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What is Family?

‘This is Family’ appeared in the October issue of the Appel Core, and was written by our ever thoughtful Head Counselor, Sarvananda Bluestone. We are excited to share Sarv’s thoughtful insight with our blog readers. To read more of our October Appel Core, click here.


We were celebrating my baby brother Paul’s seventieth birthday in New Orleans. Our aunt Charlotte had recently turned ninety-five and promised my brother that she would hang on to celebrate his birthday.

I have often described my relations as part of a family bush. As far as “blood” is concerned, my brother, his son, Nate, my daughter, Hira, my granddaughter, Lucy, a distant third cousin and my aunt were the only ones of the two dozen people there with whom I had any genetic ties.

The celebration went on for several days. New Orleans seems to encourage lengthy celebrations. Must be in the air.

The party was a love fest. To be sure, Paul was the reason that we all came there. It was our love for him that was the common bond.

Funny thing about love is that it knows no boundaries. The very last evening that we all were there, we all sat around and talked about our experience. Mary, a friend of my daughter, had come along to see New Orleans and participate in the party. She said that she felt like she was part of the family and wanted to come to other Bluestone family events. She will.

It was the sense of being included that all of us felt. Some people, like my brother, aunt and cousin, I had known for seven decades or more. Others, I had met lifetimes ago when my brother was working as a carpenter in southern Vermont or when he was a student at the University of Chicago.

Towards the end of the celebration, I felt a strange feeling. There was something familiar about this wonderful feeling of inclusion, acceptance and love. Then I realized. Acceptance and loving inclusion is a basic part of Appel Farm. It’s something we work at. And in that sense, Appel Farm sometimes really feels like an extended family.

After the celebration for my brother, Hira, Lucy, Mary (Hira’s friend) and I flew back to Seattle with full hearts. And now I get to spend almost two months with my beloved daughter, grand daughter and son-in-law. The family continues. Ain’t life grand?

Sarvananda Bluestone has been a college professor, published author and professional psychic. In addition he has been the Head Counselor and a Theater Director at Appel Farm for 30 summers. He originally came so that his daughter, Hira, could come as a camper, and in 2013, his grand daughter, Lucy, finally came to camp!