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Girl Scout Essay, “Camp is not a place; it’s a way of life”

One of the positive things coming out of the controversy revolving around the closing of camps is some of the writings that I have seen by scout youth and leaders about the impact of time spent at camp has had on their lives. Below is one from the GSEP Property Blog that I had to share with our visitors.

Annemarie Carr (Pointe) said:

written for my college english class on service learning: Memoir of Becoming a Memory “Camp is not a place; it’s a way of life,” is what my camp director said as the summer came to an end. With all my things already packed away in my white Saturn, I begin to drive down the steep camp driveway as all my friends and fellow staff members line the road to sing our camp’s song. I keep these words in mind and close to my heart, as tears fall from my eyes just as rain falls gently from the sky. I can’t keep my mind off the idea that this may be the last time I drive down this road—why would council want to close a camp that means so much to so many people? I fear the reality of her words; the reality that one day I’ll return to this place and its way of life will be missing. I had the best summer of my life working as a counselor at a small residential Girl Scout camp in Oxford, Pennsylvania. Everything finally all came together, as I learned all the missing pieces that were left out during my years as a camper. I finally understood why we did things the way we did. More importantly, I was able to give back to so many girls in the ways my counselors had done for me when I was a camper. They inspired me to become a better person, to appreciate everyone and everything around you, to challenge myself and make a difference in the world. I can only hope that the girls I worked with this summer believe these things the way I did while I was a camper, and although they may not realize or appreciate it now, someday they all will. “Camp is not a place; it’s a way of life.” These are words that may not have had meaning to them when I was a camper just excited to have fun and try new things; but today they mean so much to me. I became a Tweedale camper in 2001, when I attended my first program, “Adventurers”. The three-day program was simply designed to allow young campers to experience time away from home, make new friends, and to allow them to try many new things such as art, outdoor cooking, and environmental activities. I had such a great time during those three days that I was determined to be back the following summer. And that’s exactly what I did; I came back year after year to try and learn new things and to improve upon previous learned skills because “we call it fun, but some may call it madness,” says the Camp Tweedale song. It wasn’t until I came to camp for the seventh year that I finally began to become part of Tweedale, and Tweedale became a part of me. In 2007, I came for a two-week program, “Extreme Adventure,” that gave me one of the best experiences of my life. I backpacked along the Appalachian Trail and kayaked on rapids among other adventures. I was challenged physically and mentally the whole way. This was the year that I finally gained a full appreciation for nature in all its aspects, began to master my outdoor living skills, and formed meaningful relationships with the other girls in my group. In previous years, I’d exchange addresses with the other girls only to send one letter, but that year the friendships formed are still intact. That year, my whole perspective changed at the climax of my camping experiences. It was the year that I decided I wanted to become a Tweedale counselor, I wanted to share and experience Tweedale with others. Tweedale became my home, a home away from home that I came to every summer to be myself and to learn and experience things I never thought were possible. The following summer nearly broke my heart into pieces. The program at Tweedale I planned to attend was closed, and I was out of luck. I wanted another adventure and wasn’t turning back after my amazing adventures during the previous year. I made a decision that I didn’t want to make; I decided to attend “Adirondack Adventure” at Camp Mosey Wood. For the first time in eight years, I would not return to Tweedale. Instead, I embarked on a new adventure farther away at a camp I had never been to before. I left my friends, my camp family, and all the familiar places behind. I crossed boundaries into what used to be another Girl Scout council to find that their camps differed in many ways from my camp, from my home. That year, I was that negative camper we learned about during staff training. Every time we did an activity, I felt that I had to comment on how it was different that the way we did things at Tweedale. I even sent a letter home featuring a Venn diagram of Camp Tweedale and Camp Mosey Wood. And as hard as I tried not to let it, Tweedale followed me because it is part of me. As much as I disliked the differences, I did enjoy that summer and now I’m glad that I’ve had that experience. It even led to one of my most vivid camp memories. Mosey Wood, being in a different council and all, held a program called winter camp in December. I decided to attend that year after everything I’d heard about it during the summer. And sure enough all the girls in my group that year, each of which had talked so much about winter camp, didn’t show up. I was one of the oldest kids there and the only one who had ever heard of Tweedale. I was in shock and began to wonder why I was even there. But I was wrong; there was one person there who had heard about Tweedale. Ape was there; she was acting as the nurse for the weekend, and today she still is the most dedicated camper and counselor I know. One night, Mosey Wood’s camp director asked if I was planning to come back during the summer, and I responded, “I’m going to be a Counselor-In-Training (CIT) at Tweedale.” I will never forget the look of overflowing joy that rose on Ape’s face that night. She looked so proud to have “raised” a camper that wanted to come back to learn to be a counselor because of all the great experiences she had had at Tweedale. And become a Counselor-In-Training is exactly what I did. For the following two years, I spent weeks at camp learning the “ins” and “outs” of what it meant to be a camp counselor. I gained full appreciation for all the counselors and staff and developed meaningful and long-lasting friendships with my fellow CITs and staff members, both local and international. I learned about different types of campers, activities, games, outdoor skills and so many more essential skills. During those weeks, they were indeed put to the test, as I shadowed different jobs within the camp and spent time with other counselors and their campers. I became almost an assistant counselor, and realized that I’d made the right choice in 2007. I really did want to be a camp counselor. Now eleven years after my first Tweedale experience, I learn about possibly my last. During breakfast one morning, myself and all the other CITs from the previous two years are pulled to visit the camp director. We sit around the square table in the old Farmhouse basement unsure of why we’re here. We are told that council has decided to close Camp Tweedale and will not be offering resident camp in the following years. Tears filled the room as each of us realized that we were going to lose our home that we’ve grown to love over many years. We leave as the next group enters to hear the devastating news. We stay close to one another, as we are the only ones who understand what it is like to lose the place you love. “We will return here one lucky day, our hearts will guide us they know the way, people in cities don’t understand falling in love with the land.” Just as one of my favorite camp songs states, I will return to Tweedale someday. I am fearful of how it may differ from they way I left it; the possibilities are currently endless. When I return and drive up the long hilly camp driveway, will I see the place I know and recognize to be my own? Or will I see someone else’s camp creation? Will everything that makes Tweedale unique be there? I fear the left turn off Bethel Road that leads upward to Tweedale, my home. Someday I will return and face the boundaries, but for now the memories keep Tweedale alive. As another camp song states, “there will always be a part of you deep inside my heart, and I’ll know just when to let it show.”

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