Their Ibasho

Jumping off the diving board at the Rockbrook lake really appeals to some kids. Some like to simply run off the end and land in the water, and others like to really bend it down and spring high into the air. Either way, there’s enough airtime to do a trick or strike a pose before splashing into the water. During the second free swim period yesterday (before dinner), a set of girls decided they could contort themselves in the air and form letters. And with one of the photographers coincidentally there, they decided to take photos of themselves spelling R-O-C-K-B-R-O-O-K. Here are some sample shots. Can you tell what the letters are? It was just a little silly camp fun before dinner.

It’s an example of the kind of silliness that naturally percolates up when girls find themselves in a safe place where they are comfortable enough to relax and be their true selves. Rockbrook is exactly that sort of place. Our philosophy and emphasis on kindness and community make it a place where girls feel included. It’s a place of belonging for everyone who is here, free from social judgment and competition for rewards. Kids here support each other, cheer for each other, and laugh together. It’s a little surprising compared to the outside world, and can take some time to realize it, but camp is a special kind of environment. Once you find the courage to embrace the community, it can be literally life changing.

camp campfire roasting marshmellows

The other day I was talking with a Senior camper who has been coming to Rockbrook for several years and she put it like this: “Camp is a place where I can finally be part of something that makes you feel so much gratitude and love and connection to the people, the earth and to yourself. Here I can be my true self, the person I have always wanted to be.”

What a lovely sentiment! And a great testament to the beauty of the camp community and what it means to so many of the girls here. Camp feels uniquely good. Being accepted for who you really are is a relief compared to the worry that often accompanies school environments. Camp feels good because it opens up a welcoming space for girls to let their true selves shine, and because it’s also supportive and encouraging, it provides tremendous opportunities to grow as well. When you’re not worried what someone might say, and you know you don’t have to hide behind something fake, it’s liberating, and the next thing you know, you’re being a little more silly and having more fun. It’s magical!

It reminds me of the Japanese word “Ibasho.” Popular in the 1990s, this word describes a “place where one feels at ease, safe and comfortable.” It’s a place of “refuge and empowerment,” as this paper puts it. Ibasho is a place where “you feel at home being yourself.” See the connection? Appropriate for most supportive communities, I think ibasho aligns perfectly with the haven we aim to create here at Rockbrook. For the girls here, Rockbrook is their ibasho. It too has this special character to encourage authenticity, to be comfortable and empowering.

I think this helps explain the feelings “camp people” have when they say things like: “I would not be who I am if it wasn’t for camp,” or “at camp I feel at home.” They’ve discovered their ibasho, a special place where they feel most at home being their true selves. It’s the central power of the camp experience.

There’s more to learn from this concept of ibasho. Questions come to mind about how to create and strengthen an ibasho community, and why ordinarily that is so rarely accomplished. From what I’ve seen at camp, kids thrive in such a community. It seems to me that everyone would benefit from finding their ibasho.

summer camp craft teens

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