Full Circle

Rainy Day View

As my 13th session at Rockbrook comes to a close, the image of a circle keeps coming to mind. The circle of life is ever apparent and intimately experienced when much of your time is spent outside. The circle of cause and effect is somehow more immediate here. A Rockbrook MothHellos and goodbyes cycle round and round, and are felt to the core by most who pass through this space. The rain comes down, then it gently lifts back up to the sky, and then falls back down on the mountains once again. We even sing songs about silver and gold friendships, and we sing them in rounds. “A circle is round. It has no end. That’s how long I want to be your friend.” All of these circles are never ending, just as circles should be. I know this because I have seen these particular circles since my first year of camp, when I was eight years old. The depth and intensity of their colors may vary, but they are part of why Rockbrook keeps calling me home.

“Life is an echo. What you send out comes back. What you sow, you reap. What you give, you get.” These truths apply wherever you go in life, but I have realized this summer that this circle is closer and more immediate here at camp than anywhere else that I’ve lived. ReunionsI don’t know if that is because we all live closely together in this beautiful microcosm of humanity, but I know that it happens. Speaking to a friend at the beginning of camp, we pondered on what made a specific person so magnetic and universally loved by all. We noticed that this person offered up her spirit wholly and unguarded. In a world that is often cautious and fearful, her openness and undiluted truth was beautiful to those around her. So she was surrounded by unguarded love and truth and beauty. I saw countless examples of this among people of all ages here at camp. Those who gave themselves fully and without reservation were met with like gifts ten fold. Even those with gray clouds and walls around them early on, were affected by all the positivity and unconditional love around them. They began to give off light, and it shone right back on them even more brightly. And it didn’t take long. Maybe life is more like a multifaceted mirror. Maybe that mirror is round, like a disco ball of light and color.

Until Next SummerThe Thursday before last was the first time I had ever been here for a Closing Day that wasn’t my day to leave as well. This took me out of my own feelings, changed my perspective, and brought into clear focus the intensity and beauty of emotion in that day. I had been there on Opening Day and seen campers say hesitant goodbyes to their parents, (and for many,) happy hellos to their camp friends. Now I was seeing them come full circle, with tearful goodbyes to friends and ecstatic hellos to parents. The emotion was palpable. As I looked through my camera lens, I was moved by the utter rawness of the feelings I saw. The joy was just as intense as the heartache, and it was all being felt at the same time.

So as this session comes to a close, I take solace in knowing that the circle keeps going around and we will be in this place again. I hope to hold tightly to the truth that what I experience is simply a reflection of what I am putting out there. I take with me a deeper understanding of how connected we all are. Sarah read us the words of Chief Seattle at our first chapel this session. His words illustrate this interconnectedness far better than I ever could: “Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”

Dolly Robertson Herron
Camp Mom

Summer Flowers

Being Outside

Parents reunite with camp girl
Camper hugs girl to say goodbye from camp

This is one of the toughest days of the whole summer. It’s the morning when we have to say goodbye to the campers enrolled in the First July Mini Session, while the Full Session girls stay at camp for another 2 weeks. It’s tough because we’ve grown so close, the girls seeing each other everyday, signing up for activities together, watching each other’s skits in Evening Program, and simply loving camp life like a big family. In these short two weeks the tiniest 6-year-old juniors have gotten to know the tallest 16-year-old Hi-Ups. We’ll miss these friends and wish they could stay and play. It’s a strange feeling to say goodbye and stay behind. It just doesn’t seem fair because it feels like everyone should be staying. At the same time, this is a happy day for the Mini Session girls’ “real” families because they can finally be reunited after being away. It was so sweet to see the joyful tears as moms and dads embraced their daughters. In some cases, the family dog seemed just as excited as the camper to see each other!

Camp girls rock climbing multi-pitch route

Earlier this morning, perhaps an hour before everyone else arrived for breakfast, a group of girls, led by Andy and Rita, left for a day-long rock climbing trip to a cliff called “Stone Depot” located near Cedar Rock in the Pisgah Forest. They left early because the hike in takes about 40 minutes, and also because they wanted the best odds for missing an afternoon thunderstorm we expected. This was particularly important because this group was planning a “multi-pitch” route. This means climbing the entire party up partway, and then continuing like that in stages, one “pitch” at a time, from ledge to ledge. It’s an advanced technique that takes the climbers much higher up the rock, and naturally for an even more spectacular view of the surrounding mountains. Multi-pitch climbing can take much more time also, especially with a group of people climbing, making it even more important to get an early start. Fortunately, the weather cooperated beautifully and the girls came bounding back to camp with stories of an awesome day being outside on the rock. “You should have seen the view!”

