Friday, September 25, 2015

The News from Camp Magruder, 9/20-26

This week, the coast held off the ensuing fall, at least as far as the sky goes. We were treated to sunny skies and mild temperatures, the type of days you just want to stop and look at. We've had a lot of good cloud days this week--days where the puffy clouds frame the scenery. They seem to make the mountains look bigger, the oceans a deeper blue. We saw the first day of Fall this week, we know this cannot last.

Outdoor School welcomed their first group of students on Tuesday. The staff spent last week training, then on Monday they welcomed a group of high school counselors and trained them. They walked the counselors around, teaching them the lessons and activities that they worked to perfect last week. It is this series of lessons being passed along. These outdoor staff members have been studying this for years, they've learned to teach this. They teach the counselors, who have some prior knowledge  how to assist with the lessons. Then they will pass it on to the students who may be hearing it for the first time. All of these groups are learning something new by taking part in learning/teaching activities together.

I remember one of my first years on a camp summer staff I learned to facilitate a high ropes course. I was learning under Neil, one who had been a summer staffer himself. I was nervous about this work, because it was scary. Kids would depend on me to protect their safety high above the ground. Neil taught me, watched me go through the steps, encouraged me. When I was comfortable enough, Neil called the next staffer up and had me give him the instruction. He said that you learn something better when you have to teach it (he watched and filled in the gaps, of course). I would use the same techniques years later when I was training people. I learned more each time I taught. We all learned from each other.

At Wednesday dinner, the Outdoor school staff did their customary, "tip for the Earth," where they did a skit on plastic bags versus reusable cotton totes. Then, Bobcat got the kids' attention and asked Peter to come out. It was his birthday, and she instructed the group on how to sing, "Happy Birthday," dividing them into separate parts. Peter is one of Camp Magruder's three chefs. He works the evening shift and takes care of a lot of the seasonal staff, bringing leftovers to Gate House and always knowing allergies. Angie had found a gluten/dairy free cobbler recipe for Peter who can't have either, and she cooked it up for him earlier in the day.

I think about how many times Peter saved leftover cinnamon rolls or cookies for staff members. How the rest of our dining hall staff know other staff members' personal favorites, and how they pass them along spreading this tasty joy to everyone. I hope Peter felt some of that appreciation as one hundred something middle schoolers sang to him, as he blew out the candle on his cobbler. I hope that we are passing along that kind of joy and love to each other in a way that teaches all of us. I hope we are learning from each other and growing to something new, some better version of ourselves.

This week we saw the Equinox, the last day of Summer, the first day of Fall. We had equal parts daylight, equal parts night. July doesn't seem that long ago, when the sun was setting well into the 9 o'clock hour. Before we know it, we'll be at the
Solstice of the other end, where dark skies have a monopoly. We mark these days and wonder how it moves so fast. We look at how old we are and think of years past, what we knew then, what we know now, how we got here. Who knows what lessons we are passing on right now, what lessons we are learning? Who knows how they will be passed on, what will come from the new lessons we learn together. Of the ancient ones that have been passed down longer than we know.

Friday, September 18, 2015

The News from Camp Magruder, 9/13-19

Weather on the coast this week has been pleasant for the most part with cloudy skies but warm air. We've had our share of rain, but it's mostly happened overnight. This is the best of both worlds for us. We desperately need rain and lots of it, but we do like warm, clear skies when we go outside. It's a dilemma we often find ourselves in, being pulled between what we enjoy on a surface level and what we truly need.

I am new to Camp Magruder, so I don't have any prior summers to compare it to, but everyone I've heard from agrees this has been one of the driest summers they've ever seen. Most comment that they've never seen Smith Lake lower. The swim area seemed to shrink day by day. You can stand with your head above water in places that were 8-9 feet deep.

Though a little troubling, the low water has offered some opportunities. Mark and Tommie, with the help of some resource staff, trimmed the brush around the lake that was beginning to block the views from the Sherlock deck, the Outdoor Chapel, and the Meditation Patio. There are a few posts left in the water from the old dock that have been challenging to remove that we might be able to move a little easier now. And, the low water has revealed a new lakeside path that recent guests have used to see less familiar views of the lakeside.

It is good for us to make the most of any situation. We should see the good in all things, but also hope for something that is a greater good, something sustaining. Even if we get several straight months of non-stop rain, we know we should not complain. When we think about it, our best selves will see the blessings and find a way to live happily with anything when we know it's doing something important for us all.

