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Beyond Grateful

We are grateful for our youngest campers in Sunrise!

As the last week of November rolls around, I am reminded of watching Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving Special every year around this time on TV.  Charlie Brown ends up serving Thanksgiving dinner for his friends thanks to Peppermint Patti’s self-invitation when he is really supposed to go to his Grandmother’s for a traditional Thanksgiving meal.  Charlie Brown enlists the help of Snoopy to help set up for the feast and, low and behold, a non-traditional fare ensues.

When Charlie Brown’s guests sit down to dinner on an assortment of lawn chairs placed around a ping-pong table, his friends are surprised to find popcorn, toast, jelly beans, pretzels, and ice cream sundaes on the menu.  After a much disgruntled Peppermint Patti voices her opinion about the food selections, Linus reminds the group about the true meaning of Thanksgiving and how important it is just to be together by retelling the story of Myles Standish and the Pilgrims on that very first Thanksgiving Day.

After having recently celebrated the Woodland Camp Reunion this past weekend, we are thankful for the opportunity to get together with camp friends at the start of the holiday season.  It was so fun to see campers, staff, and alumni gather 3 months after the close of the summer of “Your Time to Shine in 1-9”.  It was a special time for friends to reunite and catch up on the events of our days away from camp while knowing that the summer of “A Place to Grow in 2-0” is now closer than it was in August!  We were even able to share a similar fare to Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving feast (popcorn, grapes, juice boxes, candy corn, 100 Grands and other tasty treats!) while huddling close to the TV so that we could watch the highlights of the summer of 2019 on the big screen.  Camp memories were relived and shared, stories retold, friendships rekindled, and plans for next summer were formed!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all campers, staff, alumni, and friends…we are grateful for your membership to the Woodland/Towering Pines Family!  Many blessings in the year to come!

What each cabin is thankful for…

Sunrise: having really nice counselors and making new friends

Silver Birch: new friends, having the time of my life, my cabin mates, friendship, camp, JoAnne, the weather, getting Camper of the Day

Starshine: food, activities, being able to come to camp, having fun, being at camp with friends, having great counselors and cabin mates

Hilltop: coming back to camp and the people, winning Gold Rush, thankful for everything from the food to my parents, cabin mates, friends and counselors, for this summer being the best I’ve ever had, everything, getting to try new things

Treetops: getting someone easy in Spoon Assassins, being at camp with nice people, making more friends, being able to have this opportunity and trying new things, riding horses and improving my skills, staying 6 weeks, learning how to waterski, making friends and learning skills

Tamarack: being at camp and getting my 5 yr pendant, having fun, my friends and this safe place where I can relax and be myself, my amazing cabin, everyone in my cabin, having amazing counselors and cabin mates, getting close with all of them and having the best summer ever, for close friends that I can always talk to, my friends, counselors and cabin mates,

Sunnyside: being with cabin mates again from 2016, trying new things and all the opportunities at camp, the friends who are here for me no matter what, having such an amazing cabin, my cabin mates and the staff, having the ability to keep coming back, having the experience I can’t have at home, being able to grow the camp bond with so many people

Aquarius: being able to be CIT’s with my friends, cabin mates and the food, the opportunity to come to a place where I can grow, be myself and learn more about myself, my friends and the memories we made this summer, my friends, campers and counselors

Happy National Croc Day from Treetops

Who would have thought that colored plastic laced with holes would be part of the camp ‘uniform’ at Woodland?! By looking at the shoes left on every cabin porch and on feet of all sizes and shapes, it is obvious the Woodland campers love their Crocs! While Crocs are not officially on the packing list, it is definitely something we tell new campers so they can be part of the Camp Croc Craze.

Crocs are comfy (check out the cushion), practical (they make great shower shoes or to wear at the lake), stylish (sort of – they do come in a variety of fun colors even though they tend to exaggerate a person’s normal shoe size), warm (if you add socks), and are virtually indestructible (my 8 month old puppy has been chewing on the same pair of Crocs for the past 6 months, and I am happy to report they are still completely in tact; my Chaco sandals, not so much!).

You may also notice in the above photo that Crocs can also be personalized with fun Jibbitz shapes and characters that can be inserted into the holes. Maybe they are more waterproof this way for when we have a little Woodland Dew?! It looks like this camper wanted to leave one hole empty to ensure proper ventilation.

Since Treetops has the honors of ‘sponsoring’ this National Holiday (October 23), here is a little more insight into their 2019 camp experience:

In what ways did you SHINE this summer?

