Month: September 2018

Outside the Campfire

I love spending time with our campers and staff around the campfire. There is something elemental, primal about the experience. Doing so connects us to a practice used by humans for hundreds of thousands of years: seeking shelter and warmth, cooking, sharing stories… and courage… while in community around the campfire.

Campfire & Society

The campfire has provided a great deal over the millennia – warmth, protection from predators, a beacon, a place to cook, and more. So important is the campfire, in fact, that some researchers suggest that the campfire conversations of the past have helped to shape who we have become!

‘Are we going to have a campfire?’ is one of the first questions potential campers ask. The second, of course, is, ‘Will there be s’mores?’ Darn tootin’. In fact, one research has found initial evidence that being around the campfire actually lowers one’s blood pressure.

It’s a so pervasive in human culture, in fact, that the healing properties of sitting around the campfire is a part of Fort Nite. (Grab just about any 12-year-old and they’ll explain.)

Campfire & Camp

At camp, we use the campfire to gather around, to share in community, laughter and a bit of learning. While maybe not necessary, I firmly believe the tradition of Campfire is vital to Weequahic’s culture. Because it’s the only time we celebrate the victories of the past week and think about how we’ll act in the future, all together, it’s an anchor to our week, one that keeps us moored to what’s important.

In order to live, though, you have to leave the light of the campfire and venture out. You have to lift your anchor, turn your back on the campfire, and walk out into the dark, the unknown. Knowing your way back to the warmth and community of the fire will never leave you – you’ll always know how to get back.

But you can’t really learn and live without moving outside the ring of light your fire provides.

Campfires & You

You want to know something great in the midst of all this unknown? There are a lot of campfires out there. Some, you’ll be invited to join. Others, you won’t want to join but it just doesn’t suit you. A few, you’ll want to join but have second thoughts about, wondering if you belong or if you are good enough.

You are. Just saddle up, listen, learn, and give of yourself genuinely.

Drips of Attitude

At the end of Summer ’17, Kate, the boys and I packed up the family car and headed west for a long trip. We had pulled the boys out of school (something they want again right now!) for an adventure spanning most of the Western states between Labor Day and Thanksgiving.

After a few fun stops along the way, we found ourselves in Jackson Hole, WY, and floating down the Snake River, paddles in hand.

The Snake is one of the west’s great rivers. Starting not far from Jackson Hole and dumping into the Columbia before hitting the Pacific, the Snake travels 1078 miles and drops 8500 feet from the source to the mouth

Our one-and-a-half-hour trip on the river was amazing – stunning views, great rapids and (very) refreshing water. Looking up the canyon walls, it was easy to see the highwater line from earlier in the spring – 14 feet above us!

The Power of Snowflakes and Rain Drops

Snowflakes are tiny things, each famously different from the rest. Individually, they don’t take up a lot of room. And, they are so fragile. Put your hand out, catch one, and you’ll see it disappear in seconds.

Yet, you get them together…. In fact, close to 700 inches of the stuff had fallen around the source basin for the Snake leading to one of the most incredible melts in recent memory. The trip we enjoyed in September took just half the time three months earlier due to all the water.

We are witnessing the power of collected water right now in the Carolinas. Some forecasters project that Hurricane Florence will drop 10 trillion gallons of water on the ground over the next few days. We are all praying our friends get through the onslaught safely.

Drips become torrents. Rain drops collect, rush down mountains. These collected torrents move boulders, form rivers that cut mountainsides.

Your reactions, your attitude, your thoughts are the same way.

The Collection of Attitude

Each and every moment, you get to choose how you act and react. Only you have control of that little (and sometimes very loud) voice inside your head. You can also choose the emotions you wear. Remember – most of your intent is communicated by your body, what your eyes, face and posture broadcast.

We talk about this a lot at camp. Having had the opportunity to observe thousands of kids and staff over the years both in and out of camp, I’ve come to the conclusion: we are better a choosing our attitude at camp than anywhere else.

