Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Thank You Letters from Campers & Staff

Letters from the campers and staff show that there is a fun and joyful side of them, and also a serious, and deeply thoughtful side too.

This is the group picture of the 2008 campers when someone said, "OK, everyone do something GOOFY."

The "thank you" letters we get are wonderful and we read and reread them because they speak from the inside of the individuals, and their experience. I can't reproduce the entire letter from each camper, but have read through them again with an eye to something unique or special that each camper said about his or her experience. I also am including some of the comments of the camp teachers and staff. I hope they help give you some insight into how special this camp is to the people who attend it, both campers and staff.

Colleen coined the term "Selah moments". Selah is a biblical term found in the Pslams that means to "PAUSE and REFLECT". J. David like the idea of his ranch being a place where guests could pause and reflect on nature. "National Geographic moments" are those that if photographed could have been on a National Geographic show or in one of their magazines. A "Selah moment" can be a feeling as well as an event.

Jesse is mentioned in one of the camper's remarks below. He is a high school senior that has been home schooled. His parents encourage him to excel in subjects he loves, and so he has become an expert birder and astronomer. He has a wonderful telescope, and enjoys giving programs to students of all ages. Every summer he comes over when we hold this camp. He also gives programs to school groups here during the school year.

The pictures scattered throughout the thank-you notes are just photos of campers and camp events.

From L: "Please take good care of GP (the Great Plains ratsnake) so he will be tame enough to handle next year. Thank you for letting us all come to the ranch! I love it because it is such a positive learning environment, literally!!!"

From BB: "I think that one of my favorite moments this year was quietly sitting under the hummingbird feeder and watching them perch on the edge to take a drink. That was the first time I had ever seen a hummingbird stop flapping its wings. It was amazing!"

From AEC: "My favorite part of summer is coming to camp and learning more about nature. Living in the city, I never get to have Selah moments like looking up to see a blanket of bats above my head flying out of the Chiroptorium. I'll always have my memories and the Selah moments to keep me connected with nature."

From Lee: "Another Selah moment I had was when I was in bed at night. When I closed my eyes to go to sleep it made me feel closer to nature than ever before. The only thing I could hear was the wind, the trees and the wildlife. This was a good way to start my summer and I thank you!"

From Margaret: "When we went to the Sahara Desert (pasture) where the oryx are, we got to see a baby oryx! Colleen said that she has been her 9 years and has never seen a baby oryx. The things that I have seen, learned, and done at the ranch are the things that I will remember forever."

From ED: "One of my favorite times this year was seeing the fox with the oryx. Another was seeing the baby oryx. Also I liked seeing the bats fly above us. I had a great time and I hope to be able to come back." In her note to Colleen: "I have been coming for three years and every year you teach me something new. I enjoyed the talk on bees."

From Chloe: "Here on Bamberger Ranch, Selah flows and happiness is easy to find. Also here you feel proud for helping the environment. Skills like that will help me all throughout my life time."

From Sam F.: "I had so much fun! I wish I could stay here longer. I had a blast catching snakes and birding. My favorite Selah moment was either watching the snakes eat or seeing the baby oryx and the fox. Seeing a painted bunting was also cool. I love those birds."

From Ian G.: "Thanks for giving us this opportunity to visit the beautiful nature. I had so much fun! I hope I get to come back next year."

From Nessa: "I have had many special Selah moments this week, but my favorite was when we were watching a baby oryx trot around in the grass. It was so cute! Then, a few minutes later, a fox sprung up and started bounding through the grass. When the grass got high, we could only see the tips of it's ears. That was really an amazing moment."

From SH: "One of my most special moments was when I saw a baby deer by a stream. I looked at her, and then she looked at me and ran splashing through the water."

From Kelsey: "Thank you so much for allowing us to use your ranch for this camp. It is amazing that you took this ranch from a place that needed a lot of help to a place that is so beautiful."

From Sarah: "My favorite Selah moment would have to be walking back from the lake and a humming bird flew over my head."

From Cole: "I had a wonderful Selah moment when I saw a frog being eaten by a blotch water snake."

From Hannah: "Thank you so much for making this camp so special. Before I got here, I didn't have the same idea of what nature was about! This camp has really taught me a lot. It was amazing how much we could hear at night on our walk. My favorite sound was the frogs. They sound huge and loud!"

From Julia: "The idea, a place where people can pause and reflect, is probably the most amazing, dazzling, and pure idea I have ever heard of. One thing I have found at Bamberger is that I LOVE to journal, I just never stop and do it. But at Bamberger Ranch Camp, I had time thus almost 3/4 of my nature journal is full."

From NL: "Thanks to you I could get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and come here. I made a lot of friends, I learned a lot, and I'll definitely be back here next year. Thank you for helping put some Selah into my life."

From Ana L: "This camp has taught me so much and has inspired me to do bigger and better things for nature. A Selah moment that I had was at night when we were sitting on the dock listening to the frogs. I felt so connected with nature and all of the wildlife. Thank you again, this will be an unforgetable week."