Heidi: By being myself and trying not to let anything bring me down

Caroline: I was always nice and included the younger campers. I tried my hardest to do my best in all of my activities.

Catherine: I passed into level 5 in swimming and passed a few levels in riflery.

Lindsey: I met new friends, tried new things, and passed multiple levels!

Eleanora: When I was with my friends.

Anna: By meeting new friends, learning to water ski, doing new skills in all activities and having fun all summer!

Sydney: I met new friends who are so awesome and I can’t wait to write!

When were you your BEST this summer?

Heidi: When I was riding horses and doing archery.

Caroline: When I was swimming.

Catherine: In swimming.

Lindsey: I was at my best in all my activities because I try to do my best in everything I do.

Eleanora: At tennis because I also do it at home.

Anna: When I learned to stand on 2 skis for the first time and passed out of swimming lessons.

Sydney: When I was achieving new things and reaching our goals with my best friends!

Describe a CHANGE you noticed in yourself while at camp:

Heidi: I became more confident with myself, and I started to believe in myself by standing up for myself more.

Caroline: I listen more instead of just talking, and I eat faster.

Catherine: I became more nice and empathetic.

Lindsey: I feel more outgoing and determined now, being able to be myself, also helped.

Eleanora: I became more confident and independent.

Anna: I am now more responsible and open to new experiences and making new friends. I’m not afraid of the lake anymore and things that have to do with it!

Sydney: I started becoming more open to new activities and new challenges.

What lessons were learned from something CHALLENGING?

Heidi: I was homesick at the beginning, so I tried to enjoy my activities and focus on other things at camp.

Caroline: You have to stay confident and power through.

Catherine: I learned that I should never give up because I will eventually achieve my goals.

Lindsey: I learned that no matter what you do, never give up because you lose faith in yourself and stop trying when that happens.

Eleanora: Teamwork solves almost everything.

Anna: By persisting with archery and riflery (shooting at different levels) and learning to water-ski!

Sydney: That I have to swim really fast to get to my goal every day.

Happy International Literacy Day from Starshine

I realize that I am a week late with this post, but I decided to write it anyway because of the significance this September 8th “holiday” has with the program at Camp Woodland. International Literacy Day serves as a reminder of how important literacy is for individuals and society, women in particular (2/3 of those who can’t read are women).

As you can see from the headline photo for this blog, reading is something that girls have time to do at camp. Without the influence of screens for 6 weeks, campers can enjoy those things that often get pushed to the side due to busy school schedules. It is not uncommon for campers to grab a book while waiting for a turn at the archery or riflery range. Afternoons at the beach during Rec Swim offer another carefree chunk of time that can be filled with favorite characters or storyline. We also encourage campers to use their daily rest hour as a time to cozy up with a book or two. And, one of my personal favorite times of the camp day is right before bed as counselors read aloud to their cabin group as a way to transition to the quiet time necessary for a good night’s sleep!

The theme for International Literacy Day 2019 was ‘Literacy and Multilingualism’. Multilingualism is where a person or group of people can use more than one language when communicating. Without multilingualism, we wouldn’t be able to communicate on a global scale or understand different culturesAt Woodland, we practice multilingualism every day due to the blending of domestic and international cultures. Having campers from multiple states and several countries, we embrace the opportunity to learn from and understand each other’s cultures. This happens organically on a daily basis as girls have conversations in the cabin, at meals or in activities – they start to see the world as a bigger place than the community from which they are from.

Here are reflections on the recent summer from the girls in Starshine:

How did you SHINE this summer?

Sydney: I showed all the things about myself that I was proud of and not being afraid of doing.

Lilah: I felt I was my best self this summer!

Katie: I got up on the kneeboard and passed levels.

Libby: I learned to dive off the docks.

Pollita: Passing my goals.

Kaitlyn: I tried a new activity, passed levels in swimming and archery, made new friends, and did new things.

When were you at your BEST this summer?

Sydney: Just being here with everyone I love.

Lilah: Trying my best!

Katie: When I tried my hardest.

Libby: At gymnastics I kept trying to do a handstand until one day I did it!

Pollita: When I was at arts & crafts or tennis.

Kaitlyn: I was at my best the whole summer!

Describe a CHANGE you noticed in yourself while at camp.

Sydney: Looking at the bright side and being more open.

Lilah: I have grown more as a woman.

Katie: I was happier.

Libby: I envisioned myself diving and then it happened.

Pollita: Getting better at what I try.

