Firelight Camps Co-Founders Emma & Bobby Frisch welcomed the newest member of the Firelight Family and their first child - Ayla Fenella Frisch - on December 30th, 2015. (Name meaning included at the end of this post)
The hebrew spelling of Ayla (Eilah) means "oak tree," while the Turkish meaning for Ayla is "halo around the moon." The full meaning of Ayla and the significance in our lives - and hers! - is included at the end of this post.
Our precious daughter - Ayla - is here, and I’m still grappling with words to describe the swell of love, devotion and adoration we feel for our little girl. After ten years together, and two hotels later, Bobby and I are starting a family. While the rigors of launching two hotels in two different countries united us in ways that were unfathomable, building a family is already proving far more profound.
I chuckled upon reading in La Leche League International’s The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, “Suddenly, with no previous parenting experience, you’re caring for a day-old baby! You may wonder how this can even be legal without some sort of advanced degree.” Well, we’ve quickly learned it takes a village of helpers, friends and family to raise a child; support feels essential, from nursing our baby to nourishing ourselves. But we’re also tuning in to the “biological system called parenting […] designed long ago to be accomplished by people who didn’t know how to read.” The bond between parent and child is an age-old, primal connection that surpasses any book, resource or piece of advice. It’s deeply engrained in our constitution.
This new chapter for Bobby and me has shed light on the invaluable space we’ve created at Firelight Camps for families to flock to the woods and the campfire to simply be together. In truth, when we envisioned Firelight Camps we thought the grand majority of our guests would be couples on a romantic getaway. But with our first and second press release, we had a flood of family bloggers ask to try out the experience with their families. During our first two seasons, we welcomed a steady flow of multi-generational family gatherings and reunions. Our youngest guest to date was just shy of six months old! I have two theories on why Firelight Camps can offer families a place to spend genuine time connecting with each other.
Photo by Allison Usavage: Three months pregnant in June, walking the trails at Firelight.
Photo by Andy Noyes: Seven months pregnant in October, right before the tents came down for the season.
Photo by Sarah Clapp: A week before Ayla was born, on the trails of the Mulholland Wildflower Preserve.
Foremost, being in the natural world helps shift the emphasis from modern amenities and distractions (like TVs and iPhones) to the present moment. Marino Bambinos wrote in her article Family Camping at Firelight Camps, "We didn’t realize how badly we needed a family escape – disconnected out in nature – until we were in the midst of it." When a hawk dives overhead in pursuit of the seagull that’s wandered from Cayuga’s shores, everyone stops to watch, and then recapture the saga. When hikers stumble upon a pregnant patch of black cap raspberries, it becomes a sweet feeding frenzy of collecting and sharing plump berries. When the rain beats down on the canvas, it calls for congregating in the lobby over a rowdy game of Scrabble and stiff drinks for the adults. Or in broad sunshine, the bocce ball court becomes the source of weekend-long competitions. The New York Mom described our tents as from a "story book," and wrote in Family Travel - Glamping with Firelight Camps, "The lack of electricity in the tents was pretty magical. After all this IS …you know… camping. This lack of techy distractions allowed all of us to truly stop everything and just be with each other and laugh and tell scary stories. The pitch back cold evening was spent chatting and playing games in remote control LED flickering candle-light and little lanterns."
Yes, we have cell service and Wi-Fi, but being in the outdoors has a natural way of calling people's attention to what’s before them. We’ve seen this time and time again, often marveling at guests who leave their phones charging in the lobby while they hit the trails or go into town for a bite. (Aren’t iPhones supposed to be a modern-day extension of the human body?!) Living in the moment allows us to open our minds and hearts to conversation (or quietude) with the people we love, and we nearly always find this transpiring around the campfire.
Photo by my amazing twin sister, Dimity Palmer-Smith, who met Ayla within thirty minutes after she was born and kept us well fed with good food in the first few days of her life.
Second, Firelight Camps can offer the wonderment of being outdoors without the fuss and hassle of orchestrating a camping trip. We live in an era where families branch out to live in different places, and lead independent, busy lives. As one of eight siblings stretched across states (and sometimes continents) with divorced and remarried parents, I’ve watched my mamma and papa nearly tear their hair out trying to coordinate the logistics of a holiday meal, let alone plan a family trip. The nature of “glamping” makes a quality camping trip easy: show up and relax! We have everything you need on site. However, even with breakfast, a full-service bar, a renovated bath house and other comforts, families do not have to sacrifice the sense of nature-bound adventure and unplugged family time that they would experience on a more rustic camping excursion. Chicken Nuggets of Wisdom wrote in Camping vs. Glamping, "it’s perfect for a family like ours who is looking to break out of the [hotel] suite life and get back to nature without having to sleep on the ground… or use a solar shower." Her teen, who is known to say "Ugh, nature… it’s all over me!” reportedly asked to hike on our backyard trails of Buttermilk Falls and even got over the lack of electricity!
When we created Firelight Camps, Bobby and I knew that the campfire would be the heart of the hotel, symbolizing a space to forge deep connections with oneself, one’s company and the natural world. But we could not have fathomed how important this would be to our guests, let alone our own family. These first couple weeks with Ayla have been magical. Every day we fall more in love and every day we become more enlightened about the importance of being together. We feel grateful that Ayla will grow up around the campfire, sharing the timeless glow of warmth and light with us and so many other families.
A beautiful moment in the sunlight, captured by my wonderful step-mother-in-law, Alice Makl.
AYLA, pronounced A-LUH, has several meanings that resonated with us and her arrival in the world. In Turkish, Ayla means "halo of light around the moon" or more concisely in Persian, "moonshine." Ayla arrived around the winter solstice, when the moon reigns the sky on long nights. On Christmas eve, five days before her birth, my younger sister saw a crystal clear halo circling the bright full moon above La Tourelle and our hibernating Firelight Camps.
The Hebrew spelling, EILAH, means "oak tree," which has been a powerful symbol in my life and my relationship with Bobby. It is the Connecticut state tree, and iconic for my sisters and I - so much so that we took turns holding each other's hands while we had the same, small oak leaf tattooed on our bodies.
The oak tree's fruit, the acorn, represents fertility, potential and strength. When Bobby and I left college (where we'd met) we went separate ways: he to the Peace Corps in Nicaragua and I went to do Fulbright research in Ecuador. Bobby gave me the top cap of an acorn, keeping the nut and promising to put them back together when we finished our stints abroad. When he proposed seven years later, the acorn was in the engagement box.
Ayla is also the powerful, bad-ass protagonist in Jean M. Auel's Earth's Children book series. She is a wild foraging goddess and medicine woman who survives off the land, tames a Cave Lion and invents the spear thrower. Bobby and I tore through this series during my pregnancy.
And finally, we happen to love the harmonic, earth-inspired melodies of Ayla Nereo, and some of them will be our little Ayla's first lullabies.
Fenella is my mamma's name. She is fearless, inspiring, graceful and unconditionally loving, and I hope to follow her lead as Ayla's mamma!