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Last night, campers gathered around our Lower Council Fire benches, beckoned by the sound of the bell to the back field to enjoy a night of music and stories together. After a fire-starting demonstration led by one of our counselors, we dove headfirst into a celebration of creativity, with a one-man performance of “Rocky Raccoon” by mentor Jonathan. An acoustic rendition of Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’” followed, and then one of our mentors stepped up to share a story. He was rewarded with shrieks of laughter as he recounted the supposedly “true” story of a summer camp from several decades ago. The night ended with several more songs and our customary singing of “Sisters, Brothers.”

Nights like this are not uncommon here at GRP, and it feels like a profound gift to be part of a community that encourages and celebrates creativity of this kind. Our musical performances are imperfect and frequently off-the-cuff or only tenuously planned. But these performances are emblematic of what makes the creative environment at GRP so powerful: creating art is important, and reveling in its beauty equally so, but the creativity here is one which thrives off a community that simply finds joy in the music, regardless of its perfections or lack thereof.

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We are lucky enough to have gifted campers and staff join us at our council fires, and the music created on the Preserve is still of a high quality (last session, we even made a recording of our “Campthem,” a song written by campers and staff a few years ago, as a Group Learning Project). But it is only because of the exuberance and happiness that accompanies these performances that art and creativity give way to and foster meaningful community. GRP’s relationship to the arts reflects quite effectively its mission and magic as a whole. There is freedom here: freedom to create something beautiful, to make mistakes, and to revel in relationships forged in a place that accepts everyone in their entirety—strengths, flaws, and gifts included.

Story by Katherine Poore with Photos by Samantha J. Keebler & Brandon S. Marshall

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