Painting Class Girl at Summer Camp

There are many opportunities to be “crafty” at Rockbrook, from making duct tape purses to decorating headbands with deflated balloons and so on, but the campers can also can improve their more “artistic” talents as well. Here is a good example, our painting and drawing class where the girls work with pencils, pens and charcoal on paper, or perhaps water colors or tempera paints. Today the group met for a water color class outside under the shade of a white oak tree. They first used pencils lightly outlining forms in their composition and then mixed paints with water to make different shades. Part of the fun when painting with water colors is the different washing, blending, and brush techniques that can be combined.  At camp, there’s the added fun of painting outside. The rich organic environment of Rockbrook can provide an almost endless array of subjects to paint. Combine that with the feeling of being outside— the breeze! —and both the process (the painting) and the end result (also, the painting!) will be so much better.

Speaking of being outside, I wanted finally to pass along another article that caught our eye (thanks Leland!). It’s by Angela Hanscom and is entitled, “Why so many kids can’t sit still in school today.” The short article (link) uses mostly anecdotal evidence to link the increase in ADHD diagnoses to the decline of kids’ physical activity outdoors. It’s an intriguing theory, one that may help explain at least one of the reasons camp is so great for kids. It might be another reason to “Play more, Sit less.”

Outdoor Lake Canoeing

The Breadth and Depth of Camp

Camp girls exploring a waterfallIn yesterday’s post I was struck by the abundance of activity at camp, the simple fact that a sleepaway summer camp like this has so many things occurring simultaneously. We saw that there is zipping and stretching, riding and shooting, jumping and flipping, knot tying and plenty of decorating. And of course these are just some of the clear examples that stand out from the more day-to-day routines of camp life. Think of all the conversations, the songs being sung, the meals prepared and enjoyed… all the materials and supplies. Throughout the day, we are all trucking up and down the hills of Rockbrook, negotiating the rocks and roots that define each path through the woods. There are trips to the cabin to change for Free Swim, down to the gym for a game of Ga-Ga, and up from the lower pottery studio. We have the rush of falling water all around us, the cheers of excited groups of girls, and the regular tone of our 100-year-old bell marking the change of activity periods. Also most days, girls are leaving camp on trips for kayaking one of the local rivers, for hiking in the Pisgah National Forest or the nearby Dupont State Forest (like High Falls in the photo above). From the earliest moment of the day to the last giggle at night before drifting off to sleep, there is a true breadth of experience at camp. It’s an incredibly rich life we lead at Rockbrook.

Girls having fresh muffinsBut anchoring that breadth is a more fundamental dimension of experience, a depth that makes all the daily action of camp more meaningful.

The depth of camp experience rests firmly on the positive relationships we enjoy among all the members of this tight-knit community. There is a collective spirit here that inspires everyone to be kind, generous and compassionate, to respect and care for each other. It’s an ethos defining our culture and community, a basic attitude— Sarah calls it a “sweetness” —that leads naturally to encouragement and support for those around us. That’s the depth of camp. That’s the “Spirit of Rockbrook” that makes everything we do better.

I saw a wonderful example of this spirit at work tonight when we took our Mini Session Middlers and Seniors on a trip to Sliding Rock. We first hauled everyone up into the Forest for a picnic of hotdogs, Rick’s homemade cole slaw, chips and peaches. Then after each cabin group and their counselors finished eating, we held a massive game of elbow tag in a grassy field. As they raced from pair to pair, the “cat” chasing the “mouse,” the girls were so supportive, cheering and clapping for each other. It was a game completely free of criticism and competition, played simply for the fun of it. Some runners were faster and others slower. There was plenty of silly confusion, but what mattered was how much fun everyone was having together.

Girls grinning on sliding rockThen at Sliding Rock, the girls did it again. Filled with excitement, they took turns stepping into the chilly mountain water and sliding in pairs or threes down the rock. Almost instinctively they held hands to support each other during the wild, squeal-inducing ride. Each trip evoked laughter and encouragement from the other girls watching, making the whole experience really great, and proving once again how much they enjoy doing things together.  You can’t help but be proud of these girls! Be sure to check out the photo gallery of this event. There are several really great shots.

