Another Beautiful Day

Greetings from Hilltop. It’s another beautiful day on Orcas. It sometimes feels a little unseemly to talk too much about the weather here in the San Juan Islands in the summer, but it’s really just the perfect place to have a summer camp. It’s beautiful and sunny, warm in the afternoons, just cool enough for a sweater in the mornings and evenings. It’s just as good as gets for kids to be outdoors all day. It never it gets old.

But enough about that. Last time I wrote, I said that this time, we’d be closer to the end than the beginning, and here we are. It still feels very much like the middle. Camp has this ability to warp a person’s sense of time. Sometimes, it feels like we’ve always been here, and we always will be. Other times, you turn around and realize that 4 days have gone by in a blink. While it does still feel very much like the middle, I asked our staff at our staff meeting last night to start thinking about it as the beginning of the end of the session. We end each session with the same four evening activities (I’ll write more about those next week), but if counselors wait until those final four begin to start talking with their campers about how to make the most of their limited time here, it’ll sneak up them too fast. Now is the time to be having those memorable adventures as a cabin group. If a camper really wanted to ride a horse, throw a pot on the wheel, sing at Evening Fire, or sail a Laser this session and hasn’t yet, now is the time.

It’s also time to have Polaris Pin and Zephyr Ring ceremonies. We give out jewelry at different stages of a person’s camp career. In a camper or staff member’s third year, Westward Ho campers receive their Polaris Pin and Four Winds campers receive their Zephyr Ring. While the jewelry itself is a wonderful memento of a person’s time at camp, the real beauty of the tradition comes from the ceremony. We surprise the person receiving the jewelry in a place at camp that’s special to them, with all their friends singing one of their favorite camp songs. We then sit in a circle, and each person tells the recipient why they’re special and appreciated. It’s a wonderful thing. Even better is the fact that we do it dozens of times each session. The cumulative effect of all that love and gratitude is something truly special. When people say that camp feels magical, I think that’s what they’re talking about.

Readers familiar with Camp may raise an eyebrow at the term Zephyr Ring. It’s the replacement term recommended by our community-wide task force, and endorsed by our 2022 summer staff, to replace the term Gypsy Ring. This was one of the harder instances of the word Gypsy to find a replacement for, as it needed to capture the imagination in a certain way. A zephyr is a gentle, warm breeze. Given camp’s connection to sailing and adventure, that seemed appropriate. The etymology of the word comes from Zephyros, one of the Greek gods of the four winds. Specifically, Zephyros was the god of the west wind. There’s usually an awkwardness to changing the name of something that has been a certain way for decades, but this summer, at camp at least, this one has fit like a glove.

It’s been a wonderful week. We had a Folk Dance (a beloved evening activity in which we put on crazy costumes and do line dances like the Pata Pata and Saturday night on the Craft Courts) on Monday, Game of Life (an elaborate game of tag) on Tuesday, Sports Night on Wednesday, Capture the Chicken (another favorite, exactly like capture the flag, except with a rubber chicken) on Thursday, Burger Bar (yet another highlight, in which the heads give the kitchen staff the night off, cook burgers, fries, and milkshakes for everyone, dress themselves and the lodge up in a theme, each cabin dresses up in their own theme, and we watch a movie in the boat barn for evening activity), and Moonraker (silly songs and skits on Moonraker Point) last night. Today, of course, we have our slower Sunday schedule, Regatta Day this afternoon, and Evening Fire tonight.

Our 9th grade campers spent most of last week on trips, and our 10th graders leave tomorrow. These trips are a wonderful adventures for the senior campers. In many ways, they’re a perfect distillation of what we do here. We take kids out of their regular environment and put them in a simpler, natural, novel environment. We present challenge. We foster intentional group dynamics. It’s wonderful to see them head off, a little apprehensive, and then return having grown new friendships, full of pride and inside jokes, and also happy to be reunited with friends from other trips. It’s a wonderful part of camp.

Thank you, as always, for sharing your children with us. We’ll keep savoring every moment of camp life. A week from now, I’ll write to you from the middle of end-of-camp magic.