Thursday, January 28, 2016

The News from Magruder 1/24-30

This week we saw yet another string of rainy days, but there were plenty of breaks. This week reminded us that the winter will not hold on forever. We saw our share of sunshine, and we are even beginning to notice the sun staying with us longer in the day. As I look out the office window, I can see beams of sunshine through the spruce needles, creating this magical green tint that sparkles in the rain drops left on the branches from morning showers. The sun is returning, friends. Change is happening, as it tends to do.

Monday was an absolutely glorious day, a day that felt straight out of August. It would be easy to be convinced you had fallen asleep for 7 months and woken up to the clear skies and sunshine of a different season. I caught myself several moments looking out the window like a daydreaming school boy, admiring the gorgeous painting that is the view through the glass on the Oregon Coast. This type of activity is stereotypically associated with idle pursuits, wastes of time, and procrastination, and for good reason.

I do think, though, there is some value to be gained when staring out the window properly. These momentary distractions can refresh a person. Just look at all those trees, see the light peeking through them. Listen to the ocean on its ebb tide just beyond the shore pines. Breathe in real deep. Do you feel that? Can you pick up on the appreciation flowing through your body? Isn't it exciting? Doesn't that make you want to do something important? Doesn't it make you want to give it some honor because you are one of the lucky who get to inhabit this? What are you going to do about that?

Out walking the grounds, I met Mark burning one of the brush piles that has accumulated from pruning and clearing along the beach access roads. These brush fires are deceptive sometimes--they don't necessarily look so big, because there is a pile of brush surrounding them. Don't be fooled, though, they burn hot. Mark was spreading the mix of leaves, branches, and wood chips making sure it didn't burn too slow or too fast. We watched the fire burn and swapped stories.

Mark told me about a time a sick Pelican was found on the beach and was dangerously chilled. They put in a call to someone in Astoria who rescues birds, and she said she would be there ASAP. Mark went to the bird with a blanket, not knowing how the bird would react to him. As he wrapped it up, he said it put its head on his shoulder. They stayed that way until the rescuer showed up. Mark said he wasn't about to leave the Pelican.

This week we hosted members of the All One Community for a prayer retreat. These are church leaders in the Portland area from different denominations gathering together to discuss the directions of their church and hold each other in prayer. We hope this has been a time of rest and quiet for them that sends them back rejuvenated. Who knows all the lives they will touch when you put their work together? I sat at the table with them for breakfast and listened to their thoughts, their concerns, their dreams. I hope for moments during their stay here that will stay in their memories. Something beautiful they saw, something they heard they will remember in some challenging moment in the future making them just a little bit stronger. These small things add up.

I walked the woods this week, bordering the beach. The ocean continues to scratch away sandy cliff faces. We saw high surf warnings this week, and the wind howled a few nights. There are places where shore pines will soon fall onto the beach and get washed somewhere else. There's very little we could do to keep the ocean from taking it now. The ground is showing cracks, the tree's roots are all that's keeping it up. Yet another change taking place just outside our windows. May we be drawn to the movement around us, may we be inspired by it. When we have a chance, may we go and touch it, hear it, let some of its smoke pass through our nostrils, let it rest its head on our shoulder. May we know it better, know ourselves better, see ourselves changed by it.


The News from Magruder will be taking next week off, but fear not. A regular blog post will be back February 12, just in time for Choir Camp.

Friday, January 22, 2016

The News from Magruder 1/17-23

The Pacific Northwest has been so cliche this week, with drizzly showers nearly every day. There has been a mix of cooler days and warmer days, and mid-way through the week we had pretty strong winds. At night, these winds gust and the bigger water droplets slam against the window panes. The wind howls down the chimneys, and you occasionally get the feeling something is surrounding the house, trying to get inside.

The office was closed Monday for the MLK holiday. We typically work on many of the Monday national holidays, because people tend to come to camp on their time off, but the camp was empty in this particular case so the office was too. I'm one who feels its important to honor whatever reason causes a pause from the normal routine whether it be anything from a sporting event to Sabbath to a national holiday. I've seen people encounter the holiday in many ways, too often, though, with indifference or even straight up hostility.

King, to me, is one of our modern day saints. Regardless of your views on civil rights and race in general, King carried out his work with a commitment to peacefulness and integrity. He is a model of how to stand up for what you believe in. It's tough to slander his work unless you just disagree with racial equality or think more militant action should have been taken. Still, I wonder how we should celebrate or honor this holiday. What is the protocol on a day like today? What are some actions, some rituals we can make an annual thing? This is still a young holiday compared to many, but one that shouldn't get too far from our conscience these days. There's a lot we should be listening for from MLK in our daily life.

I think about the moments at camp when we have had a good mix of colors and backgrounds. When there has been black and white, rich and poor. There were moments in these camps of friction, when cultures didn't understand each other perfectly. It's funny how a word or an action with one group of people can mean something totally different to another group of people. I've also seen moments of understanding, where everyone was able to leave their past and future out for a time and be in the present moment and understand we are all in the same place at the same time and need basically the same things. I knew it would get more complicated again, but for that brief period of time everyone had a similar understanding.

These are the moments that make the slide shows--the picture of the black and white kids, arms over each other's shoulders, huge grins. We want these pictures, because it's an image of what we hope for ourselves--it's how we want people to see us. Sometimes, though, it's hard to know what to do to get those pictures to happen. Sometimes it can be a challenge to even find ourselves in the same room.

When I walk the grounds at Camp Magruder, I often think about all the feet that have passed over this ground. At the edge of Lake Smith there are plank roads from the old highway. When the basketball court was dug, there were remains of a shipwreck. No doubt, natives walked this ground for thousands of years before a white person laid eyes on it. How much different does it look now than it did 100 years ago? 500 years ago? 5,000 years ago? What will it look like 100 years from now? 500? 5,000? Who will the people be then? What will they do the third Monday or January?

One thing that definitely looks different is the beach. The ocean has continued to chip away at the sand, carving a taller and taller wall at the forest line. Last week it was anywhere from 5-8 feet tall. Now it is anywhere from 8 to 12 feet high. This cutting away of the sand has caused a few sand avalanches, taking out beach grass and even some of the trees. It feels like we are in a