Girls Grimacing on Sliding Rock

We topped off the whole evening with a stop at Dolly’s Dairy Bar so everyone could enjoy a cup or cone of their wonderful ice cream. Cold rushing water and a frozen sweet treat on summer night; that’s pretty good stuff. But together with all these wonderful friends, it’s the best.

Camp Kids eating Ice Cream at Dolly's Dairy Bar

A Haven for Friendship

Camp friends hugging

One of deepest and longest lasting rewards of a residential camp experience, particularly true here at Rockbrook, is the quality of the friendships formed between the girls. Camp friends are special for some reason, closer and more satisfying than the people you know at home or at school. Why that’s the case is interesting.

Rockbrook is a “haven for close friendships” partly because it is a community built foremost upon warmth and caring for everyone. Camp is a place were every girl here belongs, and is fully included, respected and valued. From the directors and staff members on down, we begin with compassion and generosity, with spirited communication and cooperation, and end up with genuine encouragement. This is powerful stuff when you experience it everyday from everyone around you. It becomes a positive force that encourages the girls, indeed the counselors too, to move past what they believe others (parents and peers, for example) want them to be, and to explore their true personality, spirit and character, their “authentic selves.” This is a welcome feeling of freedom, but it’s also the secret to making really deep friendships. Camp has the power to dissolve that common artificiality driving so many “real world” interactions, and thereby also to fuel the genuine connections that bind true friends. Camp proves how posing is the enemy of friendship.

Combined with the shared experience of camp— the activities, meals and free time together —and the “boy-distraction-free” environment we enjoy, Rockbrook empowers girls to make friends by having the confidence to be themselves.

Camp girls geocaching

This morning our friend Matt Christian arrived to offer the campers an introduction to “geocaching.” Geocaching is essentially a “real-world treasure hunt” where players use GPS devices to find hidden “caches,” often waterproof boxes containing notepads to sign when found, and other surprising knickknacks. Matt carefully positioned several caches around camp for the girls, and after teaming up into groups of 2 or 3, and learning to use the GPS units, they explored the camp property looking for their “treasures.” Some were easy to spot, being out in the open, but others were truly camouflaged. Geocaching is a worldwide phenomenon, and can be something fun to do even at home. Here’s the official Web site to learn more.

Tonight we held a camp tradition that seems to always send a shudder of excitement through the dining hall when it’s announced. The deafening roar proved it today at lunch when the girls learned we would be dancing with the boys of Camp Carolina tonight. Fire up the showers, bust out the clean shirt, find your hairbrush (or in one case I noticed… your hair curlers), and for some, devise your best silly costume… dance night can take some preparation! We held 2 simultaneous dances, one here at Rockbrook for the youngest girls, and the other at Carolina for the Seniors and Hi-Ups. This made the number of children manageable at both camps, and allowed for more age-appropriate dances and music. The younger campers had a great time dancing together and with their counselors, mostly oblivious to the boys, while the older girls jumped around, laughing, singing (and sweating) to the beat. Tonight was also fun to see several brothers and sisters finding each other and being happy to reunite after being away at different camps. The whole evening was sweet and lighthearted with your girls being polite and gracious in every way.

Camp girls at dance party
Brother Sister Pair at Camp Dance

Lastly, I wanted to pass along news that Rockbrook is being briefly recognized in the current summer issue of Preservation: The Magazine of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The article mentions our 19th-century log cabins, “Goodwill” and “Curosty,” as examples of well-preserved summer camp architecture still in use today.

Top 10 Reasons Every Rockbrook Girl Misses Camp

Every Rockbrook girl knows the bittersweet feeling that comes along with leaving camp at the end of the session.  We’ve had such an awesome time meeting new friends and trying new things, and leaving it all behind seems impossible.  The friends and memories made keep camp on our minds all year long.  We all know the truth behind the words, “The summers fly by, but the winters drag on.”  So, in an attempt to lessen the pain of being “campsick”, this is an ode to every Rockbrook girl who misses her days in the heart of the wooded mountain.

