A Place for Hands

There’s a certain manual character of life at camp. Given all of the activities we have going on simultaneously, the community living structuring our days, and the constant outdoor experience, camp is a setting where we use our hands constantly. We’re doing things, making things, and exploring things with our hands everyday. Sweeping the dining hall, tying a climbing rope, gripping a tennis racket, steadying a ball of clay on the potter’s wheel— all that and more can happen before breakfast! …not to mention, pulling back the string of a bow, tying embroidery floss into an intricate pattern, smacking a tetherball or gagaball, steering the reins of a horse. Camp life is defined by action, by direct inter-action with the physical— all five senses! —nature of the real world, and thereby provides almost limitless opportunities to engage things with our hands.

Rope Hands
Potter Hands
Tennis Hands
Bracelet Weaving Hands
Archery Hands
Nature Hands

I think this is a significant benefit of camp because modern life, with its “conveniences” and “processing,” has made working with our hands less common and made hand skills less important. Perhaps, like spending time in nature, it’s good for us, and for our children, to do things with our hands. Maybe, this kind of “manual engagement” with the physical world is a core aspect of what makes us human, and it’s at great expense that we give it up.

If so, then that means our kids need chances to work with their hands. And I don’t mean pushing buttons or swiping the screen of a smart phone! Just the opposite; they need what camp provides— daily connections with the physical (and natural) world.

We might go so far as to say this manual character of camp helps explain why kids find life here so novel and fun. When their ordinary lives are limited by polished products, buffered by climate controlled spaces, and abstracted by technology, it feels really good, it —feels — refreshing to dig in with their hands. It probably means getting a little dirty, and maybe ending up with a couple of bruises and scrapes, but that’s simply part of living this fully.  This is another way that camp differs from ordinarily living, and I would claim, another reason why it’s so gratifying.

Camp is a place for our hands. And, that’s really good stuff.

Rockbrook-camp-girls

First Session Video – Part Two

Robbie Francis of Go Swan Filmworks worked his magic again this week and produced another short video for us. He spent the day Monday filming, and now we have this wonderful 2-minute slice of life at camp to watch. The video does a great job of depicting the mood of camp… so much action and so many happy girls!

Take a look, and let us know what you think.

Fantastic Views

Girls mountain top hikingImagine absolutely perfect weather… sunny deep blue skies, a light breeze, low humidity, an occasional wisp of clouds, with morning temperatures in the low 60s, barely reaching 80 degrees in the afternoon. Well, that’s what we had today, and it was glorious. So much so, it inspired us to take a hike with the Hi-Ups along the Art Loeb trail as it crosses into the Shining Rock Wilderness. This trail passes over many of the highest peaks in the area, like Black Balsam Knob (6,201 ft) and Tennent Mountain (6,056 ft), for example. The elevation of Rockbrook, as a reference, is 2,250 feet. Hiking at this elevation feels really high, since everything around you slopes steeply down to hills and valleys below. There are fantastic views in most every direction over the rocky and sparse landscape, with only short bushes, and very few trees to count. The girls loved stopping to take in all this beauty and, of course, to take plenty of photos as well.

Girl Gaga Ball GameGirls Shooting RifleOur “Sports and Games” activity has introduced GaGa Ball (or just Gaga) to the girls and now every moment of free time gathers a group of girls at the gaga pit for a game. GaGa ball is a form of dodgeball where players slap or hit a soft ball around a small octagonal-shaped, walled court. The object is to hit other players with the ball without being hit yourself. Girls have to bend down to slap the ball, keeping it low, but also jump up to avoid a ball hit at them. It’s a fast-paced, physically demanding game that can accommodate up to 12 or so players at time… Perfect for an impromptu game with friends at camp.

The camp rifle range is down a path leading away from the gym (and gaga pit). Newly constructed for this summer, the range allows up to six shooters at a time. It is 25 meters from the firing line to the target, and girls score 5 shots per target shooting .22 caliber short ammunition in our bolt-action rifles with open sights… no scopes, or automatic loading. The girls have to load and shoot each round individually. This slows everything down at the riflery range encouraging the girls to focus and aim more carefully when shooting. With both ear and eye protection in place, time at the rifle range has a more relaxed pace than most things at camp.

