Have you ever wondered what types of trees can be found around Capital Camps? On January 27 we will celebrate Tu Bishvat, often called the “birthday of the trees”. When I think about trees my thoughts turn to camp as I imagine walking from the ropes course to the lake under the shade of a variety of different types of trees. I recently learned about Ecologist Suzanne Simard’s research showing how trees appear to communicate and cooperate with one another. Dr. Simard explained how trees use underground root networks to share resources; how established trees help the next generation grow; and how this collaboration benefits the entire forest community. As we celebrate Tu Bishvat, we can look up at the trees to learn important lessons about our own interconnectedness.
At the core of the Capital Camps experience is an interconnectedness between each individual and our camp community. Each camper and staff member brings to camp unique gifts and talents. We talk about “different strokes for different folks,” and how being inclusive means learning to accept our friends for who they truly are. It is in this accepting environment where we find we can be our best selves. It is precisely our connection to each other at camp that helps us grow. There is a lot of individual choice built into the camp routine, from daily chuggim (electives) to weekly Shaboptions (Shabbat choice activities), but there are also times where campers need to work as a team. It is not always easy collaborating with peers in the bunk. Experiencing life as part of a bunk, village and camp community is an integral part of a Capital Camps summer. We provide opportunities to experience communal living with unrelated peers, to understand responsibility for others and to appreciate how individual actions impact the larger community.
I love Dr. Simard’s imagery of the “Mother Tree” supporting new trees and supplying them with the nutrients they need to grow. Similarly, our counselors are role models who nurture our campers. We are currently recruiting this year’s team of hardworking, mature and motivated individuals who display a clear understanding of camp core values. Our summer staff bring camp to life and they in turn grow from the experience.
In addition to celebrating Tu Bishvat in January we also celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Dr. King said, “We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.” This is true for camp as much as it is true for the world around us. We work to help each individual be who they ought to be so that collectively we can be the community we need to be.
This summer we will double down on what we do best, helping campers grow and build community. Our campers will return to all the arts, sports, aquatics and outdoor adventures that they love, enjoying as individuals or shared experience. We can’t wait to cheer for each new accomplishment and we are looking forward to the quiet cabin time talks with counselors and good friends. As our campers scurry from the ropes course to the lake, a caring counselor will remind them to pause to look up at the White Oak, Maple, Ash, Red Oak and Pine trees and be thankful that we are all able to be at camp together.