If you take a look at Rockbrook’s original catalog, the one published in 1922, the daily schedule includes something a bit startling. First of all the reveille was earlier, 7:15 instead of our 8am wake up bell today, but then at 7:35 there was the “Dip.” That’s right; originally at camp all the girls took an early morning swim in the lake, and as you probably know, our mountain stream-fed lake is well known to be “chilly” or “refreshing” (euphemisms for “cold”). Jumping in the Rockbrook lake that early in the morning was certainly an effective way to wake up, and knowing the campers those days took a “morning dip” everyday helps explain a particularly odd item on the early packing list as well: an all wool bathing suit. Just imagine slipping on your (probably still damp) one-piece wool bathing suit every morning for a swim in the Rockbrook lake before breakfast! Wow! The “Dip” survives today in a tradition we call “Polar Bear,” which is simply an optional event where girls get to jump in the lake before breakfast. Today three cabins made the foggy morning plunge, and even Sarah joined them. One by one, with the shout of “polar bear!” mid-jump, we had 33 three people enjoying their dip this morning… just like the old days.
It’s not too surprising that we had so many girls willing and enthusiastic about taking a polar bear plunge this morning. We are between our July mini sessions, so instead of 210 girls (when the mini sessions are here), we have 115 full session campers right now. Honestly it feels strange to have fewer girls here, but also really nice because these are generally the most deeply rooted Rockbrook girls, the girls who absolutely LOVE camp, who are their best selves, perfectly at ease, and literally delightful (full of delight!) when they are here. For these girls, getting to jump in a freezing cold lake first thing in the morning isn’t weird or some torturous tradition; it’s another opportunity to play, to clap, scream and cheer with friends. It’s a chance to feel something real, to have an unusual experience, and to prove that they can overcome initial hesitation. Here too, like so many things at camp— activities and chores alike —being with friends you know and love deeply, makes whatever you’re doing fun.
The same could be said for all the activities that filled our morning. The creativity of pottery being glazed, threads and fibers woven into patterns, paint and dye saturating white paper and simple t-shirts. The concentration and determination required to balance on one leg and pull up the Alpine Climbing Tower, or to paddle a kayak through the lake in a straight line, or to fire a 22-calibre rifle with both accuracy and precision. The sheer muscle and effort propelling girls swimming “Mermaid laps,” smacking tennis balls on the courts, or running during the free hour before lunch. The sort of unleashed silliness that inspired so many side ponytails today (including one for me!). Song after song sung louder than usual in the dining hall during lunch… all these and certainly more, were enhanced and made more meaningful by the people and their relationships with each other here at Rockbrook.
Our evening program tonight began with everyone gathering in the hillside lodge for a special program of stories and songs presented by our friend Liz Teague. Liz is a singer/songwriter who lives nearby in Asheville, who also worked at Rockbrook years ago as a hiking guide, and whose daughter now works as a counselor. Liz brought her guitar and with help from Sarah and few other staff members, sang several old-time camp songs: “The Cider Song,” “Mountain Dew,” and “How Did We Come to Meet Pal,” for example. Liz also performed her classic “Frog Song,” a Rockbrook favorite about a frog who, after falling into a tub of milk, escapes by kicking enough to make butter. We had campers help by acting out verses of “The Rooster Song” and playing along with homemade instruments like rattles and drums. As the sun set outside, we all enjoyed the fire in the fireplace while we laughed and sang together. We closed the event with everyone making a quick s’more (How could we not with an inviting campfire blazing right there?).
Your daughter will tell you she’s having fun at camp, and you’ll probably think she means dressing up, singing songs, and enjoying all the activities available here. But it’s more than that. She’s also having fun simply being here with all these amazing friendly people (forming real friendships), energized by the positive community spirit, loved and supported by Rockbrook. It’s truly astonishing!