the girls are able to work together to make sure that everyone has enough space and can get in and out for food. We are constantly borrowing things from other tables, but today, I noticed that a lot of tables were also making sure that others have enough. Sometimes, girls will volunteer to be the ones to get up and get more food, even if they did not take the last thing. Girls will go out of their way to show new campers where the water spigot is, or where to find the extra spoons. After dinner, a camper from our cabin volunteered to help clean the table when it was not her night. These things might seem small, maybe even too small to mention, but these are the things that create the atmosphere in which we live.

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It’s impossible to talk about kindness at Rockbrook and not mention the Hi-Up Campers. These are the oldest campers at Rockbrook, and they have many responsibilities that help keep camp running. They help out with the dishes, choose which songs to sing at meals, sort mail, get ready for special events, and help out with activities, among other things! This group of hi-ups has gone above and beyond to make all of the other campers feel loved. At twilight, hi-ups are frequently seen on the hill playing with the juniors and braiding their hair. They are constantly walking other girls to the barn, and helping out when any of the younger girls are feeling homesick. They show patience and love to the younger girls. In Nature, for example, hi-ups helped the juniors avoid slipping on rocks on a hike to Rockbrook Falls. Their spirit of helping others has resonated throughout the camp, making the other campers feel supported and welcomed!

Wherever you go at Rockbrook, you can’t help but notice this sense of gentleness and willingness to do things for others. Girls volunteered to sweep the lodge last night when their friends were on the rafting trip. Others helped comfort girls who were homesick. In one middler cabin, girls who had been to camp for years spent time trying to help a new friend who was experiencing homesickness. They asked her a lot of questions about her home life and tried to apply all of those things to camp–it truly helped the homesick camper and made her feel more at home here at camp.

Within this culture that so regularly exudes kindness as a philosophy, it doesn’t take long for girls to feel comfortable and at home. We aren’t competing against each other. Instead, we all want the best for each other. I see campers make being kinder than is necessary a rule in their lives at camp, whether consciously or unconsciously,  they intentionally make decisions that brighten the lives of others. During each of these times, when girls go the extra mile, they are making their cabin, their line, and the camp has a whole a more generous place. Kindness is contagious, and in living this way at camp, I think this kind of generosity extends when campers return home.

Glad Your Path Crossed Mine

“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”

— L.M. Montgomery

As the mini session girls spent their last day at camp, and the full session girls are now into the deep beauty of their camp experiences, the greatest gift of camp was felt strongly throughout the day: friendship. Girls spent the day making each other friendship bracelets, reflecting on the best moments of camp so far, and for some, made a few more wonderful memories before camp was over.

I was struck how entire cabins of girls who had met each other just a week and a half ago have become best friends. Cabins have formed beautiful identities, some counting themselves off to the Seven Dwarves from Snow White, others sporting French braids all throughout camp. Some cabins respond to role calls with inside jokes, then laugh about how they are all in on it. However the cabin expresses it, special bonds have formed and each girl has an important role in her cabin. A lot of girls arrive to this point in camp and say things like, “I can’t believe I only just met you,” or “I am just so glad our paths crossed.” Behold the magic of camp.

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This closeness was celebrated today because today was Cabin Day! For Cabin Day, we do not go to our third and fourth activities, but instead, plan something fun to do as a cabin. For mini session girls, this was a great time to reflect on a wonderful and meaningful session. One junior cabin used the time to paint fairy houses and put compliments from friends inside of them. Another group tried to build rafts that could float on the lake! Some cabins spent the time scrapbooking and making compliment jars to be read on the drive home—memories that could last the year. Another cabin had a special day at Hogwarts with Butterbeer (cream soda and ice cream), a sorting ceremony, and brooms for Quidditch. I saw a group of middlers going around the world—they decorated shirts in Paris for Fashion Week, had a safari in Africa (near the Alpine Tower), and finally went on a hike to the Costa Rican Rainforest (Rockbrook Falls) for an end to a perfect journey. Everyone had a great time as they bonded with their cabins.

