Spirit Stones

By Green River Preserve

July 16, 2014

Today, we have come up against the end of the three-week session. There is no denying it: tomorrow, all of our beloved three-weekers go home. Almost half of our campers this session are rising ninth graders facing lots of changes: new schools, new peers, new curricula, and the reality that this is their last year at Base Camp here at GRP. Most campers teeter somewhere on the line between nostalgia for the past and excitement for the future.

Yesterday, the ringing of the bell signaling the end of Free Time found me reading on the bank of the Swimming Pond. With the sound of the bell, an older boy walking by me groaned and said, “End of the last Free Time ever!” Moments later, from the Swim Dock, one of the older girls yelled, “First Free Time of the rest of our lives!” Both stories contain truth: for all of the rising ninth graders, this was the last Free Time they will ever enjoy on Base Camp (unless they come back to work here in later years). At the same time, such an incredibly large portion of their lives is left for self-determination; so many opportunities await them.

We went up to Pretty Place today, arriving just before the sunrise. We sat in silence in the outdoor chapel on the side of the hill, having hiked three miles in the dark to get there. Witnessing the start of a new day on the very last day of camp is always a meaningful experience for three-weekers. As the sun rose over the sea of mountains in front of us, it occurred to me for maybe the first time that this happens in this place every day, whether we are here to see it or not. As far as I can grasp the concept of Eternity, that truth is eternal.

During each Session, campers are asked to pick out a stone from the Green River Valley that means something to them. They might find it on a Mentor Hike, during Dupont Day, or while fishing down at the Trout Pond. Maybe they pick it up by the buses in the parking lot, or maybe it falls out of their shoe. We call these special rocks “Spirit Stones,” and the campers paint them and place them, one by one, around the Upper Council Fire on the last night of camp. At the end of the summer, they are moved onto the hill leading to Upper Council, and that is where they come to live. If you were to walk the path up this hill from Lower to Upper Council, by the hemlocks and through the pines, you would pass by Spirit Stones dating from this summer back to the first summer of camp in 1988. Just as the sun rises every morning from behind the mountains in front of Pretty Place, the sun rises on these Stones. They, too, seem somehow eternal, bearing witness to the connection between Green River campers and this land.

These campers will carry Green River with them, building on the things they have learned and discovered, and the memories and friendships they have made. This community will be here for them when they need it, offering to them the same things that they have always loved: opportunities for challenge, learning, freedom, responsibility, gratitude, respect, and deep, committed friendships.

A period of transition often feels like a Beginning or an End, but most things in life turn out to be continuations. Expeditions are designed as a logical “next step” for the older camper, and I could not encourage you more to seek out what it is they have to give. The core of GRP remains the same even after campers graduate to Expeditions. Whether one is a Base Camper, Expeditioner, or Staff, this place meets the people who come to it where they are at in their lives. Despite that this may be your child’s last summer on Base Camp, I hope you and they will view it perhaps as a Beginning and as an End, but even more so as a Continuation of a community that grows, evolves, and returns year after year.

- Holly (WW1)