Toward the end of our recent Rockbrook Alumnae reunion celebrating the 90th year of the camp, the women attending held an impromptu chapel meeting. Like those held on Sunday mornings in the summer, this gathering was a chance to sing favorite traditional songs and reflect upon some of the more important experiences, lessons and values we all associate with Rockbrook. These are wonderful moments, often full of personal stories, and on this occasion, childhood memories of camp.
Marie Brown, who came to camp starting in 1989 when she was 8, shared something that we’re so proud to reprint here. It’s a brief reflection on how the Spirit of Rockbrook can sustain and revive us long after we grow up and become adults in the “real world.”
“The wonders of air travel, incredible timing, (and a supportive husband) have made it possible for me to step out of the stifling mayhem I have been living to come for a brief moment to be here. All the stone and concrete has fallen away into mountain laurel, rushing water, beloved rocks and roots and trees…and faces that, despite the decades, haven’t seemed to age.
I have to admit, I was afraid to come. My memories of this place are so deeply embedded in my heart, so close to my core, so invaluable to my spirit, I was afraid that coming back here with the sharpened, hardened and perhaps jaded eyes of an adult would somehow mar the perfection of those memories. And between having a genetically poor memory, and the inability to return to any of the places I actually called home as a child, at times it feels as though the past were no more than a figment of my imagination. There is no other place on the planet that I can go to that holds anywhere as much of my memory in its hillsides as this place. So it was with trepidation that I came to tread back into those memories.
I was grateful as a child and well aware it was only because of the generosity of my grandmother (also a Rockbrook girl) that I was able to come year after year. But I don’t think there was any way for me to understand how big a gift she was giving me until I left Rockbrook to fare the rockier world of “civilization” without my annual reprieve in this Rivendale.
I have spent countless days and nights over the last years feeling I was going crazy, feeling so trapped or confused or heartbroken about the state of the world; a world continually more driven by fear, over “teched” yet disconnected, and terrifyingly detached from, and destructive of, nature. It is so easy to get overwhelmed by all the noise… and for someone as sensitive as myself, to feel despair. But despair won’t do any of us any good. So coming back here at this particular moment for me, and walking literally as if I were Mary Poppins jumping into the chalk painting of my childhood and finding it hasn’t changed (and where it has it has only gotten better) has given me such rejuvenating hope. I am not crazy. I am not intolerant, or impatient, or bitter. I am just in severe withdrawal of my annual dose of Rockbrook.
And what this weekend has shown me is that the gifts and perspective, and lessons this place has to offer are just as present and valuable to me now as there were for me when I was a little girl. If not more so. These enduring stones soften my hardened defenses. The cold waters warm my chilled spirit. These steep hills dull my impatience and intolerance. And rather than damaging the perfection of my memories, returning has added to them. Returning to Rockbrook for even this brief sip has filled my belly once again with a little bit of ginger, a little bit of grit, a little bit of spirit and a little bit of wit to carry with me as I go back out once again to face the big bad world.”