After Cabin Day, the fun just kept going. To celebrate Rockbrook’s birthday, we had a birthday party! The dining hall was decorated with old camp pictures from every decade camp has existed. The high-ups painted posters and decorated tables with tattoos that read, “HBD, RBC,” (Happy Birthday, Rockbrook Camp). Music from every decade played over the speakers, and we had a lot of fun dancing to songs we don’t usually dance to, like ‘The Twist’ and ‘In the Mood.’ Sarah Carter informed us that July 6 was actually the date that camp opened, so it could not have been more perfect to be celebrating tonight! It made us all reflect on how many stories Rockbrook really holds. All of the girls who have called this camp home have found friends, have their own favorite spots, have their own stories and special memories that have gotten us to where we are now. It is special to be a part of something bigger than we are.

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Following dinner, full session campers signed up for activities and attended evening program as usual, excited to stay in the mountains and continue growing their friendships. Mini session campers gathered together at the Spirit Fire and reflected on the session as a group. Spirit fire is a tradition as old as the camp itself. It is a time to sing old camp songs, and a time for every line to speak about their love of camp. The speeches last night were particularly moving. Some girls talked about the peace they felt when they were at camp, some talked about a true sense of home. All mentioned the friendships they had cultivated in such a short amount of time, and how special camp friends are. As we walked around the lake holding candles lit from the spirit fire, most girls needed to get their candles relit. There is a proverb that suggests “a candle loses nothing by lighting another candle,” and as I saw girls leaning over to their friends and asking for some more light, I realized that this was the true purpose of coming to camp. At camp, we light each others’ candles every day through kind words and small deeds. Our entire life becomes simplified, and somehow, we understand that this is all we really need.

So the mini session girls will leave tomorrow. They will carry with them the beautiful memories and some of the sweetest friendships imaginable. Hopefully, they will keep in touch throughout the year and find ways to carry the light from their candles into their lives at home. The full session girls will continue to grow in their friendships and continue to live their camp lives to the fullest without taking a day for granted. Though some of our friends will leave tomorrow, there is a collective sense of gratitude for the friendship in the first place. As one girl at Spirit Fire remarked, “Camp friends are the best friends.”

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Stars, Stripes, and Smiles

“The British are coming! The British are coming!”—we awoke to riders on horseback, yelling Paul Revere’s warning to get us up for the much-anticipated holiday: Independence Day! Some campers groggily rolled out of bed, others excitedly sprang up, but before anything else, we all met on the hill in our pajamas for the flag raising. The high-ups raised the flag as we sang a round of America the Beautiful.

For days of lead-up, returning campers and staff alike have been anticipating July 4. Most say it is their favorite day at camp, or their favorite holiday in general. By the time we got to breakfast, it wasn’t hard to see why: giant balloon shapes of U, S, and A were above the salad bar; red, white, and blue stars and stickers were scattered across the tables, and stars and stripes banners were strung across the room. The meal was filled with patriotic songs like Yankee Doodle and Party in the USA. Our conversations revolved around the 4th of July, too. Some cabins engaged in a round of American History trivia after they were finished eating. They asked each other fun questions and learned so many new things!

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After breakfast, it was time for activities. Some activities decided to join in the patriotic spirit and theme them! Swimming was particularly spirited—the girls loved dipping their hair in the water and coming up with what they called George Washington hair-dos! They also had a great time retrieving red, white, and blue balloons, and having greasy watermelon relays. The spirit from the lake was felt all through camp!

The biggest events of the day, however, occurred after second free swim. We all gathered on the hill to enjoy a cookout dinner! We got to choose from burgers, spicy chicken, barbeque chicken, and a variety of veggie burgers for dinner, and we enjoyed eating with our friends on the hill surrounded by music and the warm air. The creek was filed with soda, and girls got to choose their favorites—a rare but welcomed camp treat! We had wonderful conversations, and it was topped off by a slice of strawberry shortcake and fresh whipped cream! Nothing could have been more perfect as we lingered on the hill, enjoying every last bite!