The Top 10 Reasons Every Rockbrook Girl Misses Camp

simple creek

1. Simple Days

I know what you must be thinking- camp isn’t SIMPLE!  No way!  We do fun things all day and wear crazy costumes to lunch and paint our faces and dance in the dining hall!!  Allow me to clarify: camp is really the only place where having fun is our main job.  We don’t have to worry about finishing our homework, making it to basketball practice on time or keeping up with our Facebook page.  It’s nice to escape the pressures of home and just enjoy ourselves.  At Rockbrook, time slows down, life is easy, we find fulfillment in the simple things — wearing crazy costumes, painting our faces, and dancing our hearts out.
 

muffins

2. Muffins by Katie

Our awesome baker, Katie, is the best of the best, the cream of the crop, at the top of the totem pole when it comes to making muffins.  Whether it’s a fancy mint chocolate chip recipe or a more simple funfetti or blueberry muffin, we can’t get enough!  Katie’s muffins are just what we need after first period, and muffin withdrawals are no joke after we leave camp.  Check out this video that shows just how important muffin break is at Rockbrook.

For EB

3. Counselors like this

We all know what it feels like to have that counselor.  You know the one I’m talking about — she makes you feel special because she truly cares about you.  She’s interested in you and is there to make your camp experience the best she can.  She’s cool because she understands that camp is cool.  She’s like a fun older sister, like the most awesome baby sitter you’ve ever had.  Most importantly, she’s a role model and a friend.

girls-friendship-bracelets

4. Friendship bracelets
Chevron.  Twist.  Totem pole.  Diamond.  Ladder.  No matter how old we are, making friendship bracelets is a hobby enjoyed by Rockbrook girls far and wide.  We spend countless hours at camp making bracelets for our friends.  The only thing better than receiving a friendship bracelet is giving one.  Free swims and twilights spent on the hill making friendship bracelets are when we make some of our best memories- memories that stay with us long after our bracelets fall off.

sophie dolly's

5. Dolly’s Ice Cream

I’d be lying if it weren’t included on the list.  I’ve heard Rockbrook girls describe Dolly’s as the “best ice cream place in the world” on more than one occasion.  Whether you choose to order our very own flavor, Rockbrook Chocolate Illusion, or to go a different route, chances are you won’t be disappointed.  There’s no doubt that Rockbrook girls are missing Dolly’s this time of year.

little jrs

6. Friends like these

Camp friends are the best friends.  Ask any Rockbrook girl, and she will tell you that this is true.  It is because at camp we get to know one another for who we really are.  The relationships that we form are based on real feelings, not on superficial things.  At camp, it doesn’t matter what brand our new shoes are, or if we have the coolest new cell phone.  It doesn’t matter if we are big or small, tall or short.  What matters is how we treat people, how we make them feel.  Camp friendships are built to last a lifetime.

laughing

7. The songs

“Are you a camel, a good looking camel, and say, have you got a hump?”

“The rosy mist of the morning, veil it anew at dawn, like a fairyland of beauty…”

“I wish I was a honosorarius a ratamatatamy, a ha-ha-ha.”

“(Insert all lyrics to Oh I Was Born here)”

Yes, the Rockbrook songs are filled with silly lyrics like these.  We all know that we’ve randomly started singing these songs at home or at school on more than one occasion.  There’s nothing like singing along to a good Rockbrook song in the dining hall or around the campfire.

grace and elley

8. Moments like this

Camp is silly.  Camp is carefree.  Camp is FUN.  Ask any Rockbrook girl where her happy place is, and I bet she thinks back to a moment like this.  A moment in which nothing matters but the present and time stands still.

harlem shake

9. The Rockbrook (Harlem) Shake

Things like this happen at Rockbrook.  A lot.  They are wild and magical and unheard of everywhere else.  We miss having the opportunity to dress up in crazy costumes and dance with all of our friends.  This video of the Rockbrook Shake reminds us just how wonderful camp is.

spirit fire

10. The Spirit of Rockbrook is real and we know it

There is a feeling that we get as Rockbrook girls — one that we can’t really describe.  A feeling of belonging, a feeling of certainty, a feeling of self-worth.  It’s this feeling that causes us to miss each other throughout the year, that causes us to yearn for the days of summer.  We know it’s real, because we’ve never felt a love like this.  It’s this feeling that assures us that no other camp is like our own, that no other place can do for us what this one has.  It’s the Spirit of Rockbrook, and it’s with us always.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately…”

