So Adored

Girls Horse Show Results
Horse show girl rider

For quite some time now, Rockbrook has remade its “Horse Show” held at the end of its sessions into something non-competitive and more celebratory. Instead of riders set against one another, we allow girls of all abilities to show their skills and to be recognized for their equestrian accomplishments. With other girls from camp watching, they may simply canter around the ring, walk over poles, or wow everyone with an impressive jump. We provided cool red ribbons for all of the participants who rode in the show today. For others, the equestrian staff also brought out one of our Welsh ponies, whose name is Cool Beans, to let the girls paint him with bright hand prints. Cool Beans was pretty patient (cool!) through all of this, and with multiple different color hand prints all over him, looked fabulous (cool!) too.

Musical Child Jungle book

Today our drama instructors had a few jitters as they made final preparations for the performance of this session’s musical, The Jungle Book. They took over the gym early this morning to transform the stage into a jungle scene with trees, vines, rocks and other flowering plants. Throughout the session, girls have been learning songs, practicing choreographed dances, and memorizing speaking parts for several characters from the well known musical version… The bear, Baloo, the boy Mowgli, the python Kaa, the tiger Shere Khan, the girl Shanti, and plenty of monkeys and elephants. The entire cast sang versions of the classic songs like “I Wanna Be Like You” and the “Bare Necessities.” After the performance, which brought cheers and applause from the other campers and parents watching, I noticed more than one person humming along to one of the songs.

Camper uniform girl smiles

Tonight, our final night of the first session, was also the night of our closing campfire, our “Spirit Fire.” Dating back to the very first summer of Rockbrook in 1921, this special campfire is a time for everyone to reflect upon their time at camp, sing some of the “more serious” or traditional songs, and often get a little sad about camp ending. It’s a magical setting, with crickets chirping in the background, the sun setting into twilight, and more than 250 voices singing softly around a blazing fire. Some girls stand and speak at the Spirit Fire, happily and easily expressing their love for camp and the strong feelings of friendship they have for so many people here. It’s astounding to see how meaningful all of this is to them. The Spirit Fire is a special time when all of the excitement and fun of the last few weeks steps aside to reveal the emotional connections that make our time together so important, so good, and in the end, so adored.

Campfire Girl Uniform Ceremony

Leah’s Spirit Fire Speech

Leah and Abby

The third session Spirit Fire, that closed that session and the entire 2012 season, included a speech by Leah Mayo (here she is on the right just before giving this speech). Leah has been coming to Rockbrook for 10 years, first as a Junior camper and now as a counselor, and in the speech she tries to describe “the magic of Rockbrook.” It’s a wonderful testament to why she loves this place so much. Enjoy!

I can’t believe it’s finally happened, that I’m wearing my 10-year necklace. I can still remember standing up my second year for applause at Spirit Dinner and thinking how far away receiving even my 3rd-year pin was. Ten years is a long time; it’s more than half my life. And this year I’ve come to realize just how lucky I am to have spent ten years here, to have been a part of the magic that occurs here for ten summers.

And that magic is what has kept me coming back year after year, and has made such a radical difference in my life. The magic of Rockbrook is hard to describe, but one of my campers last session came very close. She said that she loved Rockbrook because here “it’s okay to wear your shirt inside out.” She’s eight years old, the same age I was when I first came to camp. My first year at camp was one to remember, I let a High-Up dye my hair blue and Jerry bought me a brush because he thought I lost mine due to its “wild” appearance. I went to the riflery tournament that year—I guess some things haven’t changed. But a lot of things about me have changed. I’ve found myself.

Rockbrook’s magic is that it allows everyone to truly be themselves. And in the process, find yourself. It is here that I have found myself. It is in the heart of the wooded mountain that I have grown from that 8-year-old girl who couldn’t brush her hair into the person I am today. And the magic continues each year.

This year has been the most magical by far. I had a lot of expectations of what my tenth year at camp would be like. I imagined I’d get my necklace surrounded by my friends with whom I’d grown up at camp. But the people who spent those ten years with me aren’t all here. Some came earlier in the summer, some didn’t come at all. I was very sad when I realized I wouldn’t get to share this day with them, but little did I know I would be surrounded by some of the most amazing girls ever!