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We left the meal and the senior cabins gathered to prepare for the Fourth of July Parade! Earlier this week, the girls from the senior cabins painted giant banners for the parade. These banners had themes like ‘Great American Movies,’ ‘Regional Foods,’ and ‘American Music.’ One cabin knew all of the presidents by name and wrote all of them on the banner! Another cabin, whose theme was ‘Great American Women’ painted a remarkable depiction of Rosie the Riveter with the words “We Can Do It” in huge letters underneath! The senior girls lined up and received bags of candy while the middler and junior campers lined up on the driveway. The cabins went one by one, yelling chants (“American movies really rock—now throw that tea off the dock!”) and tossing candy. All had fun!
The parade route ended in the gym, but once the campers got there, they realized that their counselors had mysteriously disappeared! Soon, Chase told the campers that they would have to find their counselors—tonight was Counselor Hunt! After giving the counselors some time to hide, the campers stayed in their cabin groups and sprinted to see who could find the most counselors. Counselors were found hidden in the forest, behind the bathrooms, and behind trees. Every counselor represented a state, and the points that each counselor was worth depended on when their state became a part of the USA. Once the bell rang, counselors who were still hidden ran to the flagpole and campers could tag them to earn their cabins some last minute points! In the end, Senior 8 won the competition and won an upcoming trip to Dolly’s, which is probably the most highly regarded prize imaginable at camp!

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After the Counselor Hunt was over, we did a group dance, the “Wop,” and then gathered on the hill to settle in for the fireworks. Music was playing in the background, and everyone was decked out with glow sticks and patriotic clothes. Girls danced on the hill and had energetic conversations as we waited for the fireworks to begin. The day had been so perfect—a combination of breezy warm weather, delicious food, tons of spirit, and good friends, so we were all in a wonderful mood as we soaked up the perfect night and anticipated the fireworks show to come. Soon, the fireworks began! It was a spectacular show, with Katy Perry’s ‘Firework’ playing in the background among a variety of other songs. They lit up the sky, and, sitting beside best friends, it was the best cap to the night we could imagine. We were filled with wonder and joy as the beautiful colors lit up the sky. Jeff sets them off at the dock of the lake, so we have a great view of them from the hill!

Full of gratitude and wonder, we made our way to bed and fell into deep sleep. The day had been full of warmth and bliss, and it is sure to live in all of our memories as one of our best days ever at camp.

The Stories We Live

I read recently that the average American spends about three hours a day on their phone. This number changes depending on who is reporting it, but there is truth to the fact that people spend a lot of their waking hours using their phones. This is not an inherently bad thing—phones give us an easy form of communication, entertainment, and information. At Rockbrook, we do not have phones, and I started thinking today about how that impacts our daily lives and how we use those three hours differently at camp.

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While walking around today, I spent some time at Needlecraft where the girls were working on cross-stitching pillows. Needlecraft is a relaxing activity, located on the back porch of Curosty, surrounded by the sounds of flowing water and chirping birds. While working on their projects, the girls were spinning conversations about their lives at home, what they thought muffin break would be, and how much fun they had ziplining. It is the perfect setting for easy conversations, and every girl who has taken Needlecraft comes back talking about how easygoing and enjoyable the activity is.

Next, I walked down to climbing. In climbing, girls love to climb the Alpine Tower, a huge tower that is tucked in to the woods. On the Alpine Tower, three girls can climb at a time, and they can choose whichever route they want to reach the top. This year, if girls are able to put on their helmets and harnesses themselves, tie a proper figure eight follow through knot, and know their commands, they earn a bracelet. Upon accomplishing other landmarks, such as climbing all three sides blindfolded, they are able to earn beads for the bracelet. When they are not climbing, however, most campers are still engaged with the activity. Some spend the time practicing knots, others give the climber advice, while still others are trying to map out their own routes for when it is their turn to go up.

