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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Make New Mistakes

“So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life. Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.”
—Neil Gaiman

We awoke this morning to the rising bell as usual, and groggily got out of bed. (I’m sure somewhere on camp, girls get up with pep and energy, but on the senior line, we place a high value on sleep.) Once we woke up a bit, though, by sharing bits of news for the day at breakfast and playing a stimulating game of Ships and Sailors at morning assembly, we were ready to greet the day.

Today was the first day of a new rotation of activities. On the first day of activities, it’s as though the whole camp is refreshed and reenergized—girls are trying new things, or at least taking activities with new people. It gives campers a sense of variety, and asks them to choose whether they want to continue developing one particular skill or to try something completely new.

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While walking around camp, I got to see the benefits of both of these approaches to activities. I first walked in to a dance class full of senior girls, practicing for the upcoming dance show. Some of them had danced before for plays and musicals, while others were laughing about how it would take them quite awhile to learn a chasse. The mood in dance, though, does not distinguish the girls who have danced from those who never have. A counselor teaches in a calm tone, laughing right along with the girls as they try to get the moves at once. They show me the beginning of their dance, and they are all equally excited about the success of their ripple. The girls are equally excited about coming together to do the ripple. As I walked away from the dance class, it hit me how welcoming and inclusive the dance class had been. Dancing, particularly in front of other people, is a vulnerable and intimidating action. Yet here were ten teenagers, making progress together, but mostly feeling totally comfortable and happy trying something new.

I think this exemplifies the philosophy of activities at Rockbrook. We are focused on the process rather than the outcome. In this way, mistakes are not just okay—they are celebrated. When campers make mistakes, it means they have tried something new and challenged what they thought possible. The noncompetitive environment of Rockbrook helps campers feel safe and supported even when they do make a mistake. They feel intrinsically motivated to try new things without outside pressures.
Initially when I came to Rockbrook, I remember being hesitant about this philosophy. Coming from a competitive academic environment and skills-focused surroundings, I wanted my activity to focus on outcome. If a girl could not tie a figure eight knot at the end of climbing, then what was she really learning? Eventually, though, I realized that I missed the point. I think this is typical outside of camp—school and sports are so focused on an objective that we rarely consider the virtues of the process itself. For climbing, even when girls do not reach the top, they are learning to push themselves beyond what they thought their limits were, but also learning that sometimes it is okay to stop. Rockbrook’s philosophy has become so central to my perspective outside of life. Although objectives are still important, I have learned to slow down and consider all that I am learning along the way.

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I witnessed this today in climbing, actually. I arrived at climbing toward the end of the period, so Clyde Carter, the head of our outdoors program, was teaching the girls knots as the class was winding down. I saw girls trying to tie the knots, some ropes looking like a scrambled tangle, others coming close but it falling apart as they tried to tighten it. Clyde remarked in his gently humorous way, “They’re doing everything right, except tying the knot.” This was a perfect description of the feeling of following instructions step by step, but still struggling with an objective. There was no pressure to learn the knot, and some campers decided to put the rope away and get out of their harnesses. A couple of them were determined. One stood in front of Clyde and said assertively, “I will get this knot!” He then proceeded to explain it to her again and again until she could tie it.

In addition to creating a safe place to make new mistakes, the noncompetitive environment also encourages campers to be intrinsically motivated, rather than extrinsically motivated. They choose where they want their energy to go, whether it’s tying a knot, finishing mermaid laps, or going on a whitewater-kayaking trip. This gives them the power to set and achieve their own goals, not because they are a part of a team or because they need a good grade, but for the satisfaction of completing a task they choose to care about.

It is easier to make mistakes and to try new things in an environment that is noncompetitive, but it becomes even easier when that environment also does not take itself too seriously. We all had a great evening program that is best described as silly. The evening program was called Jug Band, and we all paid homage to the mountain heritage of Rockbrook. We dressed up in flannels and overalls, fashioned our own instruments out of hairbrushes and water bottles, and headed down to Vesper Rock for an old-fashioned campfire. We sang songs like ‘Mountain Dew,’ ‘Rocky Top,’ and ‘I Love Little Willy,’ while campers told their favorite jokes and counselors performed goofy skits. Everyone laughed and played along to the mountain tunes before the moon lit up the mountains and signaled that it was time for bed.

