Friday, December 18, 2015

The News from Camp Magruder 12/13-19

Rain slowed down at camp this week, and we watched the waters recede enough that even the smallest sedan could pass Old Pacific Highway and get to Highway 101. That doesn't mean it didn't rain at all--we still got plenty of rain. For now, though, it feels like the worst is behind us. That said, we got enough rain Thursday night to re-flood a few of our flooded areas. Crazy rain like this is enough to make you paranoid every time you see it return to the forecast. It makes you wonder if this place will ever get back to normal again, though you know people throughout history have wondered the same thing.

As the route to camp opened up, staff members who live offsite were able to return and start the clean-up process. For most of Monday morning, Tommie and Mark worked on the fallen Spruce that took power lines out last week. You could hear the chainsaws and the wood splitter for most of the day at the office. Walking the main road later that day, all that was left of the fallen tree was the mangled stump and piles of sawdust spread out next to the road. There was a strong evergreen scent in the air that made me want to breathe deeper and hold it a little longer.

The tides have continued to be high this week. Both beach access paths have water trails flowing down the paths well before the tree line. Large pieces of driftwood, litter, and bull kelp have been washed onto the trail, and we will likely need to clean them up at some point, but we're waiting for now so we don't just repeat the process after the next high tide. The ocean and the shore look
drastically different from one day to the next. Some days it is brown and littered with driftwood, strewing it all over the beach. The next day it might be a deep blue, then a sort of wintergreen. The sand goes from ragged and rough looking to beautifully manicured. On several days, the water is almost a silver and white color, and lots of sea foam washed up. If you look with just the right window, it seems like it's snowed on the beach.

It's amazing how things shift, grow, deteriorate, grow again. How all these parts of the Earth morph and evolve. What parts will they have all play together? How will we fit into it? How will the sea, the trees, the mountains fit into my story, to camp's story? I'm not sure, but I am trying to grow closer to all these individual parts, trying to know them better.

Each morning on the way to the office, I've noticed smoke rising from the chimney of the Walworth Building. Last week its basement was flooded by about a foot of water. Rik started tearing it apart first thing this week. He pulled out the carpet and had the flooring inspected. He said that he pulled out one of the cabinet drawers after the water receded all the way, and it was still full of water. So, we know those drawers are sealed really well. To get the room completely dried out, Rik has kept the heat turned up and a steady fire going. With the ran last night, the basement flooded again with about 6 inches of water. The ground just isn't able to hold it.

So, our plans have been slowed down even more this week by the persistent rain that won't give us a break quite long enough. We can tell things are getting back to something like what we are used to.
But, they don't always move at the speed we'd like them to. Still, there are benefits to these types of slow downs. We are seeing things we might not have noticed otherwise. We are figuring out a way to fit into this story that's being written right now, trying to find a way we can best be used. Walking by Walworth, seeing the puffs of smoke, it occurred to me that the fire being used to dry out the flooded basement may be burning on logs from that fallen tree that the same storm brought down.

So many players in the story, so many ways the plots may change. There are many unexpected twists the story takes. As we get closer to Christmas, even thinking about that story, there are plenty of ways
characters and places are such a surprise, so different than how we might have written it. Here, during this Advent season, we are doing our best to be what we should be in our part of the story, hoping to offer up something that moves us down the right path. May we live into that mystery, may we see the beauty in every part of the story.

This weekend we Young Nak Youth Group for their Winter Retreat. Keep them in your prayers this weekend.

We'll be taking a break from "The News from Camp Magruder," for a couple of weeks for the holidays. Have no fear, though, we'll be back with more stories of camp life in the new year. Hope your holidays are a great blessing to you.

Friday, December 11, 2015

This Week at Camp Magruder 12/6-12

This week was dominated by rain. If you live in the Pacific Northwest, I don't have to tell you that, and maybe even if you don't live here you know. The sky dropped so much rain on us that we could not hold it. It brought down pieces of the mountains, collapsed roads, and overflowed our lakes and rivers. We've had breaks in the rain, even sunshine in moments, but rain hasn't stayed gone very long this week.

On Tuesday, it was raining very early. It was a different kind of rain than normal, much heavier and unrelenting. Angie came into the office completely soaked, and I knew when I went to lunch my fate would be similar. In just the short walk from the camp office to Miller Cottage, my pants were completely soaked like I had jumped in the lake. I put them in the dryer during lunch, but by the time I had walked back to work, they were soaked again. Over the next several hours, they would dry again, only to be soaked once more on the short walk home. By evening it was raining even harder, though, the kind of rain you duck down and lean into. I was ready to be in my house, warm until long after the rain was gone.