Kaitlyn: I became a better gymnast, swimmer, horseback rider, dancer, and I also became better at archery.

What lessons were learned from something CHALLENGING?

Sydney: In swimming lessons I learned that I have to be patient as I improve.

Lilah: I learned how to make a mooring in sailing.

Katie: How to shoot a bow and arrow.

Libby: Learning to dive off the docks.

Pollita: Swimming lessons were challenging for me.

Kaitlyn: Teaching a cabin mate to be more patient while waiting for a turn to use the bathroom.

Happy ‘Just Because Day’ from Tamarack

On August 27th National Just Because Day offers up an opportunity to do stuff…just because.

Every day we all do things that are expected or required of us. Sometimes we even do things because we have to do them, we don’t know why.  At Camp Woodland, that does not apply.  Every day is a chance to do something without rhyme or reason.

It could be that you stop to notice a unique leaf on the path…just because.
Maybe you want to use rest hour to read a favorite book…just because.
Perhaps you would like to do something nice for a cabin mate having a bad day…just because.
Possibly you want to sing really loud while you’re in the shower…just because.
Or surprise someone with a note…just because.
Make something up…just because.
Or maybe, just maybe, do something just because your counselor said so!

The girls of Tamarack lived the essence of ‘Just Because” all summer long! It is interesting to note that more than half of this cabin are daughters of camp alums and they, too, have a few years of camp under their belt. They have been at camp long enough to know the ropes and are really progressing in various activities. From earning the highly esteemed Skipper Award in sailing to having a lead role in all 3 plays this summer, these girls can do a lot! Tamarack took cabin cleaning seriously and won “Clean Freaks” 3 weeks of the summer. They earned a pizza party, a trip to Cathy’s Ice Cream, and an evening of tubing on Sand Lake.

Here are reflections from the Tamarack girls on the recent summer:

How did you SHINE this summer?

Brooke: I tried canoeing.

Maria: Passing out of swim lessons and getting better at archery and riflery.

Tess: I learned to waterski and got significantly better in all of my other activities.

Ava: Skiing, riding, tennis and swimming quick laps.

Anika: Trying my best when working to pass levels.

Sofia: I improved in skiing and I cantered for the first time in riding.

Maya: I have always done riflery, but this year I felt more confident about this activity.

Isabella: I did really well in skiing, arts and crafts, drama and dance.

When were you at your BEST this summer?

Brooke: I’m at my best when I am being kind and nice.

Maria: When I am having fun!

Tess: When I was laughing in a carefree way with my cabin mates and when I soloed in a sail race.

Ava: I am at my best when I am with my friends, doing what I love, and having the best time.

Anika: When I was laughing and being happy.

Sofia: Dropping a ski and cantering.

Maya: I felt my best when I was trying hard to pass my level in archery and go to 40 yards.

Isabella: I was my best at ropes course. I am my best when I am genuinely having a good time.

Describe a CHANGE you noticed in yourself:

Brooke: I made more friends this summer, and I got my 5-year pendant.

Maria: My hair grew!

Tess: I became less stressed and more confident. I also became more attuned to other’s emotions.

Ava: I got a tan and my hair got lighter (hee, hee)!

Anika: I feel for others when they are sad.

Sofia: I became more open and not afraid to be myself.

Maya: I am more empathetic towards others.

Isabella: I became more open.

What lessons were learned from something CHALLENGING this summer?

Brooke: Facing my fears.

Maria: I worked hard to pass my beginner in waterskiing.

Tess: I learned that perseverance pays off (archery) and listening to others helps (riding and sailing).

Ava: I learned how to stay calm during an intense situation (capsizing a sailboat).

Anika: I have learned patience!

Sofia: Winning “touch the fence” because I learned from losing.

Maya: I learned never to give up even if the goal will not be completed this summer.

Isabella: I learned how to confront people.

Leaving Home to Go Home: A Message from Closing Vespers

by alum Alice Decker Burke (camper, counselor and parent of 1st year camper)

For the past 25 years the following essay written for Alice’s AP English class in 1994 is read at the final Vespers on the last day of camp. Parents often tell us that Sunday is such a hard day. Hard to understand. Hard to know what to say. Hard to know where to be or not be at any given moment so as not to impose. On one hand, the excitement of seeing your daughter/s after a long hiatus is hard to contain. On the other hand, the struggle is obvious as campers are torn between the sadness of leaving a tight-knit family and the connection to a place that is also home and seeing parents and family. The good news is that all of these conflicting feelings are normal!