Unlike any other place I know, Rockbrook gives us subtle freedom and the realization that we should be making mistakes. We should never demand perfection from ourselves because it is only within trying new things, not taking ourselves too seriously, and being gentle with ourselves can we begin to take authentic ownership of our lives. These first session girls have one week of camp left, and we will continue learning these lessons every day that we spend at camp. When we leave, I hope we will continue to make new mistakes. I hope we continue to be brave enough to try new things and have the humility to laugh at ourselves when things do not go as planned. I hope we are able to write a paper on Romeo and Juliet or solve a hard math problem and take time to appreciate the process, not just the grade. I hope we are able to motivate ourselves to practice violin or practice our serves in tennis because we innately want to improve, not just because someone told us to. Ultimately, I hope our lives away from camp flourish because of our lives in camp.

Camp Jug Band

This is Our Camp!

“If I know what I shall find, I do not want to find it. Uncertainty is the salt of life.” –Erwin Chargaff

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Anyone who has been to Rockbrook knows that there is some degree of certainty at camp: there is a regular schedule, there will definitely be muffin break every day at 10:45 (thank goodness!), and there is always something structured to do. Yet days like today, with nothing out of the ordinary planned, remind me that we all thrive at Rockbrook because when we wake up, none of us know exactly what the day will bring, and that makes each moment of each day exciting.

No one knows exactly what a day outside of camp will bring, either, but what I have noticed recently is that Rockbrook fuels this sense of curiosity and energy by creating a camper-driven environment. Because Rockbrook is set up like this, campers feel free to take initiative and take their spontaneous ideas and turn them into real fun.

This has been exemplified all day long at camp. No one batted an eye when a whole cabin of girls arrived to breakfast decked out in costumes from head to toe, but many of them got great compliments for their senses of style! At the end of breakfast, the girls made an announcement that, as a reward for clearing their table without being asked, two girls got to dress the other girls in their cabin. The girls all loved it and enjoyed parading around in their costumes all morning!

While walking around today, I dropped by KIT, which stands for “Keeping in Touch.” In this activity, girls make stationary, calendars, and boxes—anything that helps them write letters or keep special camp memories. KIT takes place in Goodwill, an historical building that is cozy with soft lighting and red curtains. The environment is relaxed and laid back, as the counselors who teach KIT have made sure that each girl is doing a project she wants to do. Conversation flows easily as the girls who have already spent a week at camp get to know those who just arrived. Everyone is engaged in their craft and content with their choice, happy they got to decide for themselves what to focus their energy on.

When I passed by WHOA, our activity on Wilderness Hiking and Outdoor Adventure, I heard something I do not usually hear casually around camp: The Star Spangled Banner being sung around a fire pit. Curious, I joined in the song, and tried to blend in. As the song ended, girls got up to speak, and I realized quickly that this was a memorial service for the miniature rafts the girls had tried to create. A particularly memorable moment of the speech was, “It was the Titanic of rafts, and that’s probably why it sank.” No one would have thought that a sunken raft would be an avenue for the subtle hilarity that ensued afterward. With a healthy dose of flexibility and an emphasis on process instead of outcome, every small activity can become something exciting and unexpected.

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This notion of camper ownership extends to every part of the day and every place around camp. Eating in the dining hall is always a little unpredictable because no one ever knows what songs will get sung. The Hi-Ups (the oldest Rockbrook campers) get to choose and lead the songs, but any table can request them! My absolute favorite part of meals, though, are announcements. There are many predictable (and important) announcements about adventurous trip offerings, tie-dye pick-ups, and lost and found. What makes Rockbrook different, though, is that campers take initiative and make their own announcements too. We were treated at dinner to two juniors performing a self-written song on their favorite activity: Nature! Set to “The Shark Song,” a familiar camp tune, the girls replaced the verses with “terrariums”, “Rockbrook Falls”, and “cool counselors”. The girls even made the journal in which they wrote the lyrics down! The rest of the camp gushed at how perfect the announcement was, and broke into excited applause. Not only do campers take ownership of camp, the rest of camp enthusiastically celebrates their initiative because everyone appreciates this spontaneity.

Twilight gave us another avenue to explore as a group of girls chose to venture down to the Rockbrook Garden. Every age group was represented, and it was moving to watch the senior girls helping the younger girls get excited as they walked down the hill together. When we arrived at the garden, Chelsea, the friendly and calm Rockbrook gardener, addressed the campers saying, “Girls, welcome to your garden.” The garden is a plot of land by the land sports field. Chelsea works hard to plant a variety of vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers. It is incredibly calming and relaxing to be there during this twilight time, when the day’s heat is finally easing up, when the sun is setting, but there is still gold in the sky, when wind chimes are providing us with gentle sounds, and we get to romp around in what feels like a secret garden. There are rows of fruits, vegetables, and herbs that will eventually find their way into the Rockbrook dining hall! Surrounding the vegetables are beautiful flowers—heaps of sunflowers and daisies of every color. It is nothing short of perfection.