It has been such a treat to watch them grow as I did and put on one of the best banquets I’ve ever seen. I am so glad to know each one of them, and will always cherish the times we’ve had this session. We’ve all grown so much these past weeks. Someone special to me once said this in a Spirit Fire speech, and I want to pass this along to all of you: You are all strong, independent women. If you were a holiday, you’d be the Fourth of July. I am so proud to be your counselor. And to my co’s, I couldn’t have asked for better people to spend hours upon hours in Treasure Island with. We really are a family now.

Rockbrook’s magic is also about relationship building. It is here that I have formed friendships that have turned into sisterhoods, and I am close with people who live all over the states. My wish for my girls, and all the campers here, is that you will build friendships that will turn into lifelong relationships here as I have. And that here at camp you feel free to be yourself and so find yourself. There’s a line in the camp song that goes “May you see us one day the girls that you wish us to be.” That line has been on my mind all summer. The Spirit of Rockbrook isn’t finished working its magic on me yet, but I am so happy that I have spent ten years here and look forward to more.

Shirts Inside Out

For years now, ever since the early 1960s, Rockbrook has been holding camp dances with the boys of Camp Carolina— both camps shared the same owners, the McConnells, for a while beginning in 1961 (Have you seen the RBC History Video?). In addition though, we’ve also held archery, riflery and tennis tournaments each session, with the RBC girls challenging the CCB boys to a friendly competition. It was today that our sharpest arrow and bullet launching ladies and racket wielding women traveled across town to show the boys how it’s done. The girls, dressed in special t-shirts they made for the occasion, came ready, and by the end of the morning, had soundly beaten the boys in all three sports! Archery scored more than 90 points to best the boys and riflery won by more than 10. A great showing!

Camp Girls and Boys Archery Tournament
Camp Horse Riding Relay

Back at camp, Kelly and the Equestrian staff had organized a barn party for everyone, both riders and non-riders alike. There were simple hand-line pony rides and other games to try, but the funniest event was a relay that challenged two groups to put on baggy clothes and ride across the field the fastest. Riding in all those layers, and carrying an enormous handbag made it a little challenging too!

Camp play dalmations cheering

After packing our trunks and moving them to the Landsports barn for tomorrow’s pickup, we were treated to this camp session’s musical performance, 101 Dalmatians. This was a delightful production with homemade costumes (lots of white puppies with black spots, hair in ponytails as ears!), painted scenery, props, as well as choral numbers, solo songs sung, and a cute suspenseful story. The fiendish Cruella de Vil, who plots to make a dalmatian fur coat, is foiled in the end and Roger and Anita adopt all of the 101 puppies spared, the cutest, most bright-eyed smiley puppies you’ve ever seen.

Camp Spirit Fire Speaker

The final event of this, our last full day of camp this summer, was our traditional all-camp campfire we call our “Spirit Fire.” The setting for the campfire is beautiful with all of the campers and counselors dressed in their white and red uniforms, a bright orange, yellow and white fire blazing, the huge white oak and hemlock trees towering above with the dimming grey blue sky above us. The tone of the evening is more serious and reflective than what we ordinarily enjoy at Rockbrook, as tonight’s program is something that’s been passed down for generations— traditional, harmonious songs, and short speeches and comments about camp prepared by campers from each Line, counselors, and Sarah. These are opportunities for the girls to say something about what Rockbrook has meant to them this summer, to express how they feel about camp and the people they’ve come to know and befriend while here. Some of the comments are quite moving, easily bringing emotional tears, while others are truly insightful, like tonight when a counselor told us that for one of her campers, she loved RBC because “it’s the kind of place where it’s OK to wear your shirt inside out.” That seemed spot on. To put it differently, Rockbrook is a place where it’s OK to be your real self, where you’ll be loved for who you really are, and not for just your appearance, talents, or grades. It was such the perfect thought to end this wonderful session.

In so many ways during this time together, we’ve lived with our shirts inside out. And it’s been great!

Plenty of Smiles

Camp Ceramics Colorful Examples
Proud Ceramics Pottery camper

This, the last full day of camp, is always a strange day of wrapping things up, cherishing moments with friends, and feeling a little melancholy knowing that we’ll all be heading home tomorrow. As we pack and move luggage, there is a certain reluctance to let camp end, even as there are last minute activities and time to be together.

Today we picked up our finished pottery projects. All of the pieces the girls made and glazed during the session have been fired, their shiny colors now leaping up at you from each dish, cup and piggy bank. This is the first time the campers have seen how the kiln has magically transformed their work into these amazing creations, so it’s very exciting for them.  Katie and Will, the lead ceramics instructors, take great care to fire everyone’s work and have it available in time to take home.  It’s so cool to see how everything turned out!