As I walked away from climbing, I realized that these are the moments when most of us use our phones when we are outside of camp. We look at our cell phones when waiting for something, when we are not actively engaged in a particular activity. The beauty of camp, then, is that it asks us to be constantly engaged. We are not being pulled in different directions and different places by social media and text messages with friends. We do not have an easy distraction from the present. Therefore, we are more likely to engage with each other.

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After two activities, a free swim (where I saw many Rockbrook Runners decide to run Charlotte’s Loop twice—that’s about 4 miles!), and a delicious lunch, we were all ready for rest hour. Depending on whom you are asking, rest hour is the best hour. It is nestled in the precise center of our day, right after lunch and right before the rest of our activities. It is a time where every girl is asked to stay in bed and stay quiet, a time for us to all rejuvenate so we can have the energy to take on the rest of the day. Some girls listen to iPods, revisiting their favorite songs, but many others choose not to use electronics at all. They write letters, read books, fall asleep, or just use the time to think. We don’t usually talk about Rest Hour, but it is so key to our day. It gives campers a time to themselves, and gives them the freedom to figure out how they want to use it. This can be a challenging time for some campers, but learning how to keep oneself content without easy distractions like phones and other people can be a valuable lesson.

After Rest Hour, we had another activity period before candy break. Girls lined up to get their favorite candy bar, happy to have such a special treat. The final activity period came and went, and then it was time for second free swim. I spent time on the Lakeview Lodge porch with my cabin of girls. We sat in rocking chairs and talked, read, and made friendship bracelets for the entire hour. It felt like such a long and relaxing time. I heard someone comment that, at camp, the days go by slowly, but the weeks go by quickly. I agree with this sentiment completely.

We ate an incredible dinner of tortellini, fresh bread, mixed vegetables, and pesto sauce, followed by delicious homemade brownies for dessert. Amid songs, we told each other how our days had gone, and looked forward to the days ahead.

After dinner, we had quite a special event—Jug Band! This is a time-honored Rockbrook tradition. It’s part mountain culture appreciation, part all-camp campfire, and all fun. We all gathered together to sing songs around the campfire. A group of counselors led fun songs like “Mountain Dew,” “Rocky Top,” and “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain.” Everyone made an instrument to play along as part of the band. These instruments ranged from broomsticks to pots and pans. We laughed all night, as campers told their favorite jokes and counselors told stories and performed ridiculous skits. It was such a simple evening. All we needed was a campfire, a homemade instrument, and a group of enthusiastic girls. But it may have been my favorite night of camp so far. Everyone was just so engaged in the simple silliness, and participating in it was perfection.

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When jug band was over, we went to the lodge to wait for milk and cookies. While waiting, the senior line girls kept telling more jokes and challenging each other with trivia questions. It was another moment that they chose to engage and now have a memory instead of being distracted. Once milk and cookies had ended, some cabins stayed up talking about their days and their lives.

As we finally got into bed after a long, exciting day, I realized that so much of the time we spend at camp is time telling stories. We tell stories about our pets, our friends, our families, and our experiences. We do this more than we normally would because it is just so easy to talk to people at camp. This is one reason we are able to get so close, so fast. When we get home, we will probably use our phones regularly (though maybe we will be more intentional about it) and we will probably return to life as normal. Yet we will still tell stories. We will continue to share our experiences with those around us. Most campers find that, when they go home, they can’t help but tell stories from camp for weeks and weeks after. The impact of being engaged, then, is that we are living our lives in such a way that we have the best stories to tell.

Living It Up!

From the very moment we woke up this morning, girls have been savoring what they have been calling “the last normal day of camp.” With banquet tomorrow, and Spirit Fire on Wednesday, the end of first session seems to be rapidly approaching. Today feels normal, yet there is a certain urgency in the air to soak up the beauty and fun of camp before it comes to a close. The campers are reenergized after a restful Sunday and intent on living it up throughout the day.

