A Genuine Joy

The Spirit Fire is a tradition that has been practiced at Rockbrook Camp since it’s founding more than 100 years ago. Every camper and counselor who has spent time here has closed their session by gathering around a campfire for a program of songs and spoken reflections on time spent together at camp.

summer camp closing campfire gathering

The Spirit Fire is held under a huge oak tree that overlooks the lake, in a campfire area known as “vesper rock.” Everyone dresses in their camp uniforms— white with red ties for the campers and red polo shirts for the counselors. Low benches form rows around the campfire ring, and we all squeeze in, shoulder to shoulder. As it slowly gets dark and we begin to hear the chorus of chirping spring peeper frogs around us, the glow of the campfire and the smell of wood smoke sets a calm and beautiful mood.

The program features many of the most beloved “classic” camp songs, the ones that are perhaps a little more serious and meaningful. We sing “The Streams and the Mountains” (‘bring Rockbrook to mind. The sunrise reminds us of friendships we find…’) and “How Did We Come to Meet Pal” (‘What caused our paths to blend? ‘Twas fate we came to Rockbrook and you became my friend…’), for example. Friendship, Community and Nature are themes.

emotion of camper at closing campfire

Between songs, we invite campers and counselors to come forward and read something they would like to share with the group. These are mostly reflections on how much camp has meant to them and are always heartfelt and sweet. Hearing these speeches, it ordinarily doesn’t take long for campers to begin crying a bit as they realize their time at camp is ending this summer.

Here’s an absolutely lovely example written by 12-year-old Ariya.

Wow! Don’t you just love that!? Rockbrook means so much, and yes it’s the people that make it. It’s the people at camp who are kind and welcoming, caring and enthusiastic. It’s astonishing that this young camper realized so much in her first year.

campers and counselor at campfire candle ceremony

We finish the Spirit Fire with a short candle ceremony where each person receives a small white candle lit from the campfire itself. Singing quietly, we all circle the lake with the oldest girls leading the procession. As candlelight reflects off faces (some that are tearstained) and the surface of the water, we sing the final song of the night. It’s a quietly beautiful, and equally emotional moment.

Closing the session, many of us feel a little sad that we have to leave camp, but also a genuine joy knowing that Rockbrook is a place where we can feel so good, be so happy, and live so free. This was a session where this was deeply and meaningfully true. Yes, it definitely was the people that made it great, wonderful, memorable. Thank you for your support and for sending your girls.

candlit summer camp girls at closing campfire


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