If This Isn’t Nice, What Is?

One of the things [Uncle Alex] found objectionable about human beings was that they so rarely noticed it when they were happy. He himself did his best to acknowledge it when times were sweet. We could be drinking lemonade in the shade of an apple tree in the summertime, and Uncle Alex would interrupt the conversation to say, “If this isn’t nice, what is?”

So I hope that you will do the same for the rest of your lives. When things are going sweetly and peacefully, please pause a moment, and then say out loud, “If this isn’t nice, what is?” -Kurt Vonnegut

Girl Camp SwimmingGirls savored today as it was the last normal day of camp. Tomorrow, we have banquet, and the day after is the play and Spirit Fire. Today brought us opportunities to finish mermaid laps and Rockbrook running miles. It was a day to give away friendship bracelets and to relish the simplicity of talking to a circle of good friends in front of the cabin.

We have been at camp for quite awhile at this point, and with the end looming so close, I wanted to step back and consider those moments where all is well with the world. These are not the big moments that might stand out in our minds when we think of camp, but the little ones where everything is just going right. There are so many small and beautiful moments at camp, but they happen so quickly that if we don’t acknowledge them, we can take them for granted. We live good lives at camp, and when I zoomed out my perspective, I began to consider the small moments of loveliness that I can overlook after spending many days in this wonderful place.

At camp, we live in a world where…

  1. A fresh-baked muffin greets us every mid-morning. We ate fresh-baked, cinnamon apple muffins that were still warm from the oven. We get a new muffin flavor every day, which makes the rainiest days cozy and gives all of us a little extra warmth from the bakers. It’s a social time, too, as the news of the muffin flavor travels up and down hills and girls bring muffins to their friends who are in hard-to-reach places. I think that starting the day with a muffin makes the day that much better.
  2. We spend all day playing outside and learning new things. Sometimes, we become so caught up in exactly what an activity is doing every day that we forget that we are spending our days playing. What kind of day could be more incredible than one that includes kayaking on a lake, making a pinch pot, and hiking to Castle Rock…all within about six hours? These are days lived fully, where we appreciate every ounce of free time we have.
  3. Camp Girl FriendsGirl Archer at campOur best friends are our neighbors and we all like each other and are the kind of neighbors who would gladly lend a cup of sugar (or a pair of shoes or costume)! Each line forms a beautiful community of girls who are comfortable with each other. At this point, every cabin has girls from other cabins popping in and out of it; the cabins are much more cohesive than they were three short weeks ago. It is so convenient to be surrounded by good friends all of the time, always ready for a game of cards or a walk to the camp store. The counselors know all of the campers on their line, and when we gather together, there is a feeling of community that encompasses the entire room.
  4. We can choose how to spend our free time and we engage fully throughout that free time. Today, I played tennis with a camper during a free swim, and we had a great time practicing strokes and improving our skills. Many of the girls in my cabin ran with Rockbrook Runners. Then, for another free swim, we took a cabin hike to Castle Rock, a huge rock face that overlooks camp. Sometimes, free time will include One Direction dance parties or badminton tournaments. This time is not always so structured, but if anyone has an idea, we try our hardest to make it happen. We value this time and we try to make the most of it, even on the days that means relaxing and talking to friends on the porch.
  5. We are explorers of the world (or at least Western North Carolina), and we never know what we are going to run into! Our corner of the world is filled with animals and vegetation. The juniors teach the rest of us to explore the world–they are constantly sticking their feet in the creek looking for salamanders and skinks. Other girls decide that they want to romp around the forest and see waterfalls. Camp give us the place, the tools, and the friends to explore the world and teaches us to be more observant.

As these girls prepare to leave and we begin to reflect on what distinguishes camp from the rest of the world, I think these are five things that we have really been doing at camp. To cap off a beautiful day, I went to the Rockbrook Garden with a small group of campers. We showed each other the zesty verbena plant, plucked some strawberries off the vine, and smelled the gentle lavender plant. I realized that at Rockbrook, there are so many moments where I just need to step back and sigh, “If this isn’t nice, what is?”

Happy Nice Camper

Ditch the playground- come to camp!