Greetings from Rockbrook Camp. This is Chrissy, the Waterfront Supervisor, writing to tell you about our first full day of activities! It’s funny how quickly camp girls will trade in state-of-the-art technology for snail mail and century-old crafts once they arrive at Rockbrook. It only takes a deep breath of the fresh mountain air to reconnect to the essentials of camp life–beautiful mountains, strong friendships, and independence

slideMonday morning the rising bell rang at 8:00am, beckoning the girls to wake up and take advantage of a perfect first day of activities at Rockbrook. After a hearty breakfast of oatmeal, the girls were ready to seize the day. I even saw some girls wearing their swimsuits to breakfast, eager to jump in the lake! After the first two morning activities, First Free Swim saw what we call a perfect lake day–warm, gleaming sunshine and blue skies “smilin’ at me, nothing but blue skies at RBC.” The lake was quite popular this morning as the girls sought out a refreshing respite from the July sun.

After an exciting morning of trying new things, the girls were very appreciative of cheese quesadillas and homemade guacamole for lunch. Right on cue it seems, a refreshing bit of rain passed over us during lunch. It was enough to cool us down without dampening our spirits, and after a refreshing rest hour the girls were quick to jump to their afternoon activities. Luckily the sunshine held out for the rest of the afternoon, and the girls were comfortable being outside for the remainder of the day.

paddling

At dinner we celebrated an American tradition of hamburgers, chips, and watermelon followed by a scrumptious bread pudding for dessert that did not last long! Rockbrook encourages healthy eating choices and independence through each girl creating her own meal, so our salad bar, vegan/vegetarian options, and peanut butter & jelly station supply additional dietary choices for the girls. Yet another way that we foster independence is through free times, such as Free Swims and Twilight. I saw many girls on the hill during Twilight this evening after dinner, playing tetherball, exploring the creeks, and chasing fairies through the gardens. Last, but certainly not least, the girls finished their days with Evening Programs in each line’s lodge. After receiving the intriguing theme of “National Enquirer” (exciting headlines to act out), they were off to their cabins coming up with creative skits, costumes included. Finally it was off to bed, after milk and cookies and the soothing Rockbrook prayer. Sweet dreams to our adventurous Rockbrook girls, and may they continue to seek out and overcome new challenges.

creek

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.” –Henry David Thoreau

It’s Like a Rocket

Rockbrook CollageLess than a week! Rockbrook will open in just 5 short days, and boy are we excited! (Have you seen the countdown timer on the sidebar lately?). Throughout the spring as we’ve planned and prepared for our 2013 summer season, as we’ve finished building projects, organized activities and special events, we’ve gotten more and more eager to get started. This past Sunday was the start of our week-long staff training session. There are about 60 of these college-aged women who are now at camp because this summer they will be cabin counselors, outdoor adventure guides, equestrian instructors, craft specialists, and sports coaches. Add to that several nurses, the entire kitchen crew, and maintenance staff, and you can imagine the buzz of activity suddenly energizing the camp.

In addition to the directors and the staff members, we’re hearing from campers too, many of the girls who are bursting with glee to finally get to camp. Here is a collage, made by Eva, that conveys this feeling of excitement. It’s impossible to not feel excited when Rockbrook is so much fun “it’s like a rocket,” and is “addicting” like the “sweet and spicy” taste of “cinnamon.” Whether in 1962 or 2001, or this year, Rockbrook is a place to make new friends and do new things.

Can you feel it? Are you ready for camp?

An Experience to Last a Lifetime

Camp is fun.  There are shaving cream fights, muffin breaks, kayaking trips, Dolly’s visits, hiking overnights, funny skits, and so much more.  However, camp is about way more than the present experience. The entire Rockbrook experience is meant to last us a lifetime.  It is about building character traits that will help us later in life — confidence, independence, individuality, and so on.  It is about being with nature.  Camp is about making friends who won’t leave our side.  The spontaneity, the adventure, the laughter and the FUN found at camp will stay with us long after we leave the Heart of the Wooded Mountain.

At Rockbrook, our mission is:

“To provide a haven for girls,

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a place of their own,

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where they can explore the beauty of nature,

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try new things,

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enjoy carefree summer living,

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and make some of their very best friends.”

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