From NCM: "Thank you for giving me the apportunity to visit your wonderful wildlife preserve. Everything I experienced made me feel like I could make a difference like ya'll. I would like to make a difference like you, step by step. I will never forget the Bamberger Ranch!"

From JJ: "A Selah moment makes you one with nature. My Selah moment was when I was swimming on my back, on a noodle in the beautiful silky water that you work so hard to conserve. I looked up at the wonderous sky above me and was completely at peace."

From Natalie: "Thank you so much for opening your home and your hearts to us by allowing us to come to your ranch. I loved seeing the oryx, and enjoyed swimming in the lake. The staff is amazing and you can tell they really care about us as people. I can't wait to come back!"

From PG: "I feel that my connection with nature has grown tremendously. I enjoyed being able to interact with nature in many ways. I like catching snakes and reading on the grass. I like junping in the silky lake and going on long night hikes."

From RR: "I loved being able to come here. I have always been one to love the outdoors and the heat. I had a Selah moment while in the lake. Kelsey and I swam out far and just floated. It was extremely peaceful."

From Michelle R: "My favorite Selah moment was when Jessie took us out to look at the stars. I learned constellations and that was a great experience for me because I didn't know any. But that one moment is only a small part of the many moments that makes this camp so special. Selah is like a shooting star, a rare occasion that makes life seem happy and worthwhile."

From Elly S: "I had a lot of good Selah moments. One of the rally cool ones was when we went to the bat cave and saw the bats come out. It was really cool to see them fly over us!"

From LT: "My favorite Selah moment was on a night time nature walk. We walked down to the lake and laid out on the dock and listened as frogs called back to one another. (Also in a note to Colleen): This camp has really helped me to grow inside more --- as a person."

From Frankie: "The Scimitar-horned Oryx held a lot of Selah moments for me, from the birth of the baby to the prancing fox. Another Selah moment was when the frogs croaked and the moon shone on the lake's surface on the night hike. Your ranch was rightfully named Selah."


From Mary Kay Sexton: (Science teacher at St. Andrew's in Austin) "Thanks for another wonderful year - each year is different with new Selah moments. What stays the same for me is the glow I feel inside when I see a kid get excited about catching their first fish ever or touching a snake in awe instead of being fearful. Amazement and gratitude fill my heart when a group of highly social and excitable kids get quiet to hear the croaking of frogs and view in silence the moon's reflection on the lake."

From David Matthews: (Science teacher of Texas Native Plants and Animals at Small Middle School) "Once again I want to express my deepest gratitude for sharing the ranch with me and the campers. This place is a powerful nexus of natural energy - the land, plants, and animals, of course, but also the connection to all who have loved, written, and philosophized about the value of nature. Selah is about experiencing the now. But visitors here, whether conscious of it or not, are connected to the work of environmentalists past - the ones that have inspired us. But most importantly, it connects us to the future of the environmental movement. Many special people have learned and been inspired by the time spent here. I know this has been intentional. but, the benefits are immeasurable. It is education in its most powerful form."

From Dixie Gaona: (who is the niece of J. David's son-in-law, the mother of a camper, who volunteered to help at camp) "I have always enjoyed family reunions out here, but having Colleen, Justin and all of the other wonderful teachers around this week has really opened my eyes to some surroundings and creatures that I had over looked on past visits. It has taught me a lot about water conservation and more. Thank you so much for this opportunity. I really appreciate all you do!"

From Annie S: (Mary Kay's daughter, and camp kitchen helper every year) "Nature Camp is something I look forward to every year, because it brings together other people like me, loving nature and learning why. A huge reason I come is for the people, especially the ones who have been here from day one. I love to have grown up with all of them. Which, if you think about it, is quite strange. We only see each other five days each year, yet I feel like I've know them all my life. Nature Camp is my escape. It is my Texas paradise in nature, with some of my favorite people on the planet."

From Josh R: (A camper here for 3 years, a junior councelor and certified lifeguard for 2 years), in his letter to Mr. Bamberger "Honestly, in all my years coming to this beautiful place, all my years experiencing the wonderful things your ranch has to offer, not once have I seen something comparable to the kindness, understanding, and tender hope that you exhibited to us when you planted the Texas Snowbell for Lily's late friend Madeline Anderson. That moment, seeing the look in Lily's eyes as she stood beside you has changed my life. No other past experience has ever even come close to affecting me in such a positive manner. Seeing and understanding the pain Lily has gone through, and how you fearlessly stood strong, offering a much needed hand of love to one who has lost a friend, had me sobbing. I hope that someday I grow to be helf the man you are, and I know that by following your lead and turning away no one, I am on the right path."

From Margaret Bamberger: "Every year I am amazed at how engaged kids are with nature when given a chance to explore. What a joy to see them running, laughing, and excited by everything they see. The depth of their feeling and how totally they "get it" is clearly shown in their letters. So thank you Mary Kay, David, the Bamberger Staff, the camp staff, and all you campers. GREAT JOB!"

Photographs by Margaret Bamberger and Justin Duke.

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