Tag Archives: farm and wilderness

Beyond Our Wildest Dreams?

21 Mar

I’ve just finished reading “Beyond Our Wildest Dreams” by Susan and Kenneth Webb (so says the cover anyways, it reads like it was all written by Susan).  It promises “the story of the Farm and Wilderness camps” and it’s a memoir written for the 50th anniversary of said camps (which was in 1989 – the year before I started going).  It really made me wish there were a longer and more in-depth history of the place in some form.  There was a lot in it that I didn’t know – details about the Catamount bell that keeps time for Timberlake, or the origin of Flying Cloud – but it wasn’t written to be a history.

My overall impression from the writing is that Ken and Susan had this vision of a camp that was the absolute perfect vision for the time and place so it was impossible for them to not succeed.  There were so many points in the story where they were both sure they were thwarted only to have some miracle swoop in and rescue them (and the camps), it’s almost a thriller of a novel.  It’s also an indication that they held the correct truth for the land where Farm and Wilderness now exists.  Everywhere they went to talk about their vision, or their camp (and later, multiple camps) the response was always a profound relief and appreciation.  It makes me miss them, and I never knew them.

They had such a powerful compassion for their vision and such strong convictions for how things ought to be that things had no choice but to become that way.  Reading the memoir makes me both miss camp powerfully and be sad again at how far from Ken and Susan’s vision they seem to have strayed.  Farm and Wilderness was never anti-anything, and it certainly never had to be “anti-racist.”  Farm and Wilderness lived and grew through the Civil Rights Movement and it was an unsung hero at the forefront of Civil Rights.  Ken and Susan ignored bomb threats to travel south and try to recruit campers.  They admitted their first african american camper after the camps were “full” and despite the fact that half of their paying clients were southerners and left them after they did so.  They had convictions and they stuck to them.  They believed in Quaker ideals, they believed the human body to be a miracle and “God’s greatest gift.”   If they had ever noticed a decline in the number of campers participating in suitless swimming they would have tried to figure out where they had gone wrong in teaching this.  They never apologized for these beliefs.  They never consented that they might be wrong about them.

They never allowed anyone to doubt them, because they were right.

 I’m also surprised to learn how strong (and due to whom) the connection between the contra dance world and Farm and Wilderness used to be.  It saddens me that the camps do not dance as much as they used to.  I learned to dance at camp and it’s possible I wouldn’t be in the community I am in now if I hadn’t.

The world is always changing, and businesses (and particularly businesses which educate children) have to be always changing as well, but some core truths remain the same.  They ought not to be compromised, and they ought to always be taught.


What I Should Have Said – feminist values? *UPDATE*

19 Feb

During staff training week at camp, the woodshop staff at Timberlake (the boy’s camp) met with the woodshop staff at Indian Brook (the girl’s camp) to discuss potential co-ed activities throughout the summer. Once there the Indian Brook staff explained to us the difference in their approach to power tools. At Timberlake, you see, we don’t use them. The campers make everything they make by hand. At Indian Brook though, well, I don’t remember the exact words, but the message was thus:

“We think it’s important, in this world where women and girls are often viewed as soft, as weak, as unable to do “men’s work,” we think it’s important to teach the girls to use power tools. To show them that they can, that they’re strong. That’s why we use power tools at Indian Brook.”

Sounds reasonable, right? I thought so at the time. At least I went along with it. Here’s what I should have said:

“While what you’re saying sounds true, the problem with it is that it only makes sense if you’re aware of a certain stereotype as pertaining to the female gender and power tools. If you don’t know that stereotype, if you’re unaware of it, what you’re doing doesn’t make sense. So in order for your policy to be understood you are teaching an awareness of the stereotype. Despite your intentions to do the opposite, you’re supporting and perpetuating the stereotype of women and girls as weak and unable to use power tools (calling this “men’s work” perpetuates another stereotype).

In so doing you’re also going against the values of Farm and Wilderness which are for doing things by hand, and not using excess power and electricity when it’s not necessary. Getting back to the earth and to work (love made visible) with the body as much as possible. You’ve supplemented that foundational value with an agenda of your own.”

If I had said that (and I should have) it probably would have changed nothing (though it’s likely I wouldn’t have been on friendly terms with some of them anymore), but I would have stood up for what I believed, and that’s the most important thing.

I’ve remembered the flip side to this which is that a boy camper can spend a week measuring and sawing by hand the eleven pieces of wood needed for a chair, and then spend another day sanding them all down, by hand, and then find out that if he were a girl at Indian Brook he could have done all this with a power saw and sander in one afternoon.
Why? Because girls are capable of that? So is this boy… So why is that fair? Because the boy is getting to experience the joy of doing something the old fashioned way? The girls are missing out? That’s not often a very satisfying answer to a 12 year old.

lack of sleep

29 Nov

I don’t know why it eats at me so. Most of you are probably wondering why it’s a big deal to no longer be able to swim naked at a summer camp. Or it’s not even a big enough deal for you to be wondering that at all. Yet it keeps me up at night.
Craig Brewer has only made four films, and only two of them that I’ve heard of (Hustle and Flow and Black Snake Moan) but he’s currently one of the most fascinating directors working today. For some reason his movies feel very real. They’re not realistic, mind you, in fact they’re pretty clearly meant to be taken more as fables than literally, but they feel very real. I think this is because they are music movies. (I figured this out before watching the features where the Craig Brewer, the writer and director, essentially confirms this. I’m so cool.) Hustle and Flow is a hip-hop movie. That is to say, if hip-hop as a genre of music were instead a movie, it would be Hustle and Flow. Black Snake Moan is the blues. Plus it has Sam Jackson.
If Craig Brewer ever makes a classic rock movie it might rival the Almost Famous director’s cut, as unlikely as such a feat is.