The Columbia Basin Basketry Guild has spent most of the week with us, occupying most of the lodges onsite. In each meeting space, people work away weaving various materials into what will become a beautiful basket. It is interesting how these projects start out as a handful of straw or shaved wood. It slowly begins to look like a plate, then has a lip to it. Some will grow a wall, becoming something totally new and useful. This is something humans have been doing for thousands of years. Long ago, we figured out a way to twist and weave the common elements together into something that could carry stuff better than our arms could on their own.

Northwest Outdoor School leaders also arrived this week to train for the work they'll do all Fall at Camp Magruder. They are mostly post college, some we've seen before and some new. Each week they will teach science lessons to middle schoolers in places where they can witness all these things happen. I really believe in this type of education. A type of learning where you get to look at, hear, touch, and smell what you're learning about. This kind of learning can get kids to fall in love with a subject for life. I am so glad we can offer a place for this kind of teaching to happen.

I watch them this week as they get to know each other better, as they practice their lessons and their protocol. It's fun to watch 20 and 30 something year olds running around in the field playing deer and mountain lions. It cool to see them growing close to each other in a short amount of time. They will be such a big part of each other's worlds for the next few months. Training weeks are usually uplifting like this--they are filled with the vision of what can be, all the things they can accomplish together. It will start getting more difficult immediately, as soon as the first bus pulls up. They'll get more stressed, they won't always get along. But if their best selves prevail, they'll see the blessings even in the difficult moments. They'll find a way to make something good, something sustaining. We'll be watching through sunlight and rain.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The News from Camp Magruder, 9/6-12

More and more days of steady fog are telling us that summer won't be around much longer. But, even if we continued to have dry, sunny days out at Camp Magruder, there would be other signs the summer months are about to give way to Fall. There are many ways we find to mark out days, to remind us how time passes.
Labor Day marked the point in the year when we take down the ropes for the swim area and the inflatable trampoline that has been sending people skyward above the lake all summer long. Joelle and Laura were the only Resource Staff members still serving--our other three have already left for Fall classes. We waded into Smith Lake with its normal chilliness and began to unhook ropes, swimming them back to shore. 

The three of us all began to recall the June day when we gathered with the rest of the summer staff to dust off all these parts and put them together. It seemed so long ago, and we seemed so green, so naive, still learning how all these things worked. Before it was time to unhook the trampoline and walk to to shore to deconstruct, we decided to swim out and jump on it one more time. Rik pulled up in the golf cart and we invited him to join, but he didn't seem to share the same nostalgia that day. 

In our lives we spend so much time building and taking down. We take the chairs down at each meal only to put them back up again when we finish. Leaving something out for too long is dangerous.
Keeping something packed up too long is dangerous in a different way. To take true care of something we must know when to do both. Each one has its own set of emotions that often accompany it as well. The setting up involves excitement, energy, hunger. The taking down often involves reflection, contemplation, a humbleness.

On Thursday we said goodbye to Hope, our Summer Program Director. She has been such an enormous part of the culture this summer, of motivating and inspiring the staff. She has kept them laughing and kept them thinking more about their place here. She made her rounds to everyone, trying to spend some important moments with each person from kitchen staff to summer staff to maintenance, housekeeping, to the kids of staff members.  

Here at camp we say goodbyes regularly. The longest a group will stay with us will be a week. There is simultaneously a sadness and a celebration for the time spent when you have a camp goodbye. The memories of the past stretch of days come rushing back to you. You realize the friendship you've creating in such a small bit of time. You are inspired by what you've seen but also afraid you may never capture something like it again. Stuff like this is where terms like "bitter-sweet," originated, I'm sure. We know there is a change very soon when these goodbyes announce themselves. 

Friday we did our last worship together as a summer staff. David Hurd of Bay City UMC visited to consecrate communion for us. Our group was much smaller than when we began, but communion feels special to me, even in a small group. It marks this special thing that we share together. We are certainly very different, some of us, but we have shared much this summer. We've been given similar chances to do something special, something powerful. We've stood, side-by-side, watching it unfold in front of us. We've eaten at this table together. As we took in the elements, a layer of fog was rolling in from the ocean. The air is changing. We are changing too. 

After Saturday supper, Joelle and Laura will leave, and we will be back at our retreat staff. Joelle will make the long journey back to her home in Florida. Laura will start classes at OSU. Hope will soon move all here belongings to new surroundings in Colorado. And the rain the clouds will take up more stable residence here at camp. We have just about packed up the trampoline into an area of a few square feet. The summer will soon be a memory completely. We will mark these days with many of these memories. They will remind us of the year and the month they happened. I hope too that they will remind us who we were and who we want to be. That the good work here would be multiplied and grow.

This weekend we host the Delphian School, Linfield College Choir, Portland State Ambassadors, and a Men's Group. Keep them in your prayers, that their time may be filled with God's peace.