This was a summer of many things–spirit, sun-butter, silliness, star-gazing—but mostly, for me, this was a summer of shifts, of modifying some older traditions to bring different energy to areas that were looking forward to a little renewal. This was my seventh summer at FLC, and my third as a counselor. I admit, I entered into this summer with some trepidation; almost none of my friends from my previous years were returning, and I worried that camp would not be the same without all of those who had been contributing to what I thought of as ‘Forest Lake’s identity’ for so long. It turned out I was right, camp was not the same, but that turned out to be a boon for camp in so many ways, amending this identity for the better, though of course old faces were missed.
It can be hard to find, within a place where tradition is so inherent in day-to-day life, ways in which to create new growth. It can even be hard to imagine that things could be different when one has been living them more or less unvaryingly for years upon years. This year, we welcomed many new staff members, creating an environment ripe for new tradition, while also maintaining many of our treasured old ones. Not only did new staff members instigate new customs—creating singing groups, organizing musical numbers to perform at campfire, establishing tennis tournaments, bringing new cheers to mess hall—but this feeling of upheaval and room for change paved the way for returning staff to reform and develop the ways they had been operating for the past few years. Girl’s camp got a bell for the mess hall, and began a tradition of murmuring (or screaming, depending on the collective anticipation for food) a unified “yessssssss” before starting a meal. The old tried and true “Beans” skit at campfire got a radical re-boot, thanks to a collaboration between new and old staff. The wilderness program was expanded and there were more campers than ever taking trips off camp to canoe, hike, and camp out.
I entered into the summer as the head of Arts and Crafts, with the idea to try to shake up the long-standing view of the crafts room as a place to make bracelets, and to impart some more of the “art” skills to campers, as well as crafts. It was exciting to see campers get really into things they had never tried before—designing and sewing their own needle-point, learning about composition and how photos develop through basic cyanotype printing, and creating their own picture books and zines. This last lesson, in fact, helped inspire some of the lessons I taught in Creative Writing periods, part of a new program that fellow counselors Caroline Kravitz, David Menard, and myself worked to develop this summer. Though the creative writing was not something we had really planned for coming into the summer, merely touching on the idea a couple weeks before getting to camp, the enthusiasm that campers showed for it was completely unanticipated and surpassed any expectations. Campers were so into it, in fact, that after tentatively floating the idea in an activity period or two, we decided to hold a short story and poetry competition. We were blown away by the submissions; junior and senior campers alike presented stories and poems that impressed us with their articulateness and creativity. I am so eager to see how greatly it will develop in future summers.
Though this was my seventh summer at Forest Lake, there were many firsts for me—it was my first time at Family Camp, along with multiple other veteran staff members, and we brought new ideas to a setting that included many familiar and new faces to FLC. From my amusing and challenging paddle-board yoga to Olivia Ridge’s film photography portrait project, there were many fresh experiences. It was a summer that started a stirring up of new and old ideas, and I hope one that began a movement of innovation that will live on once this summer is long-gone. – Juliet Gelfman-Randazzo