This happens for a number of reasons, I think. First, we talk about it a lot. It seems we must be reminded of this power we have over our attitude. At camp, it’s pretty constant through those around you and the messages you get. Secondly, there are no other or at least very few concerns. You simply get to be in the present. Lastly, well… it’s just a lot of fun.

An author named Roy Bennett wrote: “Attitude is a choice. Happiness is a choice. Optimism is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Giving is a choice. Respect is a choice. Whatever choice you make makes you. Choose wisely.”

It’s a great reminder and one I hope you’ll remember in the weeks and months ahead as move through the school year and back towards camp. Your attitude, that which you show all of those around you on a moment to moment, drip by drip, is your gift to them… and to yourself.

Why choose to make that gift anything but great?

Have a fantastic week!

‘Well… duh!’ Studies

Growing up, I got to spend a few weeks each summer at my grandparent’s house in Maine. Located about a half mile bike ride away was a small, protected cove full of crabs, sea glass, drift wood, and sand – a perfect play pen for my brother and I.

Flipping over tidal pools rocks in search of crabs was a full-time job. We got pretty good at it. One morning, though, everything changed.

Without planning it, we arrived at the lowest ebb of a full-moon tide. We had never seen the water that low… or that many perfect rocks to flip!

Wading out under the watchful eye of our father, we started our exploration. The first two rocks hid a few little crabs. The third, however, produced a new sight: a mottled-red flash heading backwards from under rock – a baby lobster!

The next rock produced the same thing! And then another! By the time the hour was up, we had seven baby lobsters, four pinches on our fingers, and a new appreciation for the Cove. For the next few summers, we were glued to the moon and tide schedule, planning our forays to the land of lobsters – net in hand.

Fast forward a few summers. We wake up to our father laughing at the morning paper – not a normal occurrence. The first page story: after spending a lot of money, Maine universities discovered that baby lobsters head close to shore in order to grow into maturity.

Umm… all they had to do was ask a couple of Georgia boys and we would have told the same thing!

‘Duh’ Studies

The modern world is often finding out things we already know. In recent years, studies have shown separating technology from kids at camp increase their empathy and connection with the world. We’ve ‘learned’ physical exercise is a great thing for you. Video games and phones are additive.

We’ve also learned that gratitude, pride and compassion are important for your health. From a recent David DeSteno NY TIMES Article:

What these findings show is that pride, gratitude and compassion, whether we consciously realize it or not, reduce the human minds tendency to discount the value of the future. In so doing, they push us not only to cooperate with other people but also to help our own future selves.

Feeling pride or compassion has been shown to increase perseverance on difficult tasks by over 30 percent. Likewise, gratitude and compassion have been tied to better academic performance, a greater willingness to exercise and eat healthily, and lower levels of consumerism (and) impulsivity….

If using willpower causes stress, using these emotions actually heals: They slow heart rate, lower blood pressure and reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. By making us value the future more, they ease the way to patience and perseverance.

Perhaps most important, while these emotions enhance self-control, they also combat another problem of modern life: loneliness.

Ask any camper at Weequahic and they’ll tell you the same thing: the more gratitude you exhibit, the better you feel. They’ve been practicing this for a lot of years and have tons of evidence – better relationships, happier moments, and a huge reduction in anxiety and a lot less loneliness.

Gratitude, Attitude and Courage

GAC does not have to last only at camp. Think of coming to Weequahic as your re-charging station and these weekly blog posts as minor jumpstarts in the process. Yes, it’s a lot easier to get the full experience at camp when everyone around you practices the same way. Yes, it’s harder at school because not everyone has learned the power of practicing gratitude, choosing your attitude, and developing courage.

All of this is not to say you can’t live in a GAC way year-round. You can. It’s a choice to remember what’s important. And, how you act on a daily basis? That’s up to you, too.

Duh, right?

Have a great week!