It would not happen. Around 11pm, I got a text from Peter that Walworth basement was flooded. Peter had seen the standing water outside of his room at Gatehouse and thought it wise to check on Walworth. He found about 8 inches of standing water that was steadily growing. The Walworth basement apartment is one of most newly renovated rooms at camp. Rik and the maintenance crew spent many hours, and it had been turned into a very nice homey place. It was sad for Peter and I to wade through water halfway up to our knees looking for someway to keep the water at bay. We carried out what furniture we could salvage, moving it upstairs as the rain kept pouring.

We woke to find ourselves surrounded by water. Across the lake, several mudslides had covered Highway 101, and dump-trucks and bulldozers were trying to reopen the road. Camp kids Seth, Fleming, and Kara took the camp kayaks down Old Pacific Highway. The street leading to camp was covered in water all the way to the gate. It's a surreal experience to see boats traversing an area you normally drive a car over. I have seen floods this high before. I remember kayaking through the woods over a trail I normally ran each day. I paddled past tree trunks submerged that two people couldn't wrap their arms around. It is such a surprising thing to find landscapes we think we know very well, suddenly completely different. It is a little bit exciting and a little bit unnerving all at the same time.

For the time being, most of us were stuck at camp unless we wanted to leave by boat. A few people were already showing signs of cabin fever, so we put together an impromptu staff board game night, and Jay and his wife Jamie agreed to host. Everyone convened at 7pm at the Pioneer Cottage, which was all decorated for Christmas. Jay made nachos, and Allyson made chocolate chip cookies and oreo balls. Sitting around a table, playing Catch Phrase and The Game of Things, laughing, sharing food, it seemed we were making the best of our situation. In fact, we were probably doing better than normal.

The rain continued to fall, and on Wednesday night the wind came too. All night long our windows were pelted with rain that sounded too harsh to be liquid. When the rain wasn't pounding, wind shook the windows. Lightening flashed, and thunder boomed. I woke up, pretty groggy from all the noise through the night. I looked at my digital clock, and it told me it was time to get up. By the time I made it downstairs, none of the clocks were on. A spruce near Smith and Herron fell across a power line, landing near the entrance to the outdoor chapel. We were without power, and would be for nearly the entire day, but it could have been much worse. If the tree had twisted more as it fell or got rerouted on the fall, it could have taken a building out.

We had scheduled a staff Advent discussion time, and the staff still at camp decided to carry on with it. We met in Carrier, where Allyson has been decorating for our staff Christmas party, scheduled for Sunday. We built a fire, and talked about the second week of Advent. Carrier has a generator, so we can keep the perishable food cold or frozen during extended power outages like this. Jay had chicken from his home that had to be cooked. Allyson had ingredients for chicken pot pie. We decided to collaborate. The power around camp would still be out for a few more hours, but we felt very thankful for our camp home and one building we could use to cook and stay warm. We made decorations, warm drinks, chicken pot pie, roasted broccoli, and kale chips.

As Steve, Jay, Jamie, Maddi, Allyson, and I gathered around the table to bless and share a meal together, it really did feel like we had a lot of blessings. We have seen big set backs this week, set backs that will cost us a lot of money and staff time we planned to use in other places. But, I know it is one that will stand out in our memories. Of course, it will stand out because of the landslides and overflowing lakes and fallen trees. But, it will also stand out in our minds because of the times we shared together when elements pushed us a little bit closer, and, in a stressful time, gave us a chance to be generous and loving to each other. I see that all over. People wanting to help other people, to share a meal, to clean up these giant messes that have spilled down from above us.

This is my first Christmas at Camp Magruder, it will certainly be an easy one to remember. In the midst of all this, Advent has stayed on my mind. It is about waiting, preparing, about hope in the goodness that is to come, about bringing that goodness into the world. I think about the nativity, and how in that story, Mary must have been thinking about how it wasn't going according to the plans she had for herself. They did the best they could with what they had, and it is a story that we're still telling today, a story we continue to go back to. I hope that these humble little exchanges during challenging times will also lead us to some kind of wonderful good that will be returned to and celebrated.

