It’s the latest from Robbie Francis of Go Swan Filmworks. Late last week, Robbie spent a day filming at camp, and with his careful editing, has again produced a fascinating glimpse into camp life. You’ve seen the photos in our daily online gallery; now see (and hear) camp in action.
At less than 2 minutes, I think you’ll really enjoy watching.
Robbie Francis of Go Swan Filmworks spent another day this past week filming at Rockbrook, capturing some of the sweet interactions at the heart of our camp community. And now we have another of his fascinating 2-minute videos to enjoy.
Take a look! There are moments of accomplishment, true affection, spirit, and of course sheer happiness. Be sure to turn up the volume to enjoy the sounds of camp too.
Ten years ago, on the first night of my CA year, I went to bed with a full heart and so much joy. I remember thinking to myself, “I have twenty more days with these friends.” I hadn’t seen my cabin-mates in a year and I wanted to savor every day we had together. There was something about this group of girls that was different than my friends from home. Although I didn’t know the exact difference, I knew it was meaningful and would last a lifetime.
The topic of camp friendships was sparked in a recent conversation and I still was unable to describe how camp friendships were different from friendships at home. I decided to ask Rockbrook girls of all ages the question, “Why are camp friends so special?” Some answers are similar, others are different, but all encompass the spirit of Rockbrook and the friendships that are formed in the “Heart of a Wooded Mountain.” Here are few of the answers, and while they may not point to some single essence of camp friendship, they are insightful.
One of the youngest campers I asked observed that camp friends are special because “they are with you so much,” you see them “only once a year,” and because you are “living with them” you are just so “comfortable around them.”
Several Middlers, girls about 11 and 12 years old, echoed that observation that camp friends are “stronger.” Camp friends are “the best friends I’ve ever had,” because you are “away from each other all year. You will “have them forever” because you can “be yourself with them.”
The oldest campers described their camp friends as a “sisterhood I will cherish forever,” a closeness like “family” even though they’re from all over. At camp, they said “it’s easier to connect with people” simply because you are “away from friends from home.”
Several counselors attributed the special character of their camp friendships to unplugging from technology and social media while at camp. Camp life provides “more opportunities to talk face to face,” and no “social pressures to be or act the coolest, have the most friends/followers, and you just get to be yourself.”
I also asked Rockbrook alumnae, now grown women who attended camp as children, about their camp friendships. One put it this way— “Camp friends have a better understanding of who you are which makes them more loyal, easier to talk to, and easier to be around.” And another— “Camp friends are like no others… we meet at a place where we can completely be ourselves. No pressure to look beautiful, be cool, or dress like a super model. A friend at camp is someone who is genuine and real.” At camp, you are “friends because you like/love the real person for who they are and the amazing memories you make and share.”
One alumna described it beautifully:
“Too often, in the ‘real world’ people let first impressions rule the day. Beauty, wealth, fashion, youth, and social standing open doors, while a lack of these can close them. At camp, you are only responsible for how you treat others. Your kindness, positivity and openness draws people to you and friendship results. Friendships based on this solid foundation of authenticity are friendships that last a lifetime.
I have RBC friends that I met as a small child, and those that I met at reunions. Some are decades older. Some are decades younger. They live all over the world. We have been incredibly silly together, laughed our heads off together, and cried together as life has gone through its inevitable struggles. I am never alone. As the song says, ‘Look always to it when you’re in trouble… The spirit of Rockbrook…’ Camp is unconditional acceptance and true friendship sharing wonderful experiences from which you both grow as people. It’s a lifelong gift, and I am indescribably grateful for it.”
“Magical” is one of the best ways to describe camp. You hear it a lot, in fact, when campers and counselors try to convey what makes their camp time extraordinary, what’s so special about camp activities, and why their camp friends are so close. “Magical” applies because camp is essentially a different world, one filled with daily surprises, wonderful discoveries, remarkable flashes of natural beauty, amazing people, exhilaration and often the deepest feelings of happiness —all rare qualities of the mundane world left behind. Everything at camp seems to have this extra quality, this power or spirit of sorts, that makes it uniquely Rockbrook. For this reason, a pumpkin chocolate chip muffin at camp will always be better than one eaten somewhere else, camp sunsets more beautiful, wearing a costume more hilarious, and feelings of belonging more genuine.