Girl riding a horse in the sun

Down and over at Rockbrook’s Equestrian Center, Audrey and her crew of horseback riding instructors invited everyone down for their “Barn Party.” This is an event with riding demonstrations, mounted games, and decorated horses. Everyone who took horseback riding was invited to participate and plenty of other campers came down to the main lower riding ring just to watch the festivities. The funniest game was “Herding Cows” where three staff members, dressed as cows in white t-shirts and black spots wandered randomly while riders tried to guide them to a pen. It was pretty funny to see and hear (moo!). It was a fun, cheerful event for everyone, complete with chilly popsicles as a surprise treat at the end.

Camp Drama Play Production

Lunch was a classic camp favorite: grilled cheese sandwiches and Rick’s homemade tomato soup. They also served an awesome fruit salad that included the sweetest pineapple. After lunch, we all assembled in he gym for this session’s production of Schoolhouse Rock, our camp-wide musical. This is a play written just for kids and is based on the popular TV series with its well-known songs: “The Great American Melting Pot,” “Conjunction Junction,” and “A Noun is a Person, Place or Thing.” All three age groups had roles to sing with a couple of solos mixed in with choral numbers. These girls have talent!

Rockbrook’s traditional “Spirit Fire” brought our day to a close just beautifully. As dusk approached, the whole camp, all of the campers and counselors dressed in their uniforms, gathered around a campfire circle by the lake to spend some time reflecting on everything camp has meant to us over these last few weeks. We remembered all the fun events, and those moments where things couldn’t be funnier. We expressed our thanks to one another, recognizing that Rockbrook is wonderful chiefly because it encourages all of us to be our best. It inspires us to help each other enjoy camp together. I suspect that’s one of the main reasons it’s such a friendly place. The Spirit Fire can sometimes be a little emotional too as the girls realize the close friends they’ve made at camp are going home in the morning. Tonight too, there were a few tears, but also plenty of smiles.

Campers at Girls Summer Camp
Girl Holding Spirit Fire Candle

Following a long tradition, we ended the Spirit Fire by each camper and counselor lighting a small white candle from the central campfire. Sarah and the other Directors first lit their larger candles and everyone else filed by to light their candle. We then spread out around the lake singing a couple of last songs. Standing around the lake, shoulder to shoulder gazing at the candlelight and softly singing with chirping crickets in the background, this is a scene generations of Rockbrook girls have experienced. It’s a truly beautiful moment they will remember for a very long time.

Overwhelming Joy

Today, the final full day of this camp session, was a great day for marking some of the amazing accomplishments we’ve been seeing over the last few weeks. All of these Rockbrook girls have a lot to show! It might simply be becoming a really good friend for someone, but probably includes a colorful creation of pottery or cloth and a new skill shooting, climbing or riding as well. Most importantly, these girls have created for themselves a haven where they can be adventurous, feel very good about the decisions they make, and have the (silliest!) time of their lives.

Campers Riding Horses at Rockbrook
Camp ceramics projects glazed

For the horseback riding girls, today was an exciting day because the Equestrian Staff planned a “horse show” for them. Not a horse show with competition, judging and ribbons, but it was more of a party with great mounted games to play. One funny example of this was “Herding Cows,” where three campers, dressed as cows (their white t-shirts had black spots on them), roamed about the ring while riders tried to keep them from wandering off. Another game involved girls holding “dollar bills” between their legs and their saddle while attempting to walk, trot and canter without dropping the bills. Several of the advanced riders even jumped while holding the bills tight.

Up in the ceramics studio, head instructors Katie and Will revealed all the pottery the girls had made over the session. Fresh from the kilns, all the sculptures and pots looked fantastic glazed in dozens of different colors. This session there were trays, cylinders, coin banks, and plenty of cups and bowls. It’s always fun for the girls to see how their pieces turn out. Glazes often do unexpected things in a kiln, so it’s generally a surprise.

