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Dear Chippies, Parents, Family and Friends,

I’m not sure the end of camp has ever felt so surreal. The camp season always flies, but typically, when I sit down to write the final TSD, I have a different feeling overcoming me. Yes, there is always the sadness that I am currently feeling. And there is typically the same exhaustion that I am experiencing in this moment. But right now, I am having a more difficult time than I remember, really feeling like camp has come to an end. I can hear that camp is quiet, and I do not have the sense of needing to see what’s happening outside the office, which I usually feel when this place is full of happy campers and counselors. But still it doesn’t feel like it’s over. The only explanation I can come up with is that this summer, even more than most, I really and truly wish that our campers could spend another eight weeks at CRC with us. I so badly want to provide them with an extended camp experience- to prolong our time at #TheRanch2021. So maybe, it’s not that the end of camp feels so surreal…maybe it’s just that I’m in denial.

At yesterday’s Final Campfire, where Lakeview shared reflections of their time at camp & gave advice to younger campers, I was once again reminded that this summer was one in which we all knew that something special was happening…even while it was happening. In almost every situation, we as human beings are able to understand the magnitude of an experience when we reflect upon it, but it is not often that we are able to do so in the moment. This summer though, I truly believe that an inordinate amount of campers and staff were well aware of how important our summer at camp was while we were in it…be it on stage for lip sync, cheering in the lodge, in the midst of an afternoon soccer game, or countless other situations that I witnessed this summer, this community recognized and appreciated the privilege we had of being at camp. And I think this genuine and widespread feeling of gratitude at CRC this summer is a large factor in my wanting to have just one more day (or week or session) this summer.

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The other piece is the harsh reality of what is on the other side of this summer for our campers and staff. Of course, our campers are going back to loving families…and to some luxuries we cannot provide at camp. But they are also going back to a world of masks, other COVID protocols, and sadly but likely, too many screens & not enough old fashioned social interaction. Some of this is the reality at the end of every summer- camp is by nature a respite from “real life” challenges…and it always provides campers with some of the most authentic and deep human interactions. But we all know that the culmination of this summer, even more than a typical summer, will be a little bit more jarring. It is the freedom that our community has felt- the uninhibited connections that have been formed, the frolicking, the laughter and the understanding that our most authentic selves are loved and appreciated by our camp friends…it is all of this after the taxing year so many of us experienced…and it is all of this going into the uncertainty of what the year ahead will bring…it is all of this that makes saying goodbye to the summer of 2021 so incredibly sad.

That said, it isn’t all bad…I am not writing this entry coming from a place of pessimism…it is quite the opposite. I am beyond thankful for this past summer and I am optimistic for our community’s year ahead…it is because we have had this unique summer that we will be able to take on these next ten months (until the summer of 2022)- whatever they may bring. There are so few people in this world who get to experience two months at a place like Chippewa with a group of people anything like Chippies. Especially in the past year, it is incredibly special to live by a schedule, and have an intense structure to every single day, yet still feel so unconfined. We are absolutely, positively the lucky ones- those of us who got to live on Dam Lake from June 21 through August 12 (or even just for four of those weeks), had the opportunity to reset, to regain our confidence, to remember what it feels like to be so happy you can’t help but smile, and to build and grow true friendships with those who value us for who we are- for our strengths and our weaknesses. There is no doubt that we are some of the most fortunate people in the world for what we just had the opportunity to experience.

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Before I close-out this final TSD of the summer, I want to share one piece of our day yesterday (the last full day of camp) that I think perfectly represented our summer at #TheRanch2021- it was SO CHIPPEWA. We have periodically played music at meals this summer. At breakfast, our First Year SCs took the aux (I think that’s how kids say it these days), and played some great songs. Throughout the meal, people were singing along, and the vibes were generally positive. And then, as we were about to end the meal, and send everybody to the Center Fire Circle for our transportation meeting, they requested that we wait for one more song. Naturally, we obliged…I mean who are we to turn down another song in the lodge during one of our last meals?! They played “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus, and I kid you not, the entire camp put their arms around their cabinmates and belted out the song. It was cute, and it was sweet…and as I took it all in- watching our campers and staff living so deeply in the moment, and listened to the words of the song that they were singing, I got the chills. The lyrics describe how important the journey in life is- the ups, the downs, the challenges and the successes. It was so very pertinent to all of our lives right now, and while I am unsure if the First Year SCs thought about this when they decided to press play, it didn’t matter. I am certain that most people in the lodge yesterday morning realized the significance of the song…even if they weren’t listening to the lyrics…they felt the love in the room, the unconditional support of those around them, and I know that they were, in that moment, appreciating the journey that we have had the privilege of sharing this summer.

And so, with that, I thank all of you for bearing with me through this post. I know I am a little bit all over the place but there is just so much to cover…so much to reflect upon, and so much to be grateful for. While I am clearly not sure of what this off-season will bring, I am very certain we are ready for it- we just re-charged our batteries, and as a Chippewa community, we are ready for whatever lies ahead. I am also very certain that I just had the honor of working with and living alongside some of the very best humans that live on Planet Earth…

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I am truly in awe of our campers- the kindness, enthusiasm, love and confidence that I witnessed this summer is jaw-dropping…truly unbelievable. Our older campers led by example and taught our younger campers the Chippewa way. And our younger campers jumped in head-first to the Chippewa experience- they watched as our veteran campers demonstrated what it meant to be a Chippy girl, and they followed right along.

And our staff…I mean what can I say about a group who I feel forever indebted to. We have always known that we have the greatest staff, but this summer, we saw just how capable, loving, committed and resilient this group is. Being a camp counselor is fun- everybody knows that- but being a camp counselor is also a huge responsibility…one that I think many don’t realize. And this summer, even more than a traditional summer, our staff were presented with surprises, twists & turns, and challenges that none of us could have predicted. But they handled all of these with an admirable amount of grace, they ALWAYS put our campers first, and they demonstrated an insane maturity day in and day out. So THANK YOU, #TheRanchStaff21- I am so grateful for what you did at CRC this summer, and proud of the people that you are!

And now, as we said in our final Chippewa Creed last night as the effigy burned and the stars were literally perfect, “Goodnight Chippies!”

Happy Camping and Love,