For some, the beautifully chosen words Alice uses may give a little insight to the mixed emotions and awkwardness of Parents’ Weekend. For others, it will bring back memories and nostalgia of being at Woodland whether away for 10 days or 10 years. Either case, we hope you are enjoying whatever this side of summer brings before another busy school year is in full swing. We look forward to seeing you at Camp Woodland in 2020!

The car hums quietly beneath me as we turn onto County D. My father comments cheerfully about the houses on either side of the road, my mother marvels at the beauty of the tiny lakes as we pass them by, at least one every five minutes. But I sit, perfectly still, feeling my heart beat stronger with every roll of the tires. As we follow the twisting road, we round a curve and look straight into an open field, canopied by Eagle River clouds. My soul stretches to the tips of my fingers as I reach my hand out the open window and towards the sky. My parents hear my indrawn breath and smile at one another, a little sadly, knowing this love is one they can never share.

We turn the corner, and I lean out the window quickly, drinking in the air with a thirst that has grown steadily for nearly a year. I welcome every trace of sunlight filtering through every tree stretching over every curve of every trail that branches off the road onto the shadowy forest. I know exactly when the stable will peek through the branches, and which horses will greet me with quiet whickers and shimmering manes. I see the tips of the sailboats over the edge of the hill, waving at me with their graceful masts bobbing in the waves. Pure happiness bubbles up from the depths of my blood, and I laugh with familiar wonder as I feet it course through me.

I jump free of the car, and wander up the hill, feeling my soul run ahead of me, peeking into corners and rolling with delight in the sun-warmed grass. Friends run out of cabins into my arms, and I am scrunched in a twenty-person hug. They grab my bags and set off for my cabin, but I cannot follow yet. My soul is still up in the trees, and I stand with my face turned up to the sun, twirling around with unconditional joy, my arms spread wide, my soul singing the familiar song of wind in the birch trees.

Eight weeks later, I throw my duffle into the trunk, amazing my father with my strength. Mom laughs and tells me that I am stronger than my dad now. Mom. Dad. Those words stumble off my tongue like a long-forgotten language. I need to remember it now.

It is funny, really, how the beginning and the end are the only concretes here. The minute I arrive, it is as if I never left. The minute I leave, it is as if I just came. The middle is a maze of joy and laughter and memory, like a disorganized stack of colorful photographs. I throw them into the trunk of my mind along with my duffles – I will pull them out some cold November night when I cannot fall asleep, and look through them quietly until the peace of their memory drowns out my fears.

My mother strolls out of the cabin, letting the screen door shut carefully behind her. She has a look of incomprehension and mild distaste, as if she wonders how I live in these conditions for two months. My home, but not hers. I start to tell my mother that the director needs to speak with her before we leave, about the payment, but she interrupts me, laughing. She says that she cannot understand a word I say, that we speak a dialect up here, and I will need to start annunciating when I get home, if I want anyone to understand me. My language, not hers.

Dad shuts the trunk and announces that we must be leaving so we can get back “home” by ten o’clock. They must go to work tomorrow, he reminds me. He tells me to say my goodbyes. Not as if he understands. I cannot say “goodbye” to happiness, then climb in the car and roll off around the corner and leave love behind. It is not that simple.

I am bombarded by my friends, who cling to my arms and cry on my shirt and ask in choked sobs why I’m not crying, too. Am I not sad? How can I stand leaving home to go home? Very few understand that there are bands of loss around my chest that are squeezing so tightly with agony that I can hardly breathe, but I fight the tears. I do not know why. I keen with them all, clinging as tightly to them as they do to me, but the tears never come. Pain, but no release. My own kind of grief, I suppose.

My parents stand patiently behind me. They do not understand, but they do know enough not to try, and I am grateful. At last, Dad gently takes my arm and leads me to the car, and the others let go. My family tears me from my family, and the car door shuts me in.

I sit perfectly still as the car starts underneath me. The motor is so foreign, so mechanical. We turn into the driveway, straight and narrow, that leads to the corner and the highway and the real world. A real world without sailboats, without campfires, without unconditional love and universal family. For just a moment, I hate it so intensely I dig my nails into my hand to stop myself from tearing out of the car and plunging back into the woods. But, like passing through an open door, feeling the sudden burst of wind then stillness, the momentary hatred fades, and is replaced with the long familiar emptiness. The corner turns behind me, and I close my eyes, with only my memories to keep me company on the long drive home from home.