written by Jo-Ellen Unger, CAA Director

In Whistle a Happy Tune from The King and I by Rodgers and Hammerstein, whistling is suggested so “no one will suspect I’m afraid.” Anyone who knows me knows I am not a big proponent of telling people not to share their feelings, much less to keep them hidden for fear of judgement. At CAA, I learned that includes me. When asked how I was “on a scale of 1-6,” as we often do, for a while I thought it was my job to always say I was at 6. CAA taught me that it is the opposite; my responsibility is to be truthful about how I am feeling. Today, I’m not a 6. Today we were to open Session One at Westtown, and I find myself taking issue with another set of lyrics, “forget regret or life is yours to miss” from RENT by Jonathan Larson. I deeply regret that we will not be together this summer in West Chester, PA. I regret that I have a list of songs that will go unsung on Friday nights, and that I will not be calling for a broom so I can stand on a chair in the middle of the chadar ochel to do my lip syncing as Elphaba from Wicked by Stephen Schwartz. I regret that we won’t be welcoming “our kids,” the campers we are so blessed to have their grown-ups share with us, campers who found their people, found their passions, found their place.

And, listening further, the song also contains these lyrics, “no other road, no other way…” While it’s not the path we thought, this summer we WILL gather, not to replicate camp, that is not possible, yet we will maintain and expand our community. This summer we will gather, while not in person, using the technology that is thankfully available to us. This summer we will gather, to make art, focus on our core values, and continue our personal Jewish journeys. This summer we will gather, singing harmonies not everyone can hear, and still we’ll sing them. This summer we’ll gather to write and draw and act and dance and capture moments on film…it won’t be CAA, it will be CAVA, a virtual opportunity to create. connect. celebrate. Artist Frida Kahlo said “I never paint dreams or nightmares. I paint my own reality.” This is our reality. My naming it is healthy, my denying it is not productive.

Mourning the loss of what isn’t doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate what is. We are good at navigating two truths at one time. We can be sad and joyful, angry and grateful, apart and together. We’re CAA, and that’s how we usually roll anyway. Our balancing act is a little different this year, our ability to balance isn’t. While the weight of the world is keenly felt, we (swim) pivot to what Kara calls “the summer we never expected.” Tonight begins orientation for an amazing group of dedicated artists, giving of their time to share their craft with us. Thursday we’ll include a dozen faculty volunteers, host a Family Orientation outlining our unique summer program and our Week 1 registration form will go live. Still…

Today I’m sad, for you, for us; the next few weeks we’ll have good days and bad days, and we’ll be honest about it. To paraphrase he great philosopher Winnie the Pooh, how lucky I am to have something that makes this day so difficult. So now “it’s time to try defying gravity.” We may be down; we’re not staying down. If Kara and I can be of help, just whistle whatever tune you need to, we’ll listen.

Holding you all in my heART