What is the Spirit of Rockbrook?

We closed our third session of camp by gathering around the “Spirit Fire,” our traditional campfire that we have held every summer since the founding of Rockbrook in 1921. Many Rockbrook alumnae talk about the spirit of Rockbrook, but what is that exactly? What is this spirit that camp girls refer to, that we write songs about, and that we feel so intently while here.

If we think of spirit as the defining element of a group, then perhaps Rockbrook spirit is a healthy combination of acceptance and adventure.

Rockbrook girls often stand up at the Spirit Fire and declare that they can be their true selves at camp, that they don’t need to hide behind a facade that is like all of their friends.

At this session’s Spirit Fire, one girl declared that Rockbrook is a place where calling someone “weird” is a compliment. Campers love the fact that they can wear a costume if they choose to and nobody seems to blink an eye. In our most recent chapel program on “individuality,” the campers enjoyed the story of “The Big Orange Splot,” in which a neighborhood all decides to make the most of a mistaken spilled can of paint on a house by transforming each house into the home of their dreams.

rockbrook camper girl

This celebration of being creative and accepted is just one feature of the spirit of Rockbrook, but it also seems the other is a sense of daring and adventure. Campers are exposed to so many options of new things to try at camp, and, with their friends by their side to laugh with them, girls are encouraged to try these new things, to go beyond what’s merely comfortable and familiar to them.

It is also fascinating for our current Rockbrook girls to learn more about their predecessors, the campers who came before them. Being our 98th summer, we have been starting to look back and learn more about the women who are the foundation on which our camp began. It is so interesting to learn that those early campers were possibly even more adventurous than our current girls, starting each day with a dip in the lake and setting up exercises before breakfast. They also went on many trips, including the famous three-day canoe trip to Asheville in the old wooden canoes that now decorate our dining hall.

At this session’s Spirit Fire, Sarah read a first-hand account from a camper who attended in the 1930s. It was clear even that many years ago that this Spirit of Rockbrook, of acceptance and adventure, was already a deep part of who the camp was and continues to be. As we look around the campfire at the girls of 2019 who share this same spirit, it is exciting to imagine what they will do with those qualities.

Candle lake procession

Because of the People

During yesterday’s Spirit Fire, Clara Miller, one of the Hi-Ups (10th graders), spoke about what it means for her to be a “Rockbrook Girl,” and about what she most values during her time at camp. We thought others would enjoy reading it too, so she agreed to let us publish it here.

One of my favorite Rockbrook songs is “How Did We Come to Meet Pal?”. In particular, I love the line “T’was fate we came to Rockbrook and you became my friend.” Year after year, I return to the streams and the mountains, slowly dying fires, and blue skies, but more than that, I’ve always returned to camp because of the people. The bonds created at camp are unlike any other. They are built on honesty and authenticity, and for that reason, they are stronger than friendships formed in any other environment. I love the mountains and their beauty, and at the risk of sounding cliche, I love camp. However, when I dive deeper into my love of Brevard and Rockbrook, I realize that both stem from the people who I’ve gotten to know. That is why I returned for my Hup year. I couldn’t bear to spend a summer without Rockbrook girls.

Rockbrook Camp Mountains

Hup year was unlike anything I’ve ever done before. It was some of the hardest work I’ve done in my life. I’ve never had to be a servant leader in the way Hup year required, and for that reason, I had to push myself in brand new ways. There were days when I couldn’t see the light at the end of the scraping-setting-barn walking tunnel. Then I would look out from the dining hall and see the beauty of camp. I would be reminded of why I choose to return to the mountains. Spending wonderful cabin days with my other Hups would remind me of the people who I return to again and again. And in those moments, I realized that I was wrong, and Hup year isn’t a scraping-setting-barn walking tunnel. It’s a year that, while difficult, is intended to push us to become hardworking, dedicated, and compassionate people. That is what Hup year means to me.

For six years of camp, I’ve been taught to face my fears, to help girls who are struggling, to give more than I take, to be grateful for the experiences and environment that I have been given, and through these ideals, become a Rockbrook girl. In past years, I have done these things, I have met these ideals, but I don’t think anything made me as much of a Rockbrook girl as Hup year. I was pushed in every way to be a brighter, stronger, better woman. Although Hup year was difficult, upon reflection, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. My seven other wonderful Hups and my two amazing Hup counselors have become a family of sorts in the last three weeks. We’ve been pushed together, and I don’t know how I’m going to say farewell to nine of the best Rockbrook girls I’ve ever met, and I don’t know how I can return to the wooded mountain without each and every one of them by my side.

—Clara Miller

10th grade summer camp girls

Brimming with Emotion

girl camp 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.

closing campfire speakers

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.

candle ceremony kid

Our Common Spirit

Counselor and two campers

Earlier this week I had an interesting conversation with our Education Intern Hayley about motivation, specifically about how we as educators can motivate children. This internship is focused on the concept of “Social Emotional Learning,” an approach to education that holds central both the emotional lives of children and the social landscape they navigate as they grow. SEL simply recognizes that educational efforts should address the “whole child,” not just her intellectual development. In fact, many educators are recognizing that ignoring kids’ emotional triggers and social conflicts is a serious impediment to their academic learning, and perhaps more importantly, to their ability to make responsible decisions. In classrooms, schools, and even some school districts there’s a growing awareness of the importance of SEL if we are to help our kids gain the wide range of skills they’ll need to be more successful and content later in life.

