Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Give Thanks with Us

This week, as our staff prepares to get on the road, dust up the kitchen, and spend time with loved ones, we take a little bit of time to look back on our year and give thanks for so many of the blessings that found their way to our gates. Here's just a few of the things we're thankful for this year:

-The Rain
-The Sunshine
-The fantastic performance of the Choir Camp, after just a few days of practice.
-The newts that slowly parade around camp after a fresh rain
-The smell of the spruces on a warm, sunny day
-The sound of laughter and the shock of the cold when campers first touch the ocean water during wave jumping
-The taste of the camp ginger snaps
-The view from the big dune, looking out over the ocean
-The sound of people singing in unison around a warm campfire as the night takes hold
-The feeling you get telling someone goodbye after a weekend retreat, watching them drive away, feeling you've made a new friend
-The blow-up carnival held in our central field by Camp to Belong for siblings separated in the foster care system.
-Climbing the giant Sitka Spruce on the east side of the big dune, nearly 60 feet high, using harnesses and ropes with a group of senior highs
-The sound of the Camp Magruder chow bell
-The beautiful summer sunsets that blend purples, pinks, reds, oranges, and blue
-The train ride with family campers to Garibaldi and back
-A summer staff of young adults who could do so many things in a summer, but chose to pour time, sweat, and love into creating life changing experiences for our campers and guests.
-Edible mushroom hunts
-Hearing the Portland Gay Men's Chorus perform hits from ABBA and Queen
-A housekeeping staff who make this place look like new over and over and over again
-The quiet and holiness of lighting a fire in one of the firepits just before the group arrives
-The sound of sacred songs reverberating beautifully from the walls of Sherlock or Carrier lodges.
-Prayer time at the outdoor chapel
-Exploring the paths on the west side of camp, under moss-covered Shore Pines
-A maintenance staff who literally keep the place running and continue to beautify our buildings
-Watching the super blood moon rise over the mountain with the women of the Needlepoint Camp
-The moment on a kayak, in the middle of the lake, when you look up to the mountain, it's reflection on the water, and all the green trees, and you must just pause and enjoy the beauty
-The silhouettes of campers standing near the ocean surf, arms draped over each others shoulders, standing in awe-The all-camp campfires where elementary, middle school, and senior highs share songs, stories, and skits around the fire
-The excitement in someone's face when they shoot a bow and arrow for the first time and manage to hit the target
-The ever-present sound of the ocean waves meeting the sands of the shore
-The way that God manifests a presence in all these things

Happy Thankgiving to you and yours. May your life be filled with blessings like they have been for us.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The News from Camp Magruder 11/15-21

It was raining as the week began here at Camp Magruder. And, it kept raining. And, then it rained some more. It kept raining. And kept raining. And kept raining. Then, it cleared up a little. Then it started to rain again. By Wednesday, the rains had subsided, but the water left on the ground will take much longer to subside.

Just a few weeks ago, Smith Lake was as low as many of us had ever seen it. Parts of the swim dock sat on the ground. After the rain, it was difficult to get to the dock without first wadding through
some of the lake. Just a few weeks ago the Wetlands Trail seemed very inappropriately named. The marshy area that is typically covered with lily pads and swamp grasses was nearly dry. As the relentless rain kept coming, that area refilled, then began to pour out onto Old Pacific Highway, the camp's only outlet to Highway 101.

Old Pacific Highway covered with water
The water on the road grew, until it covered the entire street and the yards of the houses there. It was deep enough that on Monday morning, Camp Magruder Staff had to drive the trucks on site over the high water to pick up staff members with low profile cars. Even in the trucks that sit high off the ground, there was a moment in the deepest pool of water where the vehicle slowed down, and you wondered if it would make it. Water splashed up on both sides, 7 feet high, like one of those amusement park rides that promises, "You Will Get Wet."

With everyone piled into the camp Jimmy, cutting tire trails through deep standing water, it felt a bit like the staff morning commute. We would get out of the vehicle and disperse to our respective offices and work sites, start our individual tasks. But, for a moment we were one staff sharing one journey. In a way, we are sharing one big journey, though it's easy to forget that sometimes when our tasks give us tunnel vision. In a more metaphorical sense, we're always in that vehicle together, trying to get from one side to the other.

The second half of this week has been totally different from the first half. Almost no precipitation, and even some sunshine. The pools of water are receding, and the largest one has dropped low enough that even the most compact sedan can cross it. During my lunch break yesterday, I went to the beach to see the ocean under sunshine--something that has recently been an unfamiliar sight. Up and down the beach were large pieces of driftwood, some bigger around than my torso. Some of these large pieces of wood were in the surf, being tossed back and forth. The rivers must have swelled and taken these trunks and spit them into the ocean. Now the ocean was returning them to us for a time.

As we approach this time of giving thanks, this time of holidays and gift giving, it's easy to get tunnel vision, to attach ourselves to things, to activities. We make ourselves certain they are the most important thing, that we must attend to them above all else. We have this tendency to forget there are much larger things surrounding us. These things often sit quiet, surrounding us. Occasionally though, they remind us, there is much more, there is something much larger. That we should stand in awe at such amazingness, amazingness that we inhabit. Amazingness that we build together sharing each of our beautiful gifts. Sometimes it will come unexpectedly. Sometimes it will wash over us and change all the plans we carefully laid out. If we are fortunate, we will wake up one morning, though, and walk into the sunshine and know we have witnessed greatness and that we are a little greater because of it.