Brief Bits

3 Nov

I went out into the world today. The man outside the grocery store was having trouble giving away free newspapers. These aren’t some small published-in-a-basement papers either. He was giving out free copies of the Napa Valley Register and the San Francisco Chronicle. People don’t want free papers? Is that because the news is wholly unpleasant, or because people don’t read the paper anymore? It’s probably not that simple.
It makes me wonder.
Inside the office supply store almost all the small sized things you can buy are now encased in a clear plastic box. When you select what you want you bring it to the cashier who uses a special key to open the box and give you what you want. I assume this is some sort of deterrent against shoplifting, but I can’t imagine that a thief wouldn’t just break the plastic box. I mean… it’s just a plastic box.
It makes me wonder.
I showed Rhea the letter from the board of director’s at Farm and Wilderness. She was surprisingly optimistic about it, saying that the stakeholders would at some point give way to other stakeholders who were more pro-nudity and then Fifth Freedom would return. I hope she’s right.
I’m cynical enough about it at this point to be pretty sure that she’s wrong.
The Writer’s Guild (the union for screen and television writers) is going on strike. They currently get residuals when something they wrote is shown in theaters, on tv, or sold on home video/DVD. However they want more for DVD sales since DVD has become the new thing (and when the current deal was struck they were a very small and almost value-less thing). Speaking of the new thing, they also want residuals for purchased digital downloads. Until some agreement is reached no new movies or television shows will be written. That’s a lot of writing lack that just went into effect. I figure I should update my blog just to try and counteract it.

It is done then.

27 Oct

“Message from the Board of Trustees

Over the past several years, the Farm & Wilderness Board of Trustees has been deeply engaged in the process of reviewing the practice of suitless swimming at F&W. We have heard from many members of our community for whom this is a cherished tradition. We have also heard from our current program staff about the salutary qualities of this practice: helping campers to become comfortable with their bodies, demystifying their young-adult body within our community, and engendering a sense of respect for others. These are significant benefits. However, the Board has also heard from many children and parents who feel deeply uncomfortable about suitless swimming. We have learned that suitless swimming creates an insurmountable barrier to enrollment at F&W for many. Such a barrier is in conflict with one of our highest priorities: creating an inclusive and diverse community.
At the October Board Meeting, the trustees engaged in thoughtful discernment on this topic. An important aspect of the discussion focused on how it might be possible to end suitless swimming at F&W, yet still retain our cherished emphasis on physical self-respect and respect for others. After much talk and prayer, the Board gathered the sense of the meeting that we must end the ordinary practice of suitless swimming at this time.

While the decision was made to end suitless swimming as it has been traditionally practiced at Farm and Wilderness, it is contemplated that individual camps may still have occasional skinny-dipping to the extent that it serves programmatic purpose. Each of the camps are now developing a Program Plan to transition smoothly away from our prior policy regarding suitless swimming. Part of this plan will be to define when skinny-dipping would be appropriate within the context of each camp program, and to determine how best to ensure that the positive values identified with suitless swimming will not fade. Change is never easy. However, the F&W Board of Trustees, which is majority alumni, strongly believes that our new swimming policy is the best way to balance the many important values our community holds dear.

As a practical matter, current campers will notice little difference in the program as the actual practice of suitless swimming at many of the individual camps had waned sharply in recent years, another important factor in the board’s deliberations. We ask that you hold our staff in the Light as they make this transition.

In closing, we want to emphasize that the Board’s decision was the result of consideration over many years and was informed by hundreds of discussions with our stakeholders. While staff helped enormously as we sought clarity and consensus, this was the Board’s decision alone. We ask, therefore, that you relay your thoughts, concerns or agreement directly to the Board rather than to any staff. To do this, please email us at: board@farmandwilderness.org. We look forward to hearing from you.

Will Anniger
Baird Brown
Jasmine Carey
Jennifer “Dusty” Clitheroe
Karen Gersten-Rothenberg
Val Hollis
Sandy Kohn
Michael Levingood
Roger Michel
Deb Pizzi
Linda Randall
Catalina Rios
Deborah Roose
Robin Rose
Nat Sims
Paul Stone
Topher Waring
Kristi Webb
Tom Williams”

Where am I supposed to send my children now?

I want them to see me naked

6 Jun

“I swim naked at the waterfront in part because I want them to see me naked, I want these boys to look at me and see a healthy, attractive female body and see that I’m not ashamed and that it’s just a body.” and with that proclamation, Anna earned profound respect and perhaps a fair amount of awe.
I’m paraphrasing of course, since she said this during staff week (before the campers arrive) in my last summer on staff (2003?) at Timberlake, so I’m sure I don’t remember the exact wording. I remember the message (if not the words) of what she said because it made me so thankful that she was there and that she had said it. (As you know if you’re a regular reader, I feel somewhat strongly about Fifth Freedom.)

But it occurs to me today that her statement is a sign that Fifth Freedom is just not “working” the way it used to when I was a 9 and 10 year old camper. If she had said, instead, “I swim naked at the waterfront because they don’t see me when I do.” that would have made perfect sense. In other words, being naked at the TL waterfront (or anywhere else at TL) shouldn’t be noticeable. It should be something that you could notice (like the fact that your heart is beating) if you paid attention to it, but not something that really warrents too much attention (like the fact that your heart is beating).

Since it was more noticeable when someone had a suit on when I was there, the message of “bodies are healthy, normal, and something to be proud of (or at least not ashamed of)” was much stronger and easier to understand, even to a 9 year-old boy shocked at the site of a sea of bodies.