Friday, March 18, 2016

The News from Magruder 3/13-19

This week has been quintessentially Spring: unpredictable, uncomfortable at times, breathtakingly beautiful in others. These weeks give us a sneak preview of summer. They encourage us, "Hang in there a little longer, deal with the rain, there's something else on the way." We, of course, do fine assimilating into our rainy environment, but a warm sunny day really boosts the spirits.

The Outdoor School staff welcomed their first school, Springville Elementary, this week. The staff was happy to have a lot of returning high school counselors who knew the ropes, as they started the Spring season that will extend through the next several months. There's a nice, relaxing feeling, when you welcome in familiar faces, faces you've worked with before. When you know the expectations and what to expect, it makes those early moments of a camp much less stressful. You don't have to concern yourself quite so much with teaching the basics. "We got this," you say.

On top of how it makes the general work easier, there's nothing like those moments when someone you know walks in the door after you've been separated for a stretch of time. Their hair may be different, they may have changed up their fashion choices, but you know them when they walk in. You yell out their name, and go running to each other. You embrace. Some go for the leap into the other person's arms. Some wrap around the other person like a backpack. Some knock each other down. Some grip hands strongly and go into a very manly bro-hug. Whatever it is, the energy from these moments is palpable, and it just adds to the excitement of the adventure that is camp work.

On that first day, in the dining hall, we looked out the window to see overcast but dry skies over Smith Lake. By the time we sat down, rain had begun, and before we could finish, the rain had passed. The next precipitation was a little too loud to be rain, and we realized the sky had unleashed bb sized hail that would go on about 5-10 minutes. Fortunately, by the time I made my trip back to the office, the skies were clear again.

Despite several pop-up storms and the wet air that feels colder than it really is, outdoor school staff and students have had fairly dry weather for lessons, exploring our marine ecosystems. They did run into problems early in the week making it to the beach, though, because the tide was so far in, there was hardly room to walk. In the limited space left east of the sea were piles and piles of driftwood that had recently washed up, which presents all sorts of dangers at high tide. The ocean also washed up millions of tiny velella-velella jellyfish. They aren't as large as those that washed up Spring of last year, these are hard to make out unless you look at them closely. As tiny as they are, large groups of them rotting on the beach have a very distinct smell--the sort of smell that in small doses reminds you of the ocean, so it is slightly pleasant, but in larger doses reminds you of decomposing sea life which is pretty gross.

Rik and Tommie have begun deconstructing the boat dock, which was heavily damaged during the flooding last Fall. Planks and beams were picked up off the piers and then set back down in a different spot, to where it looked like the reflection of a dock in a fun house mirror, or a dock made from the materials you use on Hot Wheels ramps. They've been detaching beams in the neighborhood of 100 lbs and stacking them on the shore until they can lay the support beams again and begin placing them again. It involved getting wet and lifting really heavy beams, and even now the lake isn't low enough for them to start the rebuilding phase of the project. These are times, we keep our fingers crossed that the Spring will continue to lean towards dry sunny days, so we can have a dock again by the time a lot of groups are requesting boating activity periods.

Thursday was a beautiful day. It warmed up, the sky was blue and the sun was shining into the windows of the office, warming the place in a way that can't be duplicated. In the evening, the moon came out along with a panorama of stars. The students were in bed, and it seemed like we were in for a quiet night. Then it got a little too quiet. At about 12:30 am all the lights went out with no warning, no heavy wind gusts, no lightening strikes, no rotten trees giving up the ghost. It turns out a supplier line went out, leaving everything north of Garibaldi dark. I went out to crank up the generator that supplies the dining hall with the juice it needs to keep the food cool, but couldn't get it to crank. I called and woke Steve up to see what I was doing wrong. He tried to troubleshoot over the phone, but nothing seemed to be working. He came down and tried. No dice. We called a support line. Still no dice. They dispatched a technician, but he would be coming from Portland. At this point, it was 2:30am, and the kitchen staff had to start breakfast at 5:00 am. Out of ideas, Steve and I retired saying we'd see each other later in the morning.

I discovered later on that Steve had trouble getting back to sleep and was hit with a thought that he wanted to test. His hunch proved to be correct. He finally got the generator running about 4:00 am, and saved breakfast for a dining hall full of 5th graders. The power came back on about 6:00am and the technician arrived about the same time. His work wasn't in vein, though--he adjusted several things on the generator that should keep it from giving us any trouble in the future. And, he got to eat breakfast with us too, which is definitely worth a trip.

Our first group of outdoor school students loaded up the buses this afternoon after a pizza lunch, and we watched them roll out under our gates and out to Highway 101. I walked the camp this afternoon and saw the outdoor school staff, wrapping up with a staff meeting, cleaning up, then taking that walk to afternoon freedom. It's such a light feeling at the end of the week, when your group clears out, things get quiet and you feel this moment of autonomy, like you could do anything you wanted in that brief window. It's a satisfying feeling, knowing you've put in a week of work, made connections, helped someone learn or even fall in love with something. Now, you get to exhale, which prepares you to take something back in. This time, it's something for you.

I walked back to the office the long way, taking the beach route. The ocean was so calm today, waves hardly cresting even as they encounter the beach. The tide was low, far from shore. The beach sand was soft and dry, with plenty of room to roam. Much of the driftwood had been taking back out to see and redistributed. What a change from Monday, with high powerful tides and hail failing from the sky. Today was warm with sunshine, calm soothing ocean sounds. We know change is constant, we just don't know what the next one is. Some will frustrate and exhaust us, some will offer rest and satisfaction. There is something wonderful in all of these, something to hold to, and something to give away. And then, just like this evening, another group will come on the heels of the previous, and we will be offered a chance to experience all over again, in some ways something familiar in some ways something brand new.

This weekend we host First Unitarian Family Camp, Our Lady of Lavang Confirmation Retreat, and the Board of Camp and Retreat Ministries. We invite you to join our prayer that they will find something familiar and brand new during their time with us.

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