This weekend, we welcome Boy Scout Troop 799, Southridge High School Concert Choir, and Matthew Houser. This will be our last set of weekend retreat groups for a while. As you think about what you're thankful for, join us in giving thanks for all the groups who brightened our doorstep this year.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The News from Camp Magruder 11/8-14

It's been a quiet week at Camp Magruder. This is our first week without an Outdoor School group, so the buildings are dormant, lights out, heat turned down. They are waiting for a few more weekend groups this November, then they'll go into a mini hibernation. The only noise you'll hear in our lodges will be raindrops on the rooftop and gusts of wind from the ocean. The days have been grayer and the nights earlier. These are warm soup days. Build a fire in the fireplace days. Complete the work you've been putting off kind of days.

The rain is making itself more comfortable on the Oregon Coast. We've showers nearly every day, and over the weekend we could get close to 3 inches. Puddles are morphing into small ponds at camp, and Smith Lake is swelling to the point that it might spill out onto Old Pacific Highway. Steve and Rik chatted about rains of the past that have rendered the only road out of camp impassable. Then, they say, it becomes important to find the key to the padlock to the gate at the fire lane between us and Barview Jetty park. There are high surf advisories for evening, so it feels like our two bodies of water are squeezing us just a little. Just a little hug.

While out walking, I passed Jay working in the garden, pulling up all the vegetables that were past their prime, the ones that wouldn't handle the upcoming downpours very well. Some of it can stay, but some needs to be cleared out to prepare for next year. Jay's dog Delila was there as an assistant, begging for her owner to throw the frisbee or whatever twig she could find along the driveway. We are finishing up the harvests, clearing out for the winter rains. The Earth needs to be still here for a while, we are looking for some stillness as well. Sometimes it's important to have a period of waiting. It readies you for the future, for something big that is to come.

Also on my walk, I passed Gatehouse to see a Ford Ranger pick-up with a lot of bumper stickers parked in the drive. I knew immediately it was Ben, one of our 2015 Resource Staffers. Ben had come up for a surprise visit and to hang out with Peter. It is always such a blessing to have friends choose to visit you. Ben worked long, difficult hours over the summer, went through lots of stress and exhaustion. He could easily have said that he put in his time and was ready to move on to less strenuous tasks. Instead, he has come back to see us several times. It is what we want--that this place means more to people than the work there is, that the work itself is a blessing, and that those who take part in it want more of it. We didn't put Ben to work--he was an honored guest. We were happy to see one of this place's kids coming home.

If you go out walking at Camp Magruder during the week, you are much less likely to encounter someone than you would have been earlier. There are fewer interruptions to the sounds of the ocean, the crows, the seagulls. Every now and then, though, you'll still find someone here that's a part of this place. There are still hands at work, even in these darker, cooler, wetter days. We are working to give this place some rest, so we can give ourselves rest, so we can turn around and give our guests rest when they come to visit. Even if it is raining, go out there for moment, take a deep breath. There is a lot going on, a lot see and feel in the quiet.

Friday, November 6, 2015

The News from Camp Magruder 11/1-7

Magruder woke up Monday to sunny skies and a beautiful, cool Fall day following a steady, strong string of weekend downpours. The Halloween rainstorm could have easily been followed by two straight weeks of rain, and we would not have been surprised. Instead we were greeted by a few of the prettiest days we've seen in a while. We so often feel like we have life figured out, that most things are predictable. But, the world is out to surprise us.

There was a stir in the camp office Monday morning. I heard astonished voices asking if that was what they thought it was. At the main entrance, Rik stood in the doorway holding a mushroom about the size of his head. While doing their rounds near the office, they had found the huge King Bolete near the office walls. He and Mark discussed the best ways to slice it up, and exactly how many people or how many meals it would produce. The recent rains have produced huge mushrooms, edible and poisonous, all over the grounds. You might find them hidden deep in the woods or in the flower beds right next to our most frequented buildings.

Before the rain, it was below all the numbers
The rain was also just about enough on its own to refill Smith Lake which has been historically low after the dry winter and summer. There had been a wide path around the lake of sand that is normally under water. The ground under the boat house was completely dry. With the Halloween rain, water is back up to the bank. All the ground under the boathouse is covered with water, and it isn't just a little.

We figured the lake would be filled again, but we didn't necessarily expect this quickly. One day you are walking next to the lake, the dock sitting on the ground. It starts to rain and you go inside. When the rain subsides and you go back out, it looks like a different body of water. The water color was a muddy brown, rather than its normal clear blue. It felt swollen and thick. I think about the fires of the summer, the lack of rain compared to what is the norm. This is a promising amount of rain to maybe avoid some of those problems. But, we'll need it steady. The mountains will need snow. Still, for today with blue skies and breezy winds overhead, it's nice to see the dock sitting a little higher on the metal posts that go all the way down into the sands at the bottom.

Though in some ways it feels like they just got here, the Fall Outdoor school staff just finished up their last week with us. The feel of outdoor school evenings has really been altered by the end of Daylight Savings Time. Until now, supper took place during daylight and finished right around sunset recently. In the dining hall, the natural light was brighter than the indoor lighting. This week, it's been completely dark outside during supper, with the flourescents of the dining hall all we had to see from. I shook hands and gave hugs to this group of people who have been residents with us for the last three months. I wonder what memories they will take with them, how they will look back on their time here weeks from now, months, years down the road. Will they remember us? Did we leave them something memorable?

Walking around on a dark, starry night, I listened to campers cross back and forth, watched flashlights flicker up down, north, south. I thought about how different it feels now to get dark so early, to have these students still so active. I thought about how even next week, the camp will be so much quieter as we settle into this different time of the year. This time when we expect more quiet. This time when we expect more rain. What will it ultimately bring to us? What will we remember? What will have fed us?