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.

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