Tonight begins the carefully choreographed set of closing activities that leads us to Friday morning’s pick-up. It has been a whirlwind of a session…in some respects looking back at the images flashing across the big screen tonight, opening day seems a world away. A lot has transpired since then. Girls have grown in “camp time” (a lot faster than home or school time) and friendships have been forged…these are the kind that will last a lifetime. I’m excited for you to see your girl this Friday. She’ll look a little taller, and will have that healthy “good living” glow. Some will have a newfound interest in exploring her faith. Others will come home with a new recipe they have learned, or an interest in reading a book by their counselor’s favorite author. The complex community that is camp will leave some “campsick,” as they try to replicate the “mountain experience” that they had these three weeks when they get home and back to school.
At times through the years, I have marveled at the way Illahee girls can put camp on a pedestal. And then I think, “it deserves to be on a pedestal.” Where else do girls come together in a place that the greatest girls on earth hold so dear that they bring out the “best versions of themselves” because this community demands the best? Camp is a “reset” button. No matter the year you’ve had…or the struggles you have endured, the start of a session offers a new beginning.
Tonight’s evening program began with a Slide Show, with the highlights of all the images that you have been enjoying online. Favorite songs play in the background as each image flashes briefly across the screen, and girls laugh and cheer as a favorite counselor or experience is depicted. Beautiful images. We are blessed by “easy” subject matter and gifted photographers who love camp too. Gretchen, who is one of those photographers, leaned over to me during the slideshow and said, “putting this together, I was really struck by how almost all of the images were of counselors with campers.” And, why not?
Our staff this summer…more than most…is made up almost entirely of former campers or returning staff members. They “get” Illahee, and they get summer camp for girls. They want to give back what has been given to them. Most, we have known since they were knee-high, and our mutual trust is implicit. They know we would never take advantage of it…and we know that they will love your girls. It’s a good partnership.
After the slideshow gets everyone feeling pretty sentimental knowing that our time together is waning, each hill processes out of McLeod Lodge to their place around the lake. HIllbrook begins, and the other hills answer in song. The contours of the mountainside form a natural bowl that makes the sounds almost angelic…echoing back and forth across the lake. As the last notes fade, the girls who have been practicing their strokes for the last week, paddle flare-lit canoes through a series of formations that are mesmerizing. This time the music is a little more timeless…Pachelbel’s Canon in D and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. A perfect summer’s eve is the backdrop for the drama that is Canoe Formation.
Finally, all the counselors move to McLeod Lodge porch overlooking the lake, and they serenade the hills in unison. The final song is the Pine Tree Song…the same song we end each night with…and then Taps. It was a very moving and quintessential evening…my favorite part is watching fast friends arm and arm enjoying the night together.
We have a BIG day tomorrow. Dance classes will do their routines, vaulters and horsemanship girls will dazzle us with their equestrian prowess…we’ll do some packing and then the BIG event…Final Banquet. The Sparks are ready…(I think). Their big night and then we’ll enjoy one last campfire together, the festival of LIGHT. Until then…