Transitions: Reflections from the Camp Director
As I sit here in our office at the top of the Arc, the sweat bees and flies swarm around my ankles as the all familiar trickle of sweat rolls down my back from the mid- August humidity. I have just wandered up the street to Wally’s Country Store for a Diet Coke for Jane, who has been hard at work weed wacking all afternoon, and on the walk back I was greeted by the familiar smell of corn stalks and gravel roasting in the sun. I exchanged a salute with Mr. Harold, our 83 year old lawn mowing legend, as he pulled into his driveway. Another season of summer at Genesee Valley comes to a close, and I am drawn to a place of reflection on what this season has meant as our team prepares for the transition to the fall.
It is near impossible for me to know what number summer this is for me at Genesee Valley. This place came into my life when I was an infant and my mom and dad happened to meet Jane riding their horses along the road from the farm we had just moved into two miles away. I started my journey as a youth camper and, for at least for one week a summer, worked my way through the ranks: intermediate, junior, and senior. I then became (what we called in the day) a Counselor in Training, or CIT. The summer of 2012, the year I reached the pinnacle and became a full Camp Counselor, was easily the best summer of my life. During that time, I fell in love with a boy, I explored my connection with the natural world, and I become for the first time fully comfortable in my own skin as juxtaposed to the beings around me. In the subsequent years, I thought I would never experience that feeling of unity again. I navigated the realms of young adulthood, the investment business, and multiple moves and career changes like a fish out of water, never feeling like I was truly where I was supposed to be.
This past summer of 2018, my first as Camp Director but not my first among the magical threads of the valley, I have been so fortunate to return to that space of grounded appreciation and formidable self love. Why can a place, a plot of acreage that is perhaps a bit greener than those around it, have such a pervasive effect on a soul? And not only my soul, but the souls of the majority of people who make that familiar left hand turn onto our patchy gravel road? The answer that returns to me again and again, is community.
Our community here at Genesee Valley has a life force of its own. Even now, sitting here in the top of the Arc, I am drawn to remember the beautiful souls who once called these floors their bedroom mattresses. It all flows forward, as a few of the counselors spent Senior Camp overnights in these same sleeping quarters during unexpected thunderstorms this past season. Our community is a life raft, a family, glued together by daily sharing and compliments at morning and afternoon circles, by full belly laughs with the children who come to camp, by tears when we experience losses and acceptance when we experience anxiety. The foundation for our community here at the valley is strong and built on the shoulders of all who have come before, but I have found it is the daily choices to love each other that have grown and sustained this incredible force.
At our last afternoon circle this past Friday, I shared with the team one of the truest and squishiest parts of my soul. I reflected to them how I was initially worried about the summer, believing that the experience might be comparatively lessened. The boy I fell in love with would not be there, and because of that it might not be as great a chapter of my life as when I was a counselor at 19. It was only in that moment that I realized this past summer was more impactful for me than the summer I counseled. In 2012, I fell in love with a boy. In 2018, I fell in love with a community, and consequently, I fell in love with myself. The comparison is largely indescribable.
Now that the summer is over, we prep to navigate our transition to the fall where we offer day team-building programming for school groups and corporate teams. Although we will soon exchange sweat flies around the ankles for thick scarves and management meetings around the gas stove, I can say without question that the feeling of community and unity will remain. Above all of that, I can say without question that this fierce community is what creates the magic we all experience at 1717 Rayville. With it, we are able to maintain the life changing opportunities for groups and individuals to grow, and continue this legacy for years to come.