There’s not a person that I know of whom doesn’t revel in a beautiful sunrise or sunset, sigh over the majesty of a rolling meadow, stand in awe of an awesome mountain range (whether below staring up or above staring down!), or delight in the sights of animals grazing (or soaring) across a broad valley.
Most of us also love the water — still ponds, clear creeks, riffling rivers, mighty lakes, and the awesome oceans!
Part of that love is amplified in modern life because too few of us get enough time to encounter and really live into the gentle presence, wondrous elements, and healing power of good, quality time spent in nature. Kids especially — they need it as much as adults.
So why aren’t we doing more to make it a part of our lives?
Let’s Celebrate Nature
During this, National Environmental Education Week, I am reminded just how blessed we are to have Camp Alleghany for Girls as a retreat from all the bustle of modernity and a place to not just visit and get a day’s worth of pretty trees and blue skies, but weeks on end to rejoice — re-juice! — and revive while resting into gentle, powerful, beautiful Mother Earth!
Wait, let me refine that.
If it were just a matter of “resting” into nature with God’s glorious creation all around us as the most magnificent backdrop imaginable that would, in itself, be pretty awesome. Rest and renewal DO come from “forest bathing” in the sights of green trees and woodland nooks and babbling brooks.
But the whole, nearly unfathomable, beauty and glory of nature is NOT just a backdrop for us at Camp Alleghany for Girls — nature herself is yet another character in our story, intimately interwoven in all we do and see and find and encounter.
Our new Program Director, Casey Tucker, is especially fond of this, as you can see from some of his posts — and it’s rubbing off on me.
You see, all this nature talk is bringing out the repressed poet in me! Next thing you know I’m going to be hugging a tree.
Well, no, that’s a little over the top.
But when I put on my camp educator’s cap and begin talking to folks who’ve never been to camp or sent a child to camp, I get kind of gushy! My friends know I’m a little more reserved than that. But when I “testify” for camp, well, all bets are off!
The Secret of Camp
First there is the utter minimization of electricity at camp. Yes, we have some but not like people “out there” in the busy world have it. Our food storage is kept cold and fresh, our showers warm, our telecommunications clear and consistent. But back on the ranch, the real story is that we soon rise and rest to the rhythms of nature — sunrise and sunset, birdsong and cricket hum.
Our ceiling is alight with more electricity than can even be imagined when the Milky Way above guides our way and an elemental fire draws us close as a group.
In nature our hikers and artists ponder the Fibonacci Numbers (awesome math!) found in pine cones and acorns and swirling fossils and much more. Smooth river rocks capture our imaginations, maybe become artistic “pets” or maybe becoming rubbing stones as we silently ponder or carry on a conversation with a dear friend by the ripple of the river tide.
When we sing together songs inspired by the hills and valleys we feel the immense presence of Mother Earth as an inspiration across the ages, a tide to which we’re intimately connected. When we try to build that fire using woodland survival skills we KNOW that we have to “wrench fire from the gods” or with our bare hands.
When we survey our summer home and see even a speck of litter fall on its pristine paths we feel the immediate urge to pick it up, throw it away, recycle it, or find its proper place because we see so immediately how human activity affects the world around us.
When we paddle a canoe we come to know very personally how the forces of nature, such as a flow of water, asserts itself, and we learn how to work with, not against that flow so that we hear its language and understand how it benefits us in getting where we need to go.
Give Your Daughter the Gift of Camp
I could go on and on in singing the wonders of this most delightful little niche on this most delightful planet.
And if I could convince every parent today how absolutely necessary this timeless encounter is for every child, just as every child for the past many millennia on earth have enjoyed it in their own ways, I would. In fact, kids today need this more than ever since nature is so often, too often, barely a part of their lives. At least in the summers, they can still get it at summer camp in a dose far more powerful than one short hike or day at the beach (however lovely those things are, too).
I hope you’ll join me in celebrating and paying attention to this year’s National Environmental Education Week. And that you’ll look deeply into the benefits of sleepaway summer camp to give your child that missing piece of her education.
You can download my FREE e-book, 3 Reasons to Begin Your Child’s Sleepaway Summer Camp Journey Early. It will give you great insight into what to expect at summer camp, and why it’s of immense benefit to your child.
So let’s be good stewards and: Love Your Mother — Earth!
— Elizabeth Dawson Shreckhise, Assistant Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls