Written by Brown Ledge Team on October 11, 2016
By: Kathy Neilsen
Have you ever noticed that words can lose their meaning, or at least their power because of overuse? That happened to us with the word “hero.” Originally, a hero was someone who did something extraordinary, often at great risk to their personal well-being, in the service of a greater good. Think going into a burning house to rescue a family. Now the colleague who goes on a coffee run is the office hero. And how about “awesome”? The word is rarely used to describe something that’s truly awe inspiring and “awesome” has become what “neat” or “cool” were to previous generations.
We’re noticing the same phenomenon with the word “bullying.” Depending on the source, “bully” is roughly defined as “The use of force, threat, or coercion to abuse, intimidate, or aggressively dominate others. The behavior is often repeated and habitual.” But that’s not how the word is commonly used now. We often hear kids and parents alike using the word “bully” to describe a person whose behavior, while annoying and sometimes hurtful, falls far short of the definition.
We became so aware of the problem with the use of the “b” word that we resolved to write a piece for the camp website. And then, voila, assistant director Kim McManus sent us this article, which is the article we would have written if someone hadn’t beaten us to the punch! We especially like the distinctions that the author makes between “rude” and “mean” and “bullying” behaviors and the problems that the confusion can cause. We hope you enjoy Signe Whitson’s article which was originally seen in the Huffington Post.
Written by Brown Ledge Team on January 15, 2016
Challenging the Cult of Speed
by Kathy Neilsen
It is hard to pinpoint when the era of excess in children’s activities began. Most baby boomers will tell you about afternoons spent in parks, woods, and sandlots with neighborhood children. Many offspring of baby boomers had a different experience, their time became more organized and supervised and no longer were they allowed to grow up at their own pace. The pressure to discover every talent and develop every skill – quickly – was on, along with the very real fear that the children with the longest activity resumes would “win.”
There has been a growing realization about the harm that this ethic was, and still is creating. We recently became aware of a book that frames the case for slowing and calming our children’s lives and our own. Did you know that there is a Society for the Deceleration of Time? It is one of many world-wide efforts to encourage mindfulness and to “Challenge the Cult of Speed,” which is the subtitle of Carl Honore’s book, In Praise of Slowness. The author chronicles what we, both individually and as a society, have lost in our race against time. Savoring moments has been replaced by constant – often technology driven – activity and short attention spans. As a result we and our children live in an age of stress and anxiety, marked by constant worries that no matter how much we do, how fast we go, it is never enough. (An age about which actress Carrie Fisher quipped, “Even instant gratification takes too long!”) But we need not revert to a pre-industrial age. In the end, “the slow movement is not about doing everything at a snail’s pace, or about a rebellion against technology, it is about balance, controlling the rhythms of your own life.”
We recently received an email from a camper who told us that one of the reasons she loves Brown Ledge is that she can be busy, spunky, and loud one day and thoughtful and quiet the next. We love that about Brown Ledge too. From our cabin, walking down the road, we pass girls exhibiting all gradations of action and relaxation. We see campers learning new dance steps in the studio, talking with friends on the swing, reading books on the vista, cantering around the ring and soaking up the horse world from a bench in the barn. Go to the archery range and you will find one girl shooting her sixth round in search of her elusive, perfect “54” while another girl who has offered to help the staff by marking down scores, is settled into a comfortable chair.
Slowing down and finding balance are lofty and not fully attainable goals. As Honore says, “there is no one-size-fits-all formula for slowing down, no universal guide to the right speed.” What we can do is recognize when we are distracting ourselves with unnecessary activity, and acknowledge the toll our distractions are taking on us. We can get better at becoming comfortable with our own thoughts and stopping long enough to savor the moment. Our children will thank us, not now but perhaps later, when they realize their parents were willing to forego the bragging rights that might have come with excessive activity in favor of a slower, more thoughtful and more connected family life.
Written by Brown Ledge Team on November 29, 2015
Second only to “does this freedom of choice philosophy really work?”, we hear the question: “why do you have male staff at an all girls camp?” We recently received the essay below from one of our current male counselors. After reading it, we thought “that’s why we have male staff!”. We hope you agree.
by Mark Gawronski
I love camp. I cannot imagine how strange it would be to work at a different one and I can’t fathom how lucky I am to have been found by Bill. Plucked from the endless list of Europeans who petition to work in the US of A each summer.
When I was applying and I ticked the box saying I’d be willing to work at an all girls camp I thought nothing of it. ‘Well, they won’t want me. Its an all girls camp and I’m quite possibly the manliest man there is.’ I just knew that I’d rather tick that box than possibly find myself at a weight-loss or religious camp. I bet they don’t have Oreo Mush in those places.
So here I am. Three great summers in the kitchen, eating as much pizza as I want and making youthful dreams come true with the previously mentioned, terrifyingly delicious dessert – Oreo Mush. Who could ask for more?!
I knew early on that I would like to return to this place on Mallets Bay. A feeling I am sure many of you reading this have experienced. I resolved to work hard to impress B and K, so that they might be persuaded to invite me again. I don’t know how impressed they were but I made it back. I also made no secret of my desire to be involved in Archery over the years and finally this summer I was given a shot at being on activity staff. I’m grateful for so many things at camp, but their trust in me is one of the big ones.
It sounds silly to say, especially to people who have never been to Brown Ledge, but I can see myself coming back for as many years as I’m able to contribute. Obviously a lot of people can say that, and life always finds a way to interfere, but right now, there’s nowhere I’d rather be. And there are some great examples of how to achieve this on senior staff. For the first time, I can see why becoming a teacher might not be all that bad.
But I’d like to get a bit serious now, briefly. I’m not sure how harmful this thing is but I’ve had it for about three years now. I think I have some sort of weird brain deal. It’s true. It’s undiagnosed so far but it’s real, I swear.
Maybe some of you out there have it too: I find myself in all sorts of situations where the first thing I think of is how something might apply to camp.
For example, I’ve been travelling a lot the past couple of years and I meet a lot of people. And they’ll tell me all the interesting and amazing things they’ve done and craziness they’ve seen. Great, I think. Then they’ll casually mention how they are a good kayaker, or lifeguard. Instantly I’ll ask if they’ve ever worked with children before. Have you ever thought about camp? Yeah, Camp America!. In Vermont. We have a lake!
In my mind I’m actively and constantly recruiting for camp. How good are you at windsurfing? Do you know what an Ugly Doll is? Accountancy doesn’t really work, but what do you know about stagecraft? They’re all baffled at first.
Similarly, I’ll hear a good song and wonder how Kylie and her magnificent choir might turn it into a performance that I’ll always remember as something special. It has happened to a number of my favourite songs and it’s always a blast. Its crazy and it never stops.
Got a cool party trick? Well I hope it’s good because I’ve seen Clarion fire an arrow into the gold with her feet, the Bensche sisters are insane dancers/gymnasts and Ledger is packed with immensely talented singers. I’m just saying, Bring your A-Game.
One last thing. I know other people have spoken on this subject, with much more authority and eloquence, but I really must say how much I admire what it is we do here and the people who achieve what it seems H.E.B. wanted for his camp. Which is of course to nurture strong women. Whether that means giving them Basics, Intermediates, Vanguards and Supercamper awards to work toward or letting them chill on the dock and work on friendships that will last a lifetime. These girls really do benefit from eight weeks on Lake Champlain. They grow and become amazing people before your eyes. Anyone who has been on staff can tell you this.
What’s exciting is the prospect of new Brown Ledgers coming through, year after year. This is a phenomenon that will continue without us. New staff and new campers. Jenny Aguiar, Lucy Hauck, Ellie Zimmerman, it is amazing to watch these Brown Ledge girls shine and progress. Though in forty years these names won’t mean anything to the campers that summer, to the girls making too much noise in Funny Farm, there will be new names scribbled on the ceiling, and different stars on the board. It’ll just keep going. Or maybe these names will be remembered, passed down mother to daughter, stories of friends past but sorely missed. Or bunkies who have managed to stay in your life all these years, who will see you at Christmas, or maybe at Alumnae Camp next year.
Eight weeks is never enough, the last day of camp is as much evidence of that as anybody needs. This was only my fourth summer at Brown Ledge and I feel like a stronger woman already.
Written by Brown Ledge Team on November 18, 2015
By Cara Jacobstein Zimmerman
Brown Ledge was an integral part of my childhood. Like many alumnae, camp played a huge role in my social, emotional and physical development. At camp I learned how to do so many different things. From waterskiing to building sets for a play to hitting a topspin serve, there was always a new skill to learn and a new goal to set. I took responsible risks, forged life long friendships, developed critical life skills that helped me transition to adulthood, and best of all I had fun.
As in the song, The Circle Game, years spun by and I graduated from college, got my first real job, went to graduate school, met my husband, got married and then got pregnant. I was convinced that I was having a boy. So, when the delivery doctor announced, “it’s a girl!”, I blurted out “I have a future Brown Ledger” without even thinking. Now many people, probably my husband included, found this ridiculous. After all, I had just delivered our first child and within seconds of her taking her first breath I was already thinking about Brown Ledge.
In the days, weeks, months and years that followed, camp continued to play a central role in my life and thus in our family life. I joined the Board of Directors and became invested in perpetuating camp for the benefit of future Brown Ledgers, including my daughter. I taught my children (I went on to have two wonderful boys) my favorite camp songs, told them silly camp stories and read them letters that I had written to my parents when I was a camper. They especially enjoyed the letters because it gave them a snapshot of what I was like as a kid. I loved sharing these special memories with my children because it gave me license to walk down memory lane. I also secretly hoped that in sharing them, I would convince my daughter that she too would love Brown Ledge.
This past summer it was finally time for Ellie to go to Brown Ledge. The icing on the cake was that one of my dearest camp friends, Jamie, was also sending her 10 year old daughter to camp and the girls were going to be bunkies. Ellie and I could not contain our excitement. On our way to camp, we belted out camp songs in the car, talked about fun camp traditions, tried to guess her cabin, and talked about the activities she would try. We pulled into camp and as we stepped out of the car I was overwhelmed with nostalgia. Camp smelled the same, looked the same and I saw so many familiar faces that I felt transported back to my days at Brown Ledge. For a moment I am not sure I could distinguish between my memories that I was vividly reliving and my reality. It all felt bittersweet — mostly happy and comforting, after all I couldn’t imagine a better place to leave my daughter for a month, but with a tinge of sadness that my days as a camper were long past. I hadn’t expected these strong feelings and felt a little guilty that I felt anything but pure joy for Ellie as she started camp. Thankfully, I managed to pull myself together so that we could get Ellie checked in and set up. Truth be told, she made her own bed and unpacked all of her things while I talked to old friends, and then she kicked me out! I wanted to linger but she was ready to make camp her special place. As I drove home I realized that my nostalgia for camp was not a selfish emotion but rather kept me connected to camp all these years and it is what made me so certain that Brown Ledge would be a special place for my daughter.
I am so lucky – I have this wonderful place in my life and I have a beautiful, independent and strong daughter with whom to share it. Do I miss camp? Absolutely! But, I get to watch my daughter love Brown Ledge and that might be better than going to camp myself. And, there is always alumnae camp when I am free to relive my days on Mallets Bay. This picture of Ellie and me waterskiing together at alumnae camp last summer pretty much sums up how I feel about having a Brown Ledger. I will cherish this moment forever and will likely be nostalgic for it every time I look at this photo. There is incredible power in nostalgia.
Written by Brown Ledge Team on October 28, 2015
by: Kendall Van Nort
The night before my father dropped me off in Mallets Bay for my first Brown Ledge summer in 2005, I hysterically cried. At ten years old, I howled at the thought of leaving my Southern California home and its comforts for four whole weeks. I was convinced no one at this tiny all girls camp in Vermont would want to be my friend, and I would be resigned to four brooding weeks hiding in my twin bed in a log cabin. Needless to say, I was a dramatic child. The next day, however, began the start of my six summer commitment to one of the most unique places for a girl to grow up in. That first summer was different. I learned to adjust to life without constant parental guidance, and in doing so started to develop my sense of independence I carry so close to me today, as I sit here reflecting on that first summer while on my semester abroad in Sydney, Australia. Brown Ledge not only brought me some of my closest friends, but also some of my fondest memories.
When I think back on my early teen years, most of my defining moments happened at Brown Ledge. I think about my first time trapezing on a sailboat, wind in my hair feeling exhilarated, scared and happy. I think about shouting the rap song in the dining hall at the top of my lungs, laughing at the absurdity of my tone deaf voice warbling above the others. I think about falling on water skis, and having my best friend Kelly Quinn convince me to try to stand back up again. I think about becoming best friends with Fish, the nurse, after she had to take me to a local orthodontist 6 times one summer because I kept breaking my brace’s brackets (Note to younger self: caramel and braces don’t mix). Kim: cover your ears for this one—I think about sneaking out of Ship Ahoy my last camper year, on our last night of camp, and lying in the grass with my six bunkies, watching the stars and thinking that life couldn’t get much better. I think about the new comfortable home feeling I learned standing in the grove singing with a hundred plus other girls who went from being strangers to my Brown Ledge community.
The thought of us west-coasters leaving sunny California for buggy Vermont is intimidating. This higher risk, however, has brought me much higher reward. I grew up having best friends who lived in Connecticut and Boston and even Spain. As I’ve gotten older, this web has only grown. At my university abroad, I’m friends with two girls who were roommates at their home university with one of my best camp friends. My Brown Ledge experience not only taught me independence, but also taught me the power of the friendships that BLC produces, and the coupling of these is something I will carry with me always.
Maturing in two distinct locations, Los Angeles and Mallets Bay, has been an invaluable experience for me, and I encourage any young girls considering the same to make the journey across country. You won’t regret it, and if anything, you’ll be reasonably close to the Ben and Jerry’s factory.