We’re not afraid to get our hands dirty

An interesting article written on the Tennessee Today webpage sheds light on the importance of playing outside.  A University of Tennessee research team recently conducted a study to determine whether children who play on traditional playgrounds or children who play in natural settings are more active and/or more creative.  It turns out that children who play in a natural setting are both more active and use their imagination more than they do while playing on traditional playground equipment.  In fact, the children who participated in the study played nearly twice as much in the ‘natural playscape’ than they did on the regular playground.  This came as no surprise to us at Rockbrook.  We love playing in nature!

Run girls, run!

So what is it about nature that inspires us to play more than we would on a playground set?  Maybe it’s the freedom that we have to use our imagination and get creative.  Maybe it’s being able to decide what to do on our own.  Maybe it’s the excitement of the unknown.  Whatever it may be, we believe that the landscape that surrounds us fosters Rockbrook’s mission to allow girls to explore the beauty of nature and to try new things.

We love to play in the stream!

Playgrounds are great and all, but who is ready to ditch the swing set and monkey bars and head into a fairyland of beauty? We can’t wait to play outside with you all this summer! To read the full article about the mentioned study, click here.

Kids Going Outside

Kids Going Outside at Summer CampThere’s a fun article in the March 28th issue of the New Yorker Magazine that lists the “features” of “going outside.” It’s by Ellis Weiner and is entitled “Just in Time for Spring” (here’s a summary) In the tradition of a radio commercial for a new product, the article suggests that “going outside” is an “astounding multipurpose activity platform that will revolutionize the way you spend your time.” Of course the humor here is that going outside is not new at all; though, it has been too often forgotten as we spend more of our day interacting with electronic media and filtering our experience through technology.

So what does going outside promise? Here are a few highlights.

1. real-time experience through a seamless mind-body interface.
2. authentic 3-D, real-motion visuals.
3. true surround sound.
4. complete interactivity with inanimate objects, animals and Nature.
5. the opportunity to experience actual weather.

Rockbrook is the kind of outdoor camp where all of this is so easily true. Kids love being outside at camp. They love all the chances to actually do things, to use all their senses, and to experience the wonders of Nature. Of course, we’ve mentioned before just how good this is for kids as well.  If you think about it, it’s good for all of us!

Kids Grow Better Outside

Kids Grow Better Outside

Spotted this bumper sticker the other day in Asheville, NC. Isn’t it awesome!? It’s put out by the Buncombe county partnership of the Smart Start Program, an “early childhood initiative designed to ensure that young children enter school healthy and ready to succeed.” The sticker shows that, like we have claimed many times before, playing outside is really good for kids.  Here are some of the benefits Buncombe County recognizes.

  • Kids are better able to play with other kids and work problems out with them.
  • Kids benefit from physical activity by experiencing healthier weights.
  • Kids have fewer problems with hyperactivity and are better able to pay attention.
  • Kids experience less stress than other kids their age.
  • Kids score higher on standardized tests.

It’s not too hard to see how “children will be smarter, better able to get along with others, healthier and happier when they have regular opportunities for free and unstructured play in the out of doors?”  And it’s a simple step to realize how important summer vacation from school, and summer camps like Rockbrook, are for kids.  All children really benefit from time outside, away from school, and certainly at camp.

Are your kids getting outside?

Play Outside this Summer!

One of the tag lines we often use to evoke Rockbrook is “Play outside this summer.” You can see it all over our website, on a lot of our printed materials, and even on a t-shirt or two. We really like how it’s a great summary of what camp involves— spending a lot of time outside and a lot of time playing.

Girl Friends OutdoorsIt’s particularly neat to realize that by fostering both outdoor experience and group play, camp makes both of these better. Compared to being inside, it’s just more fun to play outside, and being outside encourages imagination and physical activity, two powerful stimulants to play. Outside you get to run around, be free of all those indoor limitations (having to avoid noise, messiness, walls), and become whoever the game requires. Outdoor play is also usually a group activity. It certainly is at camp. You and your friends make it happen. You build important relationships when playing together. These are real human connections that tend to run much deeper than those found in-doors or in school. Perhaps this begins to explain why girls say their camp friends are their absolute best friends; they are friends formed while playing outside. The things that make outdoor play better are the forces that make camp friends so strong.

What do you think?