Some weeks ago, just as the current crisis began, Lady Annie reached out to ask if I might write a small piece about independence for Laurel Leaves. But as COVID-19 has continued its worldwide onslaught and we are all forced into a state of isolation, I find myself wondering what independence means in this strange, new world. The dictionary defines “independent” as; free from outside control, capable of thinking or acting for oneself, and not connected with another or with each other; separate. It is, of course, the third definition which is so striking now and which makes us feel more lonely than independent. But it is also a reminder that part of what it means to be independent is being resilient—making do with what we have, digging deep into untapped wells, and yes, sometimes feeling very alone while we do so.
All of this is very much in contrast to what happens at Fleur de Lis Camp where community gets built, powerful personal connections get forged, and no girl is “separate” from the others. When we think about what independence means at camp, what we’re really talking about is the second definition which has everything to do with personal growth, strength, and individuality. It is the ability to stand in one’s own individual place, have one’s own individual thoughts, and express one’s self in clear, confident ways. It is the capability to listen respectfully and kindly to others while formulating one’s own viewpoint and holding it steadfastly but flexibly within. Fleur de Lis Camp nurtures these independent qualities, in a few important ways:
By stitching together a web of love and support; a net into which girls can safely fall when they fail. Having confidence in the fact that you’ll be caught makes it possible to strike out on your own. This supports not only independence but bravery as well.
By creating an environment where individuality is celebrated. If you know your “differences” will be appreciated and enjoyed, it is easier to develop a strong sense of self and carry out acts of independence.
By fostering an ecosystem whereby younger girls can look up to older girls and older girls can mentor younger girls. Independent spirits abound at Fleur de Lis; a personality trait that naturally inspires emulation.
As this mind-bending landscape continues to unfold around us, it will be important for our FDL community to remember that the independence nurtured in ourselves and/or our daughters at camp summer after summer will continue to keep us strong AND connected. Even when we can’t be together.
-Annie (Kuniholm) Lundsten
FDL Alumnae & Parent of current FDL Camper Gwennie Lundsten