At Treetops, there is intention throughout the rhythm of our days. We provide meaningful experiences at the barn and in the garden. We take pride in engaging young folks in authentic work. But we also know the importance of play. In a single period at Treetops, campers might choose to learn to sail or to splash gleefully in sinky boats, they might decide to learn technical skills on the climbing wall or to scramble up the big pine tree in Senior Camp. There is time for children to learn and grow and work, and there is time for whimsy and play. There are days this summer when it’s all too easy to slip into worry and fear, when the news is bleak and my outlook is gloomy. It is in those times when I remind myself of going with campers on whale watching adventures in the early morning fog on Round Lake, or the delight and pride that junior campers felt as they hiked to Chapter Leanto with Ebenezer the llama. It feels more important than ever to find time for a little unabashed fun.
I can’t think of whimsy without conjuring an image of a group of Junior Campers dressed in the very finest clothes they could find in the costume closet, on top of Balanced Rocks eating cucumber sandwiches and sipping tea with their pinkies out. Katie, my daughter, was one of those Junior Campers many years ago. She was Juliette for the day and spoke with a formal accent long after the trip was over. Tea parties are such a thing of childhood, turning simple foods into what feels like the fanciest of feasts. I think of other fun meals we have at Camp. Backwards Day is a favorite because it means ice cream pie comes before the main lunch meal, Book Day brings green eggs and ham and stone soup, and Silly Supper is just, well, silly. At Camp, you might find campers taste testing in the garden and experimenting with flavors and recipes in the Teaching and Learning Kitchen, exploring a relationship with their food in ways both serious and playful.
Every summer, there are a few sealed order trips, like that tea party on Balanced Rocks, just for the fun of them. On these trips, there is some element of surprise and adventure. It might require rescuing the napkin horse from the top of a mountain or collecting clues along the way to know which paths to follow. The trip might end at a watermelon or with a surprise guest. For new campers, these playful trips can be a gentle and festive introduction to time spent in the woods or paddling on a lake. And these trips provide a balance to the more technical nature of our Guide Skills Program and the seriousness with which some campers pursue the 46 highest peaks. In seven weeks there is time to have both kinds of experiences in the wilderness.
Those who have some history at Camp Treetops know about the Pine Forest, the aptly named woods that separated Junior and Senior Camp. At some point over the years, the Pine Forest became home to gnome villages. Infrastructure was built from natural materials: bark for the walls of a house, dried leaves for a roof, a swing set made from twigs and pine cones. The villages were always changing, disrupted by a rain storm or a mouse moving into collected materials, but campers were never discouraged by that. There seemed an unspoken understanding of the fleeting nature of this kind of construction. The Pine Forest doesn’t exist anymore, after some strong wind storms several years ago took out the majority of the trees, but the inherent enthusiasm to build tiny worlds persists. During Camp, you might find fairy houses in the Children’s Garden or a gnome village in the Forest Garden. For me, these ethereal structures are the quintessence of whimsy.
In the absence of Camp this summer, I am grateful to have these playful memories to recall. I hope they spark memories of your own. Below are some ideas for bringing some more lightness and play into your family’s days. Continue to stay in touch. I would love to hear from you and to see the ways you are embracing a sense of whimsy this summer.
Treetops at Home
Eat good food.
This week I made tea and scones in an attempt to capture the joy of mountaintop tea parties. Currants ripened this week, so they made it into the scones. Black currants have a strong, sour flavor. They’re not everyone’s favorite raw snack, but they are a perfect addition when baked into a simple scone recipe. If you don’t have access to currants, this recipe works well with other berries, too. Tea can be made from tea bags, or from fresh or dried herbs. If you think about making tea and scones this week, I hope you also consider dressing in your finest and extending your pinkies as you enjoy them, just for the silliness of it. Click here for the scones recipe.
Make and do things.
The legend of the gnome is that, when welcomed into a garden, they will bring luck to farmers and help with small chores during the night. If you have a small garden or some potted plants, you could build a gnome house to encourage their presence. Or make a gnome to look over your plants. These projects could be done with natural materials you find outside or things you have around the house. Mine was knitted as a gift for a young friend.
Spend time with nature.
A perfect way to explore in nature, or even from a window or balcony, is to do a scavenger hunt. These can be fun to make up on your own or for someone else. A scavenger hunt can just be a list of things to find or it can be a collection of clues left along a path to be followed. They can be simple or they can require a map and compass. The conclusion can be a checked-off list or some kind of treasure. The best part of scavenger hunts is that they are almost as much fun to make as they are to do. Here is a Nature Scavenger Hunt that can get you started, but I encourage you to make up your own, too.