Written by Brown Ledge Team on October 19, 2015
by: Kathy Neilsen
We know that cell phones are ever present in modern American life. What is less clear is the effect that this new reality has on our relationships. In her recent New York Times article (http://nyti.ms/1VhHsVN), Sherry Turkel (who has been studying technology and communication for 30 years) addresses this question and argues that the effect has been dramatic. Conversation is the most humanizing thing that we do and our conversations have been fundamentally altered. Open ended and spontaneous conversation teaches empathy; we learn to make eye contact, to listen, support, and to pay attention to the subtleties of body language. We learn to be fully present and vulnerable, skills that form the building blocks of intimacy. Educators tell us that this kind of conversation is increasingly rare. While college students may applaud their many online “friends” and liberation from boredom, what is lost?
Studies show that the mere presence of cell phones inhibits real conversation from taking place. And is the reported 40 percent decline in empathy among college students an unintended consequence of our lack of face to face connection? One wise student, quoted in Turkel’s article, commented, “Our texts are fine, it’s what texting does to our conversations when we are together that’s the problem.”
Resiliency and Sacred Spaces
Turkel believes in human resiliency. And ironically, happily, her resiliency research takes place at a device-free summer camp. Here she learned that the capacity for empathic conversation goes hand in hand with the capacity for solitude. “In solitude we learn to concentrate and imagine, to listen to ourselves. We need these skills to be fully present in conversation.”
At Brown Ledge there are many opportunities for both solitude and conversation, without the intervening distractions of our electronic devices. Solitude and the accompanying internal dialog happens in kayaks, on hikes, and while walking and cooling down a horse on a hot day. At the same time, the opportunities for real conversation are practically endless; in the dining room, at counselor and junior counselor times, in a sailboat, while making friendship bracelets in Arts and Crafts… Brown Ledge is a place of connection and conversation. It is one of the “sacred places” to which Turkel refers where we practice the shared virtues of solitude and conversation.
In the end, Turkel is hopeful. While acknowledging the risks of our device obsessed culture, she writes, “This is our moment to acknowledge the unintended consequences of the technologies to which we are vulnerable, but also to respect the resilience that has always been ours.”
Written by kmcmanus on September 23, 2015
Enrollment for 2016 is now open online.
2016 Session Dates
Full season (eight weeks): June 23rd to August 17th
First session (four weeks): June 23rd to July 20th
Second session (four weeks): July 21st to August 17th
Full season (eight weeks): $7900
Half season (four weeks): $5600
Written by kmcmanus on July 10, 2015
||1 Three One Acts
||3Mt. Mansfield Overnight
||5John Bourgoin Riding Clinic
Point Swim at Hochelega
||8Brown Ledge Stock Show
||10Dancing with the Campers
Archery match at BLC
||12Tennis, Archery, Swim Team with Abnacki
||18Banquet & Awards
||21Alumnae Camp begins
||24Alumnae Camp ends
Written by kmcmanus on July 10, 2015
||4Three One Acts
||6Home match with Burlington Tennis Club
||8John Bourgoin Riding Clinic
In Camp Diving Meet
|10Tennis match “Kids on the Ball” at Racquet’s Edge
||11Three One Acts
|13Mt. Mansfield Overnight
||15Match with Burlington Tennis Club
Archery Match at BLC
||17Tennis, Archery, Swim Meets with Camp Abnacki
Swimming with the Campers
|18Three Act: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime
||25Three One Acts
||31Tennis Match with Burlington Tennis Club
Written by Brown Ledge Team on May 5, 2015
Why I Serve on Brown Ledge’s Board of Directors
By Abbey Dodd
Not only am I tremendously fortunate to have been raised in a family in which service to others was expected, but I am also grateful to have been raised by Brown Ledge where I learned early on that in giving of yourself and your time you receive much in return. It’s true what they say… one of the great ironies of life is that when you serve you benefit more than when you are served.
I have to admit my response to the question “Why do you serve?” is not as altruistic as one might expect. I serve for three reasons, the first of which is because it gives me a much-needed opportunity to ensure that today’s campers are independent-minded, strong-willed women of the world. This is of paramount importance to me and is reason enough to donate my time and resources to the camp I love.
But I would be remiss in not revealing that I also serve because in doing so I am a afforded a chance to remember, to honor, and to carry with me to every board meeting, every conference call, and every committee meeting the memory of those no longer with us. I serve for Sally D’Oliva Mandeville. I serve for Sarah Lynn Brown. And I serve for Twylla. I serve to perpetuate the very institution that gave me the honor and privilege of knowing and being influenced by such wonderfully unique, courageous, smart, witty women.
Finally, I serve because, as simple as this may sound, it is my chance to be useful. It is my chance to make a mark on the world and ensure that future generations of BLC alumnae continue to have the confidence to be generals in the Army, executive producers on the Disney Channel, professors at the prestigious UVA, and inspiring, committed stay-at-home moms. I serve on the Board to ensure that no matter what path campers of today and tomorrow choose, they pursue it fearlessly and with the reassurance that “as the pine trees gently touch the sky, all is well with the camp they love.”