In the Final Days

Greetings from Hilltop. We’re nearing the end of a fantastic First Session. It’s worth noting for just a moment how wonderful it’s been to have camp without significant modifications (at least from the campers’ perspective). We’ve had Evening Fire and other events inside the Lodge, we’ve been able to do classes in our individualized, 2019-and-earlier fashion, we haven’t had to wear masks, we’ve all been eating on the Lodge deck. All these things were modified in 2021, and it’s just wonderful to have them back to normal in 2022. While I’m not one to spike the football before reaching the end zone, regardless of what happens for the rest of First Session, we’ve pulled off an extraordinary thing through everyone’s attention and patience, and a bit of luck. The campers have been the beneficiaries. Thanks to all of you.

Speaking of normal, last night we started an important thing. We end each four-week session at Four Winds with the same four evening activities. We started last night with our camp talent show, Talent, No Talent. Tonight we’ll give out activity area pins and have a slideshow of the session in the Lodge, an activity aptly named Pins & Slides. Tomorrow, the CTs will host a dance for the camp in the Boat Barn. Finally, on Tuesday, we’ll have our final Evening Fire. Campers and counselors refer to these activities as “the final four.”

What they are is ritual. Ritual is a wonderful community-building tool. It’s something that has mostly been used by religious communities, but there’s no reason that ritual can’t be used for a secular purpose. When our Jewish friends have a Seder dinner, our Hindu friends celebrate Holi, our Muslim friends make the Haaj, or our Christian friends take part in the sacraments, there’s a consistent theme. Communities gather and do special, orchestrated things that are reserved for that event. Doing those things, doing them regularly, and passing them down from generation to generation lets everyone know that the times those rituals are performed are special. More than that, performing those rituals makes it clear that everyone involved is part of a special, distinct community.

Though there’s no religious component to Four Winds’ program, it’s a wonderful idea to make use of the ritual concept to build this community. When we gathered last night for Talent, No Talent, we laughed at the acts and had a great time, but it also reminded everyone that our time is short (even first-timers, because returners were sure to tell them that Talent, No Talent was more than just a talent show – it was a marker, a ritual).

More than just serving as a reminder that our time together is short, each of these final evening activities, in different measures, provides an opportunity for celebration and reflection, exactly what we should be doing in these final days. Finally, there’s quite a bit of evidence that the most salient parts of experiences are the beginning, the end, the emotional high point, and the emotional low point. We don’t have any control over when the high and low points happen, but we know exactly when the beginning and end are. Getting them right is really important, and we’re really proud of how they’ve evolved at Four Winds.

The last thing I’ll say about these final days, marked by the rituals of the final four, is that they’re just lovely. Something happens in these final days. When you’re in the middle of camp, it can seem like we’ll always just be here together. While that losing track of time can be a great thing, it can also lead to taking camp a bit for granted. In these last few days, no one is under that illusion. Everyone knows that our time together is short, and so everyone values that time a little bit more. 300 campers and staff all valuing our time together just a bit more is a magical thing. I wish you could bottle it and sell it, but failing that, I value every chance I get here to be at Camp for one of these periods of time, as I know everyone here does.

Today, we’re just having a beautiful Sunday. We slept in as usual, had breakfast, Sunday Assembly (on the topic of community, led by Jigger) at Moonraker Point, Sunday work projects and COVID testing, lunch, and an extra long rest hour. For the Sunday afternoon activity, we had Barden (combination of Barn and Garden) Fair, with music, pony rides, sack races, and where your humble author picked up a new piece of life advice – never come in second in a pie eating contest. Tonight, we’ll be in the Lodge as usual, but for Pins & Slides instead of Evening Fire. We’ll keep savoring these last few days. Plan on tired and happy campers coming home to you on Wednesday. Thank you, as always, for sharing your children with us. It’s been a great session, and we’ll have a great end to it.