Even better, we got to do so much more than look at it. Girls proceeded to pluck strawberries right off the vine and eat them; others tried kale for the very first time. Some created bundles of lavender and verbena to tuck into their pillows at night, while others picked flowers and fashioned bouquets for their new friends. Chelsea also gave the girls some lettuce to plant in the ground, and many also helped water the plants. Regardless of what they did, I saw so much sheer joy in being able to actively engage in a space like the garden. On the way up the hill, I heard a girl comment that she was somewhat hesitant to come to the garden because she thought it would be a structured lesson about plants. She had no idea she would be allowed to pick anything or try anything, and that most requests she had would be answered with “yes,” and a smile.

After the garden, we headed back up the hill for evening program. Most nights, cabins work together to plan a skit. Though counselors are always nearby, we try not to be too involved—it’s a great opportunity for girls to work together and get as creative as we please! As I was watching a skit whose characters were debating the origin of French Fries (France or the United States…in the end, it was actually Belgium!), I was struck by the originality that stems from campers creating so much of the direction of their camp lives. I realized that, at Rockbrook, the phrase I heard at the garden should be applied more broadly. It’s as though every moment of every day is saying, Girls, welcome to your camp.

Camper Dressing up Fun

Laughing All Day Long

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Sundays are some of the best and most relaxing days at camp. We all loved sleeping in for an extra hour and were greeted in the dining hall by donuts and delicious cereal–it’s the little things that make Sundays special. The rest of the day was a little different from the norm, too. We had some time to clean cabins and get into uniforms before going to chapel. The theme was friendship, and girls spoke about how camp has given them some of their best friends. One middler spoke about how, when she left a necklace she had made at the shaving cream fight, one of her camp friends walked back down with her to help her find it. Being together all the time allows girls to rely on each other in ways that seem small, but actually help them to form incredibly close bonds. Chapel left us all feeling uplifted, reflecting on these close and beautiful relationships as the last week of camp starts.

girls cheering at summer camp assemby

Then, we had assembly on the hill. This brought our energy way up, as we learned new songs, announced spirit and manners awards, and had mop awards presented by the Door Fairy, Midget Man, and Mermaid from the Mermaid Club. Part of the fun of camp, which was particularly present today, is the lexicon and jokes everyone here shares. The door fairy, for example, is said to live in every door, and she hates when campers slam the screen doors! If campers slam the door, you’ll frequently hear them apologizing to the door fairy, who is very forgiving.

After a delicious lunch of macaroni and cheese and grapes, we had one of the most highly anticipated all-camp events: Miss RBC! This is a spoof on a beauty pageant, in which all cabins choose a “representative” and then they all plan a talent together.

miss rbc camp costume and talent show

This year, girls had to think quickly to come up with their talents. Many groups performed skits or sang songs. Many of them were jokes that cabins had amongst each other and line (one camp enchored a skit they did for their line about “bun fun,” or a song about how much they love different kinds of buns (hot dog, cinnamon, etc.). Others employed camp-wide jokes (about how Bill Nye the Science Guy is our camp director, Jeff’s, celebrity doppelganger, for example) that were fun to share with everyone. It was a high-energy, high-humor event that kept everyone laughing for a couple of hours. Then, the representatives took turns answering fun questions like, “If you could have one extra hour of camp every day, how would you spend it?” (Eating muffins–a great answer!). It was a day that kept everyone laughing and relaxing after a couple of great and busy weeks at camp!

The winning cabin was Senior 7, and the following was their incredible rap that earned them the title of Miss RBC.

It was in the Blue Ridge Mountains, circa 1921
Nancy Carrier and family said this place looks like fun
She built Goodwill and Curosty, Hobby Nook and More,
Soon RBC was open–There was even a camp store!

All the girls start to arrive
Rockbrook Camp’s Starting to thrive,
RBC will stay alive
Campers continue to strive

All we need are our friendship bracelets
We’re in love with those
And we’ve got lots of camp spirit
Everybody knows (ayy! ayy!)

Lots of camp spirit
Everybody knows
Junior, Middler, Senior lines
We stand straight like dominoes

Wake up early every morning
Gotta do our chores–you know!
Camp Carolina, they can’t mess with us
If they wanted to, these is whities,
These is red ties,

These is Chaco shoes
On the hill with our crazy creeks
This is how we do (ayy! ayy!)
You know this is
How we do

Rockbrook!

girl hold leaf with inchworm