Friday, December 4, 2015

The News from Camp Magruder 11/29-12/5

This week, the rain returned after our clear sunny Thanksgiving week. It hasn't been constant downpours on the coast--we've seen plenty of clear breaks, allowing us time to get out at lunch time without getting soaked. The new air bringing the rain has also warmed us up a bit too. It seems strange that during a week full of sunshine it was much cooler than the following week filled with rain and clouds. This happens all the time, but it still fools me if I'm not paying close attention to a forecast.

Early in the week, we put up a few Christmas Decorations in the Camp Magruder Welcome Center. We didn't go nuts and put lighted reindeer on the lawn. We didn't plug up the blow-up Santaland or pour fake snow all over the porch. Just a little tree on Angie's desk as you come in the door, and a little Nativity set on the opposite counter where time cards are filled out each morning and afternoon.

There's something about Christmas decorations that make a place feel nice and homey. I don't know exactly what it is, but it makes any office feel a little more welcoming. There is something different than the rest of the year. It's interesting how a little decoration can change our outlook on something. When you walk through a room and see the baby Jesus surrounded by well-wishers, there's a tiny readjustment waiting there, a little reminder of other things out in this vast universe of thoughts to occupy our minds.

This Tuesday was "Giving Tuesday," one of the days in the week of spending following Thanksgiving. We have Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyper Monday, and recently Giving Tuesday has emerged. It's an attempt by the charities and non-profits of the world to appeal to people shelling out holiday money. Camp and Retreat in Oregon Idaho created a few memes for Giving Tuesday inviting people to donate to camp scholarships. Of course, I think sending a kid to camp who might not go otherwise is a great option if someone is looking to give. I shared one of the memes on the Camp Magruder facebook page along with a link to donate to camp scholarships, and moved on to other office work, excited that it might have earned a few kids a trip to camp next summer.

My efforts were pretty disappointing, though, based on the numbers. This post had, by far, the lowest reach of anything I've ever posted on facebook. To compare to other posts, at one point in the day, I changed the Camp's cover photo to a beautiful beach sunset I captured a few months back. That post currently has "reached" 406, with 78 likes, 3 comments, and 1 share. The Giving Tuesday meme put up a few hours before that post has reached 26, 0 likes, 0 comments, and 0 shares. I'm not mentioning this as some sort of passive-aggressive guilt trip on our page followers. I'm mostly just confused by it. Obviously, if I wanted to spread the word about giving for Camp Scholarships on a day that's supposed to be a big giving day, this post was for some reason an epic fail.

There are so many possible explanations for this, so many conclusions that could be drawn. The most pessimistic one is probably just that people don't care about giving. Our page followers just care about pretty pictures. I don't believe it's that simple, because I know a lot of these people are very giving. It could be a lot of other things. Maybe our page followers already gave to the scholarship or some other worthy charity, so the post doesn't apply. Maybe we should have used a sunset picture for our meme instead of two campers. Maybe people who give just don't go searching on facebook to make their decisions. Maybe people are completely overwhelmed by all these pleas everywhere they look for their quickly depleting funds. Still, at the end of the day, I hoped we might get a few more kids to camp, and this just didn't make it happen, for whatever reason. I just really want find a way to spread more of the love and resources we have and are aching to give out to the people in the world who are aching to receive it. There has to be a way to pull these people together.

As I've walked from the office to my home, down the main drive of Camp Magruder, I've seen the wind pick up. White caps on Lake Smith. The spruces, hemlocks, and cedars sway like dancers, and the wind whistles. It's chilling, and on the coast with the ocean air, it can be hard to warm your body back up. I love the knowing that there are buildings nearby where the fire will be lit, where the greenery will be hung, where reminders of the season and our faith are on display. In some of these rooms there is a set of little figures gathered around a manger with a little new born. They kneel around him as we often still do when a baby enters the world.

It is Advent, and the church is in this time of anticipation, this time of hopefulness in days getting darker. Christmas means so many different things to so many different people. I can be joyful and stressful, a blessing and a burden. As the wind blows and the rains come. As we find ourselves strapped in this time that's called a holiday, I hope we can find something that will bring and spread joy. I hope we can do this without guilt trips, without obligation, with a spirit of love and sharing. I hope this season, we will fix our gaze on a star that is so compelling to us that we follow it, and it becomes every bit as amazing as it looks. And if facebook posts are not going to be that star, I'm fine with that. I just hope we find that star that leads us to humble stable with a young mother, her husband, and her beautiful child. I hope we feel we have enough time to just sit with them, with the animals, with the shepherds, to share in their joy. A joy we will keep passing along.