One of my favorite songs to sing after lunch at camp is “The Circle Game.” I love the imagery that comes to mind when we sing “Yesterday a child came out to wonder / caught a dragonfly inside a jar…” It reminds me of the playfulness of children and the joy that we all feel in connecting to nature. I’m also struck by the refrain, “and the seasons they go round and round.” At this time of year, when I’m a little sad that the camp season has come to a close, I am comforted in knowing that before too long I’ll be packing my trunk to return to camp for another summer of joy, nature, magic and fun with friends of all ages.
The summer of 2019 was an amazing one for us at Eagle’s Nest. Our campers came from as far away as China and from as close as right next door. Some were from big cities like Brooklyn and Chicago and others were from small towns that are more rural than Pisgah Forest. They were supported and inspired by one of the kindest staff groups I’ve ever worked with. Together we practiced taking on challenges and gaining confidence, listening to each other and becoming more compassionate, connecting with nature and finding new ways to help care for it. We went on 24-hour campouts off campus with our cabins, trekked in France, paddled the Boundary Waters and scaled rock faces. We preformed “Mary Poppins” and made gifts for each other for Giving Day. We learned about Greek Mythology during Final Banquet and found success in building fires and learning how to tie knots. We made pottery and stained glass pieces, used a dark room to print our own film, and got a bullseye in archery. We dressed up in silly costumes, danced and laughed and relished the joy of being in a beautiful community together.
At Eagle’s Nest we are very intentional in our efforts to create a culture of gratitude. We appreciate each other with specific words of praise that lift our spirits and bring a little more love to the world. Campers and counselors feel safe and valued in this environment, which is why many consider Eagle’s Nest to be a second home. My hope is that they will take the lessons and skills that they have learned at Eagle’s Nest home to their schools and communities – helping to spread a little more kindness in the world.
On my last day at camp this summer, as the counselors were busy cleaning and saying goodbye, Tshiamo and Siphokhazi, two staff members from South Africa, presented a beautiful hand painted canvas to me. On it there is an outline of Africa with a big red heart over South Africa. It reads “Ubuntu: Zulu / Xhosa word for ‘humanity.’ I am because you are. It means showing humility to others without expecting anything in return. Ubuntu is the essence of a human being. Ubuntu is shown through love, truth, peace, happiness and inner goodness.” At Eagle’s Nest we strive to live Ubuntu every day. I have hung this beautiful piece on the wall across from my desk so that I can be reminded of it every day, and I look forward to taking it back to camp next summer to hang where our 2020 campers and staff can be reminded and inspired too.
By Paige Lester-Niles, Camp Director