And like all things magical, camp is hard to explain. It simply stands out in very real, but ineffable ways. During the last Spirit Fire, counselor Bella Swaak spoke about her experience at Rockbrook, doing her best to relate its magical quality. Here’s an excerpt of what she said:
“Rockbrook has a special magical quality about it. Not only can you be who you want to, but you are able to grow and that magic is what brought me back to camp. Though the magic of Rockbrook is hard to describe— almost as hard as describing why a camp friend is much different than a friend from home. I like to use Sarah’s analogy of a chocolate chip cookie friend. A chocolate chip cookie friend is someone who makes you feel warm and gooey inside. They make you feel special, just like a chocolate chip cookie does. Throughout this summer, you have all become my chocolate chip cookie friends. You make me feel warm and gooey and good inside, you make me laugh until I cry, you push me to step out of my comfort zone, and you accept me for being me. You guys are the ones who I turn to in times of happiness or sadness. I come to y’all and camp as a reminder of all that is good in the world.
Rockbrook magic is also about relationships and as Wendy said, “relationships are the key to life.” Here is where my friendships have turned into sisterhood. You are the ones who I will think of when I feel like everything is wrong and you are the ones who help me see the bright in everything and my wish for campers is that you all find your own chocolate chip cookie friends, to find the ones who let you be who you want to be and support your wildest dreams, just like mine did.
Looking back at my camper years, I see how much this place has made me grow. Not only am I now able to catch a spricket or two, but the women around me have turned me into a strong independent woman. I had amazing counselors and directors to look up to, even now, as a counselor, I can say the same.
One of my favorite memories from this summer is the day that Theresa and I finished our Mermaid laps. As we walked out of the lake, we stopped by the rock and looked back onto the lake. Girls were swimming and paddling, and the counselors were cheering on everyone and the sun was shining perfectly onto the lake. As we were standing there, admiring the view, I turned to her and told her to take a mental picture, and that’s what I challenge y’all to do. Stop and enjoy the moment. Don’t rush through your years as a camper hoping to be a CA, HUP, or a Counselor. Don’t be counting down the days until banquet. Stop and acknowledge the small things because it’s easy to forget as a camper.
Though a lot of things might change about you since your first year, Rockbrook won’t. It will always be a place where girls come to play, learn, and grow. Rockbrook allows you to be who you want and it is one of the best qualities of the RBC magic.
And now as I make my journey back to the city, I will remember all I have learned from this summer. The Juniors have taught me to sing my heart out, even if the song is as silly as Copacabana, the Middlers taught me every day to not take my self as seriously and wear a silly costume here and there, and the seniors will always remind me that it is okay to be your weird, complete self.
Enjoy your last night with your friends. Tell them if they are your chocolate chip cookie friend and let them know you appreciate them because I am so unbelievably thankful to have all of you in my life. Thanks for being my chocolate chip cookie friends.
“How did we come to meet pal?
What caused our paths to blend?
‘Twas fate we came to Rockbrook,
And you became my friend.”
As the song prompted, that was the question we all pondered tonight at our final campfire of the session, the “Spirit Fire.” Dressed in our red and white uniforms and gathered on the locust-wood benches, we couldn’t help but realize that something miraculous had occurred over these last few weeks. We have become friends, camp friends, forming the kind of close friendships that are so real and meaningful they are brimming with emotion.
The Spirit Fire tonight released that emotion. As girls stood to talk about how lucky they feel to have attended Rockbrook, how grounded and free they feel here, each and every one also marveled at the friends they had made. Sharing this much together— the songs and muffins, the skits and the goodnight circles —brought us together. These camper and counselor reflections, combined with the traditional songs sung— “Nothing is Better than This,” “The Streams and the Mountains,” and “The Spirit of Rockbrook,” for example —set off waves of melancholy for some of the girls. Tears and softly checked sobs became contagious as everyone became more aware that our camp days this summer were ending and that we would soon have to say goodbye to our friends.