You could see this attitude everywhere today. Many girls chose to go off camp on one of the many trips offered. Some girls went whitewater kayaking on the Upper Green River today, while others spent the day climbing at Cedar Rock. Brought back by high popularity, some middlers and seniors went on a “Wet and Wild” hike to Moore’s Cove, while other campers went to Dupont Forest to explore some of the best waterfalls in the area. Going to camp in Western North Carolina offers so many avenues for adventures, and it is wonderful that there are so many options to engage with the outdoors every day—and so many girls who are excited to go on the trips!

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Many other girls stayed in camp and spent the day happily busy in their activities. In drama, the girls helped to paint the set for the upcoming play, The Lion King, and then spent time acting like some of the animals from the show. Girls love drama because they learn both hard skills such as set painting, auditioning techniques, and stage directions, but also soft skills like confidence, and feeling comfortable while acting silly in front of others. As I walked by the lake, I also came across the girls of curosty. In curosty, girls learn how to weave on looms and, on days like today, weave baskets. They sit with their toes in the creek on this beautiful day, chatting to each other while learning how to weave reeds and ultimately create a basket. This is a time-honored Rockbrook activity. In fact, our camp mom, Laura, mentioned to me how much she loved that her kids spend time in the very same creek weaving baskets like the ones she used to make and like the ones her grandmother used to make.

 In addition to the activities, Rockbrook girls stayed busy during their free swims today! The counselor-camper tennis tournament was in full force first free swim. I had the opportunity to play with a camper, and we had so much fun. Through good communication, a few days of practice, and a lot of laughter, we advanced to the final round. Though we did not win the final match, we were proud of our friends who did! As the matches went on, I was struck by the genuine sportswomanship and large amounts of fun that were had on the court. We took it seriously– everyone wanted to do well–but the atmosphere was light and unwaveringly supportive.

Many of those who were not playing tennis were seen swimming or running, both groups trying to complete their last requirements to go to Dolly’s. Rockbrook girls who complete a certain number of laps in the Rockbrook Lake become a part of the esteemed Mermaid Club. The whole camp sings a song in their honor! In the same vein, girls who participate in Rockbrook Runners and complete a certain number of miles (by walking or running), become a part of the Marathon Club. Both clubs are rewarded for their hard work and their many hours of free swims by going to Dolly’s ice cream. As we are approaching the end of camp, girls are buckling down and working hard toward achieving their goals. Girls ran and walked with Rockbrook Runners three different times today—first free swim, second free swim, and twilight! This means that girls who were especially motivated were able to run or walk six miles today!

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In the same way that we are savoring the activities we have to do, I have also seen girls savoring the friendships that they have made. All day, I have seen girls busily finishing their friendship bracelets to give away to their friends, a piece of camp that travels with girls throughout the year. There has been much more intentionality to their togetherness: I have come across many clumps of girls just talking during free swims whereas they usually would write letters or read. As camp is ending, the girls’ focus has been on what has been the most important throughout their experience: the relationships they have formed with each other.

As the day wound down, we all gathered in our lodges for the final night of evening program: counselor impersonations! The girls look forward to this throughout the session, a chance to poke good-natured fun at the counselors. We all laughed until our stomachs hurt and exchanged many hugs and sweet words before having our final goodnight circle as a line. We sang taps, passed the friendship squeeze, and said the Rockbrook Prayer before it was time for milk and cookies. During goodnight circle, we expect a certain amount of peace and comfort, but with it was extra special tonight, as we were not taking any part of the day for granted. As some girls got in to bed, the gentle rattle of the wagon could be heard going down the Senior Line as the CA girls started to set up for banquet and some girls headed to the hill to do a bit of stargazing before bed.

So tomorrow, we will begin packing and for the next two days, we will celebrate our summers and say goodbye. But at Rockbrook, we have learned to live for today. And today was just a normal day at camp: a day well-lived.

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