Walking around camp today, here are a few things I noticed. Girls were giving friends piggyback rides. Two girls lay down at the top of the hill, and like a log, rolled down, hair flying and screaming the whole way. Three 2nd-graders were building a small dam in the creek “to catch fish,” they told me. 16-year old Hi-Ups were hauling a bag of trash so big it took two to carry it. I saw girls cheering others as they successfully climbed to the top of the Alpine Tower. There were girls wearing simple costumes, gleefully being silly. Funny faces on the tennis courts and wide-eyed grins zooming down the water slide. Girls lounging completely relaxed on yoga mats, and others intensely concentrating while pulling an arrow across a bow. Friends being completely at ease with each other while doing a goofy dance.
It might sound strange, but this is the good stuff of camp. These simple examples of camp life, and many others, show a deep truth about your girls. They prove that in reality, your girls are bold, strong, curious and joyful. Your camp girls easily connect with each other, and understand each other. They’re being so incredibly happy and grounded.
The simple stuff at camp reveals a special humanity of being a kid, something inherent and amazing, but also, I would bet, something that’s more muted in their ordinary non-camp lives. We hear it all the time: girls saying “at camp I can be my true self. I can be me.” Of course, this implies that when not at camp, they’re not their “true self.” Hmmm… Coming to summer camp somehow provides a certain relief for kids, and that relief helps them be amazing.
If I had to explain it, I’d say it’s the culture of Rockbrook that has this power to enliven the deep humanity of being a child. The positive camp environment, percolating with enthusiasm and support, is perfectly suited to coax out these “trampled instincts” of children, as Emerson might have put it. That’s really what’s going on at camp. Yes there are activities— we’re making pottery, paddling boats, shooting targets, and so forth —but we’re also creating an intentional community where girls can develop their better instincts, free from the pressures of home and school. We’re outside a lot. We’re not competing. We’re not filtering reality through what appears on the internet. We’re immersed in a community where we feel we belong, feel valued and loved. Camp has that unique combination of encouragement and opportunity, contagious kindness and freedom to explore.
We hope that these amazing instincts hold, and your girls can exercise their “authentic self” after they leave Rockbrook. It’s certainly more difficult without the community support and context camp provides, but camp girls know first hand that they have these amazing powers and that they can be confident of their deep truth. Everyday at camp, they experience that truth, even in the littlest things.
All the Middlers (5th and 6th graders) came to dinner dressed in their swimsuits and water shoes, and with their towels draped over their chair, ate faster than usual. This is because they knew that tonight they were heading to Sliding Rock. By 7pm, 6 buses of very excited girls were making their way along the curvy road through the Pisgah National Forest to that famous part of Looking Glass Creek where it flows over 60 feet of gently sloping rock into a pool at the bottom. Generations of Rockbrook girls have made this trip and had this experience.
It’s a scream-inducing thrill! Sitting down into the rushing 55-degree water, scooting to the edge of the slope, and suddenly accelerating toward the dunking splash at the end— it’s uniquely fun. Our evening trip adds to the excitement because it’s a little shady and dark when we slide. We love going “after hours” because we can bring our own lifeguards and usually we have the place to ourselves. We completed the outing by stopping at everyone’s favorite ice cream place— some say “favorite on earth!” — Dolly’s Dairy Bar. Each of the girls selected a cup or cone of their favorite flavor, and enjoyed the chilly treat, chatting (which turned into singing soon enough) outside under the glow of Dolly’s colorful neon lighting. Chilly and still a little damp when we arrived back at camp, the girls headed straight to their cabins to get ready for bed.