For most of us, the past year-and-a-half has been challenging in myriad and ever-changing ways. There has been a need to be infinitely adaptable to uncertain situations and endlessly resilient in the face of collective grief. This impacts each of us, children and adults, differently, and can lead to feelings of powerlessness and insecurity. With that backdrop, it is profound to see campers, each day, confidently cultivating agency over their experience here at Treetops. As they try out new skills, make new friends, and pursue new interests, they are taking on challenges, and fully embracing an experience that is their own. Each day, we witness children push the boundaries of their comfort zones, make mistakes and try again, and face unfamiliarity with enviable willingness. Whether it’s a chilly swim class, a rainy hike, or a challenging riding lesson, campers are exploring what they are capable of.
Junior campers said goodbye to the four weekers last weekend. After weeks of building a community, this is always somewhat disruptive, but with projects to complete and trips to embark on, the routine quickly picks back up and campers eagerly forge ahead. They will have a square dance this weekend, an opportunity to celebrate the smaller community that remains. Senior Camp had a talent show this week, a time for campers to share music, a poem, or a hidden skill with everyone. Sometimes, visibly nervous campers mix up song lyrics or forget chords, overwhelmed by the vulnerability of being on stage. As campers falter, they are buoyed by the cheers of supportive peers, who urge them to continue on, to finish the routine, and to be proud of the simple fact that they stepped onto the stage in the first place.
Some of our oldest campers left this week on a five-day canoe trip. These longer trips provide opportunities to put wilderness skills to the test and to do so within a small, supportive group. The bonds created on these trips are strong in a way that only comes with a challenging paddle against a strong wind or a warm campfire after a rainy day in the woods. This week, campers hiked the Colden slide, rock climbed at the Pitchoff caves, paddled Lower St. Regis Lake, and went to Osgood Pond for a “Live Off the Land” trip. By this time in the summer, all trips are becoming more challenging, each aimed at giving campers authentic opportunities to put skills to the test, and to overcome fears and obstacles that are inevitable in a wilderness setting. Campers return from particularly challenging trips with a sense of pride that is palpable.
Both on campus and in the backcountry, campers are building skills, gaining confidence and strengthening connections with each other. These are the tools of resilience. Homesick campers, now fully engaged at Treetops, have learned their own strength to overcome what once felt insurmountable. Timid campers, shy and quiet at the start of summer, are confidently presenting goofy tent inspection comments at council. A camper who had never been swimming has passed their deep water swim test after many attempts and with much perseverance. These may be small steps, or just passing moments, but they are the building blocks that create the kind of resilience needed to embrace life’s challenges with openness and courage.