Dear Treetops Families,
It is when faced with adversity that we find out what we are made of. When confidence is shaken and we push through, we know the grit we possess. Because it is in these challenging times that our vulnerabilities are exposed, we have to face them and make the decision to retreat or persevere. And this, of course, is an internal choice, but bolstered, I think, by the support system that surrounds. I’ve seen that this summer, as I marvel at the way the Treetops community has reached out, to me and to each other, with compassion, hope, and gratitude. And I’ve seen it each previous summer, as campers learn new things, take big risks, and perhaps struggle but keep trying in the comfort of a community that cares.
Homesickness is often the first challenge faced by campers each summer. Leaving the comfort of home to adventure to an unfamiliar place can be excruciatingly hard for some children. For many summers now, I’ve witnessed the resolve of campers as they hold back tears (or don’t), accept hugs from brand new friends, and follow advice from campers who have experienced similar feelings before. It seems that it almost always comes as a surprise to campers when they realize that those feelings are dissipating and they might actually be having fun. For many, it is a powerful lesson that they can overcome what felt, just a day or two before, completely insurmountable.
For other campers, this lesson might come on a challenging bushwhack trip, when, just as it feels like too much, another camper starts to sing and suddenly there is energy where there wasn’t before. Or it might happen in the pottery shop, when a camper’s bowl collapses and after a brief, frustrated outburst, he cleans off the wheel and begins again. It might happen when a shy camper decides to share a skill at the Talent Show, makes a mistake, hears shouts of encouragement, and continues on. This resilience only develops with time, when given opportunities to face challenges, to build inner strength, and to call on support from fellow campers, a trusted counselor, or even a favorite goat. As confidence builds and community develops, the unfamiliar becomes known, the hard becomes manageable, and failures become just stumbles along the road.
For a good reminder of the power of community support, one can look to the woods. Mature forests are known for being diverse and stable. All species have their roles and work together to maintain a balance. Our vegetable garden grows a variety of mostly annual plants. This means it is perpetually an immature system, starting over each spring. It takes a lot to till, plant, and weed, but we love carrots, lettuce, and potatoes so the work is worth it. At Treetops a few years ago, we expanded our growing area to include a space meant to emulate a forest, creating an edible ecosystem where different plants play different roles in different spaces. The plants within are primarily perennial, meaning we don’t have to replant them each year. Because this isn’t a mature forest yet, we still play a role to help desired plants get established, but eventually the forest garden will take over, shifting and changing to maintain its own kind of balance, each species playing its unique role and providing support to the others. And if we’ve done our work well, that balance includes delicious fruit, berries, nuts, vegetables, herbs, and flowers for campers and counselors to enjoy for many, many summers to come.
The pandemic, as well as the current calls to action of recent protests, ask us to determine our own willingness to face adversity and our ability to stand tall and move forward confident, not that it won’t be hard, but that we can make it through anyway. Below are ways that I am acknowledging the support that gives me resilience and how I am looking toward the strength and interconnectedness of nature to keep me moving ahead.
Treetops at Home
Eat good food.
I took a walk through the Forest Garden this week. It’s diverse, productive, and growing up a little wildly. Raspberries and currants are proliferating. They were all planted from cuttings, snipped branches stuck into the ground, so they demonstrate particular tenacity. Blueberries, which had already existed at the edge of the forest garden, have been given more space to spread and are thriving. I picked cups and cups of berries as I made my way through tall stands of mint and oregano, and around towering elderberry and hazelnuts. My favorite way to enjoy fresh berries is to simply eat them, but I thought I would make jam this week.
Here is a recipe that can take any berries. I used mostly raspberries, with a sprinkle of blueberries. I added the currants, not just because we have them, but also because they are high in pectin, which helps the jam to set. Store-bought pectin can be used, of course, or lemon juice can be added for some additional pectin. I hope you are inspired to make jam, jelly, or maybe even marmalade. Depending on what you have on hand and the results you want, you may need to look into different recipes.
Make and do things.
Knowing the profound impact of community connections, I’ve been thinking about the people, places, and things that support me and create a network that allows me to thrive. In acknowledgement of all those who make me a more resilient individual, I made a map of my community. I included the people that encourage me, places that comfort me, activities that strengthen me, and challenges that push me. This could be an actual map, some kind of illustration, or just a list, but I encourage you to take some time to think of all those who have created for you an environment that makes you willing to take chances, to face unknowns, and to know that you’ll be okay.
Spend time with nature.
I took a hike this week and was reminded of the resilience of nature when I was on the summit. The ice, wind, and cold of Adirondack winters asks a lot of these plants, and they respond by adapting to the conditions and finding a niche among the mountaintop ecosystem. The leaves of blueberries have a red tint to help them photosynthesize in colder temperatures and with less sunlight. The alpine mountain ash grows lower to the ground to protect against high winds. Mosses help keep what little soil there is in place, and they hold moisture for other plants. Can you find plants (or animals) around you that are surviving in what seems like harsh conditions? Can you see a dandelion pushing up through the sidewalk or a tree growing on top of a rock? How do you think these plants survive? Have they made adaptations? Are they supported by other species?
P.S.: Next week will be the last Camp Journal for the summer. We’d love to culminate with photos from throughout the summer of as many campers and their families as possible. If you have any to share, of Camp-inspired activities, please send them along.
We’d also like to see those Garden Flags! If you’ve made one, please send it along so we can hang it in the garden.