Monday, December 31, 2007

Rhode Island disaster

I heard from Jim Beckner by email last night. He corrected an egregrious error in an entry I made back in August about the 1971 Lenape village picture. It's fixed now so go back and have a look.

Jim was at camp with us from 1971 through 1975. He remembered for me an incident from '75 that I had forgotten until now, involving an adventure trip. "During my last summer with the Camp (and you'll probably remember this) two people in Rhode Island were killed when they turned their car directly into the FV van as we were taking staff up to Massachusetts to put bikes together for the New England bike trip. The van was a total loss and several of us were injured."

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The University of Banks Hill

Last spring I taught my usual seminar at Penn - "Kelly Writers House Fellows" seminar. Twenty-two or so of the best and most creative Penn students take the course, which meets at the Writers House (a little 1851 cottage right in the middle of campus) and features several-day visits by three very eminent writers. For winter-spring 2007 these three were Jamaica Kincaid, Donald Hall and John McPhee.

McPhee has written a series of books and long essays about nature, about the landscape, about people living in extreme places, and lots about geology and streams and fish. The Pine Barrens is about that dense, piney, swampy region in south Jersey. Coming into the Country is his masterwork about living life in extremis in Alaska. And the thing about McPhee is that as a writer he really goes to these places and tries as best he can to live them.

My students and I caught this spirit. After an intense discussion about the Alaska book, one of them--a young woman whose style, dress and attitude none of us would have guessed would make her the person to suggest this--shouted out that we really must, as a class, as a group, go camping somewhere together.

For FV'ers such an idea doesn't seem odd. But this was an advanced seminar at a fancy university, and we're reading books and talking about literary art.

Well, three of us in the room knew Frost Valley, as it happens. I, of course; my assistant, Jamie-Lee, who has been to FV a number of times; and Ellie Kane, an advisee of mine whom I introduced to Frost Valley and is now a counselor there, heading, in '08, into her third summer.

So we decided to spend a weekend camping at FV in April. With some help and guidance from Brian Sense, adventure director (now recently departed for Colorado - good luck, Brian!), we got quick instruction in using the gas stoves, gathered our equipment, and hiked the easy hike to Banks Hill. It turned out to be a glorious sunny day and somewhat warm. By nightfall it was getting cold and indeed it went into the 30s overnight. It just happened that that very weekend there was an alumni committee volunteer work weekend, so I arranged visits to our campfire by Milton Pittman, Bill Abbott, and John Giannotti.

My two worlds merged and there really isn't anything that'a greater pleasure for me.

Friday, December 28, 2007

winter camp

It's never too late in the year, or too cold or snowy outside, to have a good "Opening Campfire." Yes, it's Winter Camp 2007. Campers and staff gathered in front of the fire in Geyer Hall and sang "The Moose Song." "There was a great big moose... [repeat after me] there was a great big moose!" The photo above, the handiwork of Dan Panorama Weir, depicts the moment when they sing, He went to sleep....

Amy Rosvally is leading the song in the pic.

And Dan Weir adds: "We had some great 8 core value skits from our CIT applicants. Bobby lead a fun version of Singing in The Rain that will eventually make it to our podcast. Jeff lead a skit of who can get into a hot tub the best when the crowd knows they are really competing to show how they sit on the toilet the best. We did this skit for a number of years (1997-2001), but telling the competitors that it is a motorcycle impersonation instead getting in a hot tub."

Today is the annual Winter Olympics. And tonight it's Challenge Night!

A better version of the photograph is here.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Dot Van Zandt

I'm very, very sorry to report that Dorothy Van Zandt passed away on December 13, four days ago. Everyone knew her as "Dot."

For many years - into the mid-1970s - Dot worked in the Ad Office, in later years alongside Jane Brown and Marie Kremer. Dot's husband was Bill Van Zandt, a crusty yet totally lovable man who worked as a prison guard for 9 months of the year and at Frost Valley, as a maintenance guy, for 3. Dot and Bill lived parts of the year in Florida. They became very close friends of Carl and Marie Hess. Bill died many years ago, though (as did Carl), and Dot remarried. She attended a recent reunion and had a wonderful time then with all her old FV friends.

Marie Hess and Dot remained close friends.

We hope all of Dot's Frost Valley friends will send condolences to the family, perhaps expressing a bit how much Dot meant to us. Please send notes to Dot and Bil's son, Bill VanZandt Jr. at: 114 Kensington Circle, Belvidere, NJ 07823.

The photo appeared in the 1974 Frost Valley yearbook (yes, we had yearbooks in those days) and shows Dot in the Ad Office, working with Joanne Walker. The photo was taken during the summer of '73.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

progress and snow

The new wellness center, under construction, in a photo taken three days ago.

FV Danish network yields fab husband

Mette Oesterby, Danish international counselor from the late 80s, writes:

So glad to be on the mailing list and recieving FV news. Never really thought about it that way, but Yes, I did actually meet my husband through FV eventhough he has never been to the US.... Back in 1986 I was briefly introduced to another Danish woman, Karen LaCour, who did adventure trips at FV. She was always out of camp and I was always in camp so we never really got to know each other. By chance we met in the Streets of Copenhagen a year later, started talking and became friends. For several years she kept telling me about this tall, dark, handsome man I had to meet. A friend of hers from college. It finally happened in august 1994 and I have been with my husband ever since that day. So if I had never met Karen at FV...Who knows where I would have been. Right now I live in the Copenhagen area With my husband and our two daughters Anna and Katrine. I teach Danish Litterature and English at a school for Health Care Workers and my husband works with - Karen La Cour! - at a college for physio-/oocupational therapy. Would love to get in touch with old FV friends: Todd Watson, Barnes, Abby, Mark Ohan , Dari, Dave Mager, Jen De Melle, Christina Berg - lost track of you all! Hoping to go back to the States before long if not before then for the NY Marathon in 2009, will make sure to visit FV.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Duff returns

"Thank you so much for the blog," Stuart Duff writes me. "Every time I log on memories come flooding back of the years 1984 to 1987 when I worked variously in Sequoia, leading Adventure Trips, and as a Counsellor and then V.C. of Forest."

Mike McNamee and Duff had been threatening to come back for years, and Duff finally managed to come to Family Camp with his wife Karen and children - Jamie (11) and Ceri (10). "Arriving for the first time after 20 years was both nostalgic and uplifting, and I was thrilled to find that the family loved it as well." There is now a realistic possibility they will come back next year. Kids Jamie and Ceri want to experience summer camp session 4, and for all the rest to attend Family Camp again. Duff might even persuade McNamee and his family to come with them.

The photos are Stuart's shot of Giant Ledge at dawn (stunning) and the Duff family on the day after Family Camp finished at Niagara Falls.

"Hoping to meet with you again someday," he tells me, "and I hope not another 20 years hence."

For a photo of Duff in his camp days, go here.