When Sarah spoke, she reminded us that coming to Rockbrook was a journey of discovery. It has been a time away from home that included meeting many wonderful, kind people, that sometimes presented us challenges to overcome, but also opened up new stripes of our personality. It has encouraged us to play, to be silly and creative, and to grow more comfortable with our true selves. Her hope, she said, is that we would find ways to be “Rockbrook Girls” once we return home. If it feels this good to be a Rockbrook girl here at camp, then perhaps at home we can be the same.
I believe your girls will do just that. You’ll see their Rockbrook spirit now and then, a flash of confidence, kindness, or enthusiasm. It may be subtle, but you’ll be able to tell they’ve grown. I hope you’re as proud of them as we are. This wonderful session has proved it.
Robbie Francis, our amazing videographer, has delivered another of his wonderful highlights videos. He again has beautifully captured the feel of camp life. At under two minutes long, it’s worth watching multiple times because with each viewing, you’re bound to spot something new— a caring interaction, a simple expression of friendship, and certainly lots of smiles. It’s fascinating!
Take a look, and let us know what you think. …or use that share button!
The closing campfire of each Rockbrook camp session, what we call our “Spirit Fire,” is a time for everyone to reflect upon their experience at camp. It’s a time to think about what was most important, memorable, and meaningful over the days living together here. The Spirit Fire is a chance, we could say, to acknowledge the “Spirit of Rockbrook,” that special character that makes every aspect of camp life extraordinary, and exceptionally fun. Dressed in their uniforms and assembled around a blazing fire, it’s a time for all the girls, and likewise the staff members, to be together, and share what camp means to them.
Part of the Spirit Fire program are speeches, moments when selected campers and counselors stand and address everyone, reciting some sort of personal account about Rockbrook, or their feelings about camp life. Here, for example, is an excerpt from Maggie’s speech from our last Spirit Fire.
“Camp is so hard to explain to people who have never been to Rockbrook before. How do I explain how fun a shaving cream fight is? Or what it means to be a Mermaid? Or how great it feels to be the one to spin the wheel? Frankly, it’s impossible.
Friendships made at camp are unlike friendships at home. Although I only see my camp friends for a month each year, my bond with them feels so much stronger. All of my memories attached to camp are ones I look back at in a positive light. Getting to spend my summers at Rockbrook has given me so many friendships and opportunities that I will never take for granted.”
I think most everyone here has experienced what Maggie is describing. I think she is saying that despite living it so intensely while at camp, it’s difficult (even “impossible”) to describe the “Spirit of Rockbrook.” And yet for her, a core part of that spirit is the special form of friendship we all cherish at camp. It’s the character of our camp friends— their depth, power, and genuine lasting nature —in other words that makes everything else at camp so meaningful.
I think Maggie has grasped something important. The Spirit of Rockbrook, that ineffable force shaping our time together, is fed by the incredible power of friendship. This is why girls will tell you they come back to camp every summer for “the people” (or for what I might add, “their relationships with the people at camp). They want to be with their special “camp friends,” experience again that special closeness, and return to a life energized by the “Spirit of Rockbrook.”
It’s a separate question to wonder what makes camp friends special (“forever friends”), and further what it is about the overnight camp environment that allows this special character to form. We’ll have to consider those questions— how and why camp friends are so special —in a later post. For now, we can simply celebrate camp life, and recognize the importance of friendship for its unique spirit.
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.
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.
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.”
The most distinguishing feature of the Rockbrook Uniform is the Red Rockbrook Tie. The tie has been part of the camp uniform since Rockbrook was founded in 1921. This made us wonder…what is the origin of the Rockbrook tie?
After doing some digging, it looks like that many of the early girls’ camps like Rockbrook had a tie as part of their uniform. While they come in many different colors, they all share a similar element- the Friendship Knot. It appears that the history of the friendship knot in camping came from the Girl Scouts. According to the Girl Scouts, the Friendship Tie (and knot) stand for the “tie that binds all girls and women who are part of the world association of Scouts”. The knot is a sign of the continuous friendships they share. Nothing could be more true for all of our Rockbrook girls and women all over the world. The red Rockbrook tie is surely a symbol of the Spirit of Rockbrook that binds us all together!
We also found a wonderful poem that speaks to the beauty of the Friendship Knot. While we are not sure of the author, we know that they definitely went to camp!
The Friendship Knot
This knot is women in friendship true, And interlaced with memories, too. Of friendship found and share by you, That times and miles cannot undo