One important point to make in all of this— and it’s the reason we offer an internship in social emotional learning here at Rockbrook —is that SEL has a lot to do with community, with the nature and quality of our relationships with those around us. And you see, as we’ve said many times, camp is also about community. It’s about being aware of each other, about practicing a common spirit of kindness, caring and generosity so that we treat each other with respect. We talk about being a “Rockbrook girl” as someone who contributes enthusiastically to this positive spirit, who is encouraging and helpful as a result. What’s neat is that there are so many people here modeling these values, the character is contagious. It becomes a powerful force that not only inspires girls to be their best selves (particularly in how they treat each other), it also deepens their relationships with everyone in the community and draws us all closer together.

Grinning sliding rock camp girls

For this reason, we believe Rockbrook is an ideal environment for social emotional learning. In addition to what we do together and all our shared experience, Rockbrook is a tight-knit community defined by how we relate to each other: again, with an explicit ethic of kindness, caring and generosity. When girls join this sort of intentional community, when the culture of camp inspires everyone to be more kind, caring and generous toward each other, they naturally grow more self-aware and develop greater social awareness along the way. This community builds relationship skills like cooperation and compassion, and of course all these forces are what drives the incredible camp friendships your daughter is enjoying.

So the answer to Haley’s question about motivation springs from this focus on community. Around here, girls are less driven by extrinsic rewards and goals, and more motivated by how an action will affect their relationship with someone. We discussed how girls make decisions within this web of relationships, and are generally careful to consider the emotions and needs of others. Thanks to the powerful community spirit at camp, behaviors are motivated by being a “Rockbrook girl,” being the caring, kind, generous, and sympathetic person we all admire. It’s what we mean around here by “RBA:” “Rockbrook Appropriate.” There’s a culture defining ethic at camp we all understand, and that serves to both motivate us and guide our decision making.

I may sound like a broken record when it comes to talking about the benefits of camp, so please forgive me. I’m just constantly made aware of how great this experience is for girls. Even though it’s wrapped in the guise of silly fun, thrilling adventure, and liberating creativity, camp really makes a difference in these girls’ lives. And it’s my daily joy to be a part of it.

Camp Paddle Boarding
Mountain lake paddle boarding

A group of adventurous girls signed up for a special stand-up paddle boarding trip we offered today. It was a short drive from camp south to the Dupont State Forest where they met Charmaine Saulsbury of Dancing Trees Yoga, who would be the girls’ instructor for the morning. Charmaine teaches “SUP” and other yoga classes here in Brevard, and is one of the few yoga instructors in the country certified by the American Canoe Association.

With absolutely perfect weather, and with enough boards for everyone, the group made their way to Lake Julia, a gorgeous forest lake with a mostly undeveloped shoreline. This lake is also usually deserted, as it was this morning, providing a wonderful, quiet, calm setting for the paddle boarding. After giving them a few simple instructions about standing and balancing on the boards, Charmaine led the girls out in the water where they practiced several yoga positions. Attentive balance is already important for yoga, even more so when perched on a narrow floating board! The whole morning was a nice blend of relaxation and physical activity in a beautiful setting, something completely new and engaging for the girls.

Camp girls with eye and ear protection

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.

A Camp perspective from Mama B

Chapel

Attempts can be made to replicate a camp, stories retold, even plagiarized, but the spirit of Rockbrook can never be duplicated.

So what makes a camp distinct, different from the rest, making it a place that generations of girls, from all over the world, count down the days until they can return?  What is it that sets apart a place that mothers long for their daughters to experience what they did as children?

As a camper, counselor, mom of campers, and now camp mom, my answer to this question comes from reflection over my life, and how much camp builds character and develops skills used for a lifetime.  Although, through the years, my perspective has changed, Rockbrook’s legacy is untouched, its heritage valued, and its spirit stronger than ever.  Girls from Rockbrook have an indescribable bond, a link to one another, bound by the fact that they were “camp girls” together.

Girls from RBC enjoy sharing what they love about camp.  From a parental perspective, here are a few of my favorites:

CHOICES-When else in life do young ladies get to decide for themselves how to spend their entire day and what hobby, talent, or new experience to pursue?  In my opinion, this teaches decision-making skills and develops a sense of independence they carry with them to adulthood.  It also facilitates adventure, encouraging them to try new things, step out of their comfort zones, and embrace new opportunities.

SIMPLICITY-We live in such a fast paced world that we forget to notice the beauty around us.  Simple domestic life at camp creates an atmosphere to better appreciate the natural surroundings.  It eliminates distractions, so campers and staff notice the magnitude of the mountains, sound of the streams, and smell of the mountain laurel.  This less busy, slower paced environment also aids in the development of new friendships.

Cabin

LIMITED TECHNOLOGY-As the mom of a teenager, I have noticed a real void in the communication skills of teens today.  Because there are no computers, TVs, or phones at camp, girls communicate face to face, an invaluable lifelong skill.

TRADITION-A place rich in tradition binds girls together despite their differences.  A camp deeply rooted in traditions gives girls the comfort that some things are “unchanging” and safe place, despite their changing circumstances around them.  They look forward to the things they do every year down to the songs, Spirit Fire, and ice cream.

And finally, LAUGHTER!  It’s good for the soul.  Girls are free to be who they are, uninhibited from the pressures of the outside world.  Loud songs are encouraged, costumes welcomed, and all personalities accepted.

Miss RBC.jpg

In conclusion, my gratitude has grown as I’ve come to appreciate the camp experience.  The more time I spend here, the more I realize that Rockbrook Camp has helped shape and mold me into the person I am today, and no matter how old I am, I’ll always be a Rockbrook girl!

Bentley Parker–Auburn, Alabama

Rockbrook Girl 1979-2013