Dear Treetops Families,

These days, timelines are blurry. Events that are typically clear dates to be pinpointed, like the end of camp and the start of the school year, now all blend a little. In a typical summer, we would be heading into the seventh and final week of Camp. We would be gearing up for a variety of culminating events—small celebrations of the time spent together in this community. We would be looking forward to the last square dance—a special one held down on the beach. There would be a flurry of activity in all of the shops, as projects are finished and last-minute gifts are made to bring home. We would be days away from Idiot Trips, the final challenge for the most committed hikers and paddlers of that summer. Harvesting would be in full swing, as the farmers, cooks, counselors, and campers prepared for the Harvest Banquets and Farm Fest. Without all of that, culmination takes on a different feel. What exactly is ending and what is about to begin is hazy, but it seems important as things draw to an end, perhaps especially when edges aren’t quite defined, to take time to reflect, and find ways to celebrate and say thank you to this community in this atypical Treetops summer.

Quiet campfires toward the end of each summer are a natural time for this kind of thought. The community gathers to sing favorite songs together, and individuals have the chance to pause and consider the preceding seven weeks. Campers have the opportunity to share a song, a poem, a fond memory or, at times, profound insight into what it meant to have a summer unplugged. These quiet moments balance the whimsy of the Carnival and Silly Suppers. Though there won’t be a quiet campfire this summer, or the sillier celebrations, I am reminded to take the time to consider the work, the challenges, the highlights, and the opportunities that this summer has offered.

dog on a mountain top

In this reflection, I continue to be so grateful for the resilience of this community throughout this very unusual summer. I am thankful for those close in proximity—the community who remains on campus and continues the work of maintaining this quiet campus by caring for our animals and tending the gardens—as well as for those who are farther afield, who would have been at Camp, who would have had children at Camp, or who would have been making preparations to travel to celebrate our 100th summer at Friends Weekend. Thank you for being part of the Treetops community this summer. Continue to send photos of your family doing Treetops-related activities. It truly makes me so happy to see children still going barefoot, still caring for animals, still swimming, and still cooking Treetops recipes. If you sent something in for the Treetops newsletter, we’ve decided to just include submissions in the Treetops at Home photos. Thank you to those who have contributed. And if you haven’t yet, and you’d like to, send in your tent canvas garden flag. They are now hanging in the Children’s Garden, but we will continue to add flags as they come in.

In this time of transition, I am also looking ahead. Though there are still so many unknowns, my sights are already on next summer. I just received a list from a camper of all the ways we could celebrate the Treetops’ centennial, which I’ve shared with you in the weekly photos. It is with great joy and hope that I think about welcoming counselors and campers back here. I am thrilled to have already heard from so many families about plans to attend Treetops in 2021. If you haven’t already enrolled, here is a link to Camp Treetops Camper Application, and, as always, reach out if you have any questions.

Treetops at Home

Picking tomatos

Eat good food.

By this time in the summer, tomatoes are ripening in the greenhouse, peppers of every color are vibrant and ready for picking, onions are beginning to bulge, and garlic has all been harvested. As such, salsa is usually a popular staple of Farm Fest. As campers stroll through the garden, celebrating the harvest season, they can stop at the salsa table and choose an ingredient to chop, dice, or slice to contribute to the bowl, before they walk away with a handful of chips and a cabbage leaf full of salsa. So to celebrate the culmination of another beautiful and bountiful growing season, I made salsa this week. I enjoy this recipe because it is flexible and can be easily adapted to suit the preferences of those who will enjoy it. I went pretty basic for this batch, tasting as I went, adjusting, and adding a little more onion or a touch more salt when needed. I left out cilantro in mine and went easy on the hot peppers for a milder batch. Whether you make salsa this week or something else entirely, I hope you have the opportunity to celebrate the fruits or vegetables of the season.

lip balm

Make and do things. 

Last week, I took time to map out my support network, identifying the people who continue to give their energy, their thoughts, and their time, both to me and to Treetops. This week, with my support network in mind, I am setting out to show my gratitude. I will use some of the cards I made from the first week of Treetops at Home, but will also make some lip balm to share. Making lip balms, and other healing salves, is an activity that happens throughout Camp and during Farm Fest. As the summer winds down, lip balm is the perfect thing to make, to keep or to give as a gift, and to preserve a little bit of summer in a small tin. Every batch is different, using mint and echinacea from the garden, or plantain and chickweed from the fields. For mine this time, I am using calendula and lavender. Both are just coming into full bloom. The calendula is a bright splash of oranges and yellows against the green of the garden that cheers me each walk from home to office. The lavender is from a small patch outside my house, planted several years ago and reliably coming back every spring, blooming vibrantly purple right about now. Here is a recipe for lip balm. Whether you send cards or make lip balm to share, consider reaching out to say thank you to the people who have made this summer a little brighter. I also made lavender shortbread cookies this week. They are a great gift to show gratitude along with bunches of flowers and lip balm.

campers on a mountain

Spend time with nature. 

In a typical summer, campers make bouquets during Farm Fest to say thank you to community members. Thank-you bouquets often go to our farmers, our cooks, our maintenance staff, and our housekeeping staff. In keeping with the theme of gratitude, this week I made small flower bunches to share. The flower garden looks beautiful this summer, but as I walk around campus, it’s the wildflowers that are catching my eye. This week, I made a number of small bundles of black-eyed Susans, Queen Anne’s lace, yarrow, and goldenrod. The bouquets found their homes in a variety of spots—one on my deck for a little gathering of Treetops old-timers, one on my dining room table, and a few on the desks of those who have continued to tirelessly work for Treetops, despite the unusual nature of this summer. Are there flowers around you that might bring some brightness inside, for you or as a way to say thank you? It could be small clover flowers or trusty dandelions, maybe just a collection of interesting leaves or decorative grasses.

Karen Culpepper
Camp Director

P.S.: This is the last Camp Journal of the year. We’ve loved seeing all of your photos and creative projects throughout the summer. For those of you who have been enjoying the Treetops Monopoly game, we have good news. Owen has updated the game, and you can find the new version here.