Campers perform play

This afternoon, the whole camp assembled in the gym to see the performance of our camp-wide musical, Schoolhouse Rock. Adapted from the popular TV series, this is a wonderful play comprised mostly of songs and choral numbers, several of which are very well known: “A Noun is a Person, Place or Thing,” “Conjunction Junction,” and “The Great American Melting Pot,” for example. Several parents attended the performance and everyone was thrilled by the singing. The intermission gave the dance classes a chance to perform as well. All three age groups presented, in costume, a choreographed dance number they had been practicing. Here too, we were all very impressed!

campers at spirit fire with candle

Our traditional “Spirit Fire” ended the day just perfectly. After all the action of camp, the big fun that happens everyday around here, it’s nice to finish up with a quieter time to think about what our experience has meant to us. With the whole camp gathered around a campfire, we all sing songs and take turns talking about how we feel about Rockbrook. From the littlest Juniors on up to the Seniors, Hi-Ups and counselors, the girls spoke so eloquently last night. One junior camper simply said, “I think Rockbrook is great and should be for everyone… except for boys.” Hannah really provided some insight when she explained she loves Rockbrook because it “ignites our childhood spirit.” And Michelle summed up her experience this session as simply “overwhelming joy.”

We ended the Spirit Fire by each camper and counselor lighting a small white candle from the central campfire. Sarah first lit hers and, following this long tradition, everyone then filed by to light their candle. We then fanned out to stand around the lake and sing a couple of last songs. As the candles flicker in the night, casting a warm glow on the girls faces, and as chirping crickets in the distance blend with soft singing, it’s a beautiful scene. We are all a little emotional about camp ending, but we know that what we’ve shared will stay with us and Rockbrook will welcome us back another day.

Campers Smiling at end of Session

The Scent of Wood Smoke

Here is a poem we sometimes read at Spirit Fire. It was written by Canadian, Mary Susanne Edgar. Like Nancy Carrier, she founded a girls camp and was its long-time director.  That camp was Camp Bernard, located in Ontario. This poem does such a beautiful job conveying many of the sentiments of camp life and why it means so much for the girls who experience it.  We love it!

girls camp campfire

To An Old Camper
by Mary S. Edgar

You may think, my dear, when you grow quite old
You have left camp days behind,
But I know the scent of wood smoke
Will always call to mind
Little fires at twilight
And trails you used to find.

You may think someday you have quite grown up,
And feel so worldly wise
But suddenly from out of the past
A vision will arise
Of merry folk with brown bare knees
And laughter in their eyes.

You may live in a house built to your taste
In the nicest part of town
But someday for your old camp togs
You’d change your latest gown
And trade it for a balsam bed
Where stars all night look down.

You may find yourself grown wealthy
Have all that gold can buy.
But you’d toss aside a fortune
For days ‘neath an open sky
With sunlight and blue water
And white clouds sailing by.

For once you have been a camper
Then something has come to stay
Deep in your heart forever
Which nothing can take away,
And heaven can only be heaven
With a camp in which to play.

A Word from a Counselor-in-Training

Savannah and Camp Cabin Girls

CIT’s are a vibrant and important part of the Rockbrook Camp community. They work with the counselors to help campers have a great summer and they also get to know “Hobart,” our dishwasher machine, quite well because they are responsible for washing dishes! Here’s what Savannah Tally said about making the transition from camper to counselor this year at Spirit Fire:

Eight years ago, I found myself as a new camper at Rockbrook who was completely overwhelmed with the excitement of experiencing new things and making new friends. My first cabin ever was Junior 4 side A. The year was 2001 and I don’t think I would have guessed that this new summer camp would become a staple in my life; a safe-haven where I would come to reconnect with friends and make memories that would last a lifetime. This was my first year as a counselor, well Counselor-In-Training to be exact, and although I knew Rockbrook and its ways inside and out, I was horrified to come. I mean, of course I was pumped and ready to lead a cabin of my own, but I had no idea how camp would receive me in my new role and more importantly how I would receive it. I won’t lie in saying that it was a difficult transition from camper to counselor but once I got the hang of it, it became like clockwork. Each day is a new day and sometimes I still find it hard to accept the fact that I will never again be a camper at Rockbrook. It does get easier as each day passes along though and now instead of being excited about making a cool bracelet in curosty or climbing the alpine tower, I’m excited to hear what my girls did that day. I love to see all you campers making similar memories to those I have and I’m so glad to make memories with y’all. So even though I’m on the opposite side of the spectrum, Rockbrook is still the same ol’ Rockbrook. I am now back in Junior 4 side A and I can say that no matter where we come from, what we like/dislike, or even how many years we’ve been here, we can all find common ground and love in the heart of the wooded mountain. Of course it didn’t take me eight years to figure that one out.