Camp Game Show ManiaTonight’s evening program involved the whole camp in a trivia game. Hosted by Bill Grimsley down in the gym, the game pitted 4 contestants against each other per round of questions. We chose random members of the Juniors, Middlers, Seniors and Counselors play each round. Bill has an entire game show set complete with podiums, illuminated score boards, and buzzers, making the whole event more realistic and entertaining. He directs the show by asking girls questions and awarding points for correct answers. The questions tended to be drawn from pop culture (movies, music, books, and news personalities), but also about Rockbrook (for example, “What are the two rock faces on the camp property?”). Some questions became “challenge rounds,” which meant contestants could earn extra points by completing a task like hula hooping the longest or being willing to eat something unappealing like a spoonful of canned oysters in hot sauce, for eample. The crowd cracked up watching their friends struggle with these challenge rounds. The winners of each round earned a special treat their entire cabin shared later in the dining hall, a giant cookie cake. It was a great evening, full of enthusiastic cheering, celebrations and good silly camp fun.

By the way, the answer is “Castle Rock and Dunns Rock” 🙂

Camp Swimming girl pair

Second Session Video Part Three

Robbie from Go Swan Filmworks recently spent another day at Rockbrook filming, capturing on video some of the ordinary sights and sounds of camp life. The edited clip, despite being less than 2 minutes long, conveys wonderfully the atmosphere of camp so loved by the everyone here.

We hope you enjoy watching!

P.S. If you missed the two earlier videos of Second Session, they are here and here. 🙂

Second Session Video Part Two

We’ve got another treat for you from Robbie and Go Swan Filmworks. Robbie again spent a day shooting scenes from around camp, beautifully capturing a few of the sweet moments that make up life at Rockbrook.

The final edited video is a little less than 2 minutes long, and is great fun to watch.

Enjoy!

First Session Video Part Two

We had such a great response from the last video we posted, we’re excited to share with you another one taken during First Session. Robbie from Go Swan Filmworks again spent the day with us this past Saturday filming short moments of life at Rockbrook. He’s edited all that footage into this little video. We love it, and hope you will too!

The Wizard of Seuss

Chappie Powell playing the bagpipesMost mornings at 8am, our 100-year-old camp bell, hung high in the oak tree below the dining hall, wakes us up with its distinctive notes. It’s a sound familiar to every Rockbrook camper since 1921, the year the camp was founded. Today, however, a very different, though equally distinctive, sound echoed through the camp first thing— bagpipe music. Local musician Chappie Powell, who is also the son-in-law of Steve who works with our camp office crew, arrived early this morning to surprise everyone with a short concert. Perched on a rock in the center of the grassy hill, he played wonderfully and filled the entire camp to everyone’s delight. The girls were surprised and at first didn’t quite know what to do, but soon there were small crowds of curious campers straining to get a glimpse of Chappie while he played. Morning in the mountains… and bagpipes! It was a very cool experience.

Summer camp girls in painting classAfter breakfast, the girls were eager to start their activities because today was the last full day of our regular schedule this session.  This meant returning to Curosty to remove weavings from the looms, touching up paintings begun in Hobby Nook, visiting the garden to pick flowers, making one last s’more over a campfire built in WHOA, taking another ride on the zip line or climb up Castle Rock. A few girls took a final kayaking trip to the Nantahala too.  More importantly, girls all over camp knew they wanted simply to be with their friends as our precious time together was coming to a close. While it feels good to complete a project, to have something we’re proud of like a freshly glazed pottery mug or even a riflery target pierced by a bullseye, it feels even better to work on it with your best friend. The product might be cool, but it’s the process we truly love.

Tonight’s special event dinner is something everyone’s been looking forward to since the start of the session— the surprise theme banquet presented by the CA campers. After discussing and settling on a theme, preparing for weeks (painting banners for decorations, writing scripts for skits, rehearsing group dance performances, gathering elaborate costumes, and selecting special food and music), and setting up the dining hall all day, tonight was the night to reveal the theme and throw an amazing party for the whole camp. And the theme was 100% unique— The Wizard of Seuss.

Banquet costumes Banquet Dorothy Costume Banquet grinch costume

Combining characters from both the Wizard of Oz and different Dr. Seuss stories, we heard a new tale about Dorothy, Toto, the Lion, Tin man and Scarecrow being caught in a tornado and finding themselves in the “Land of Seuss” where they met the Lorax and the Once-ler, Thing 1 and Thing 2, Star-bellied Sneeches, the Grinch, and the Cat in the Hat.

Wizard of Suess Banquet Costumes

The decorations were awesome and colorful with a forest of Tuffula Trees, lights, glitter, streamers, a model house with the legs of a crushed witch sticking out, and lining every wall, paintings depicting characters and scenes from the Wizard of Oz and Dr. Seuss books. For dinner, the girls chose to serve tri-colored tortellini, green eggs and ham, zucchini, and an amazing dessert of Thing1 & Thing2 cupcakes complete with blue icing.

The entire evening was a wonderful celebration of camp creativity and teamwork that everyone enjoyed and will certainly remember.

Camp Banquet costume members

A Sense of Wonder

Girl Drawing ClassIt’s easy to see how there’s excitement around every corner here at Rockbrook. During the activity periods the girls are happily busy, fully engaged in crafts, sports, and adventure. They’re folding and tying white t-shirts preparing them for colorful dyes, and guiding rackets to tune their tennis serves. They are exercising their bodies and their imaginations riding horses and performing short improvisational skits. Each scheduled activity offers ways to play, to learn and to have fun with friends.

In addition though, there’s an added ingredient at Rockbrook that makes this more than just entertainment or a fleeting diversion, and it has to do with the sense of wonder that blossoms so easily and often throughout our day. These are moments when we are suddenly confronted by delicate natural beauty, like a spider web freshly weighted by drops of dew, or the zing of putting your feet in a chilly stream, or the sharp call at dusk of a Pileated woodpecker, for example. Simply being outside in this beautiful place is wonder-ful. It inspires Rockbrook girls to open themselves to new and fascinating experiences. And when combined with the caring encouragement of their friends and counselors, camp fosters courage and fascination rather than hesitation when encountering the unfamiliar. It teaches girls that the world is an amazing place ready to be explored, that curiosity will enrich their lives with delightful people, places and things. We hope that our time together in “the heart of a wooded mountain” at Rockbrook can be a lasting resource for our girls, a deep lesson about the joys of discovering the wonder of the world.

Camp Yoga group posegirls cooling their feet while doing yogaHere are a couple of photos taken of our Yoga classes taught by Mary Alice. They ordinarily meet in the stone “Hillside Lodge,” but can be held anywhere in camp where those purple mats can go… like here, for example, when the group decided cooling their feet by the creek would be relaxing. With a little quiet instrumental music in the background, Mary Alice guides the campers through a series of Hatha Yoga postures and controlled breathing. For many of the girls, these classes provide welcome moments of mindfulness and focused attention far removed from the ordinarily high-speed pace of camp life. In this way, they too can foster a sense of wonder for the girls.

Camp kids whitewater rafting tripCamp Kids smiling in whitewater raftThroughout the day we took about a third of the camp, almost all of the Middlers and Seniors who had not yet gone this session, whitewater rafting on the Nantahala River over in Swain County. This is quite a logistical challenge when it includes 76 campers, 6 staff members, 7 whitewater guides, 6 bus drivers, 1 Rockbrook director, lunch for 100 people, and all the whitewater equipment for the trip itself. But we have plenty of experience making it happen, and all in-house without hiring a third-party company to handle it. The trip itself is a combination of electrifying rapids, like the “Quarry Rapid” that has several large waves in a row, and calm sections where there’s time to chat with everyone in the raft, maybe start a splash war between boats or the girls can test their nerve with a quick leap into the (very!) cold water. It was a gloriously hot day, perfect for rafting, and the girls had a ball laughing and screaming all the way down the river.

This last photo is another great example of how Rockbrook is helping to foster a sense of wonder for your girls. For generations, girls have been struck by the natural splendor of Rockbrook, even describing it in one of our traditional songs as a “Fairyland of Beauty.” Spending time here in this ancient forest, among powerful trees and other bristling plants and critters, it feels magical, almost like everything is the work of tiny, winged fairies. Tonight after dinner, Pam our talented gardener, hosted a “Wings and Bling” garden party for any girls interested in making a fairy house, or a potted arrangement of flowers. Using bark, moss, flowers, polished stones, bits of cloth, Mardi Gras beads (from tonight’s fun “birthday night” dinner), and anything else the girls felt inspired to include, the group made a entire Fairy village. Such imagination and creativity! Later, two campers, with complete sincerity, suggested that the Fairies would enjoy a bedtime cookie and we should leave a bit for them in their village. All, so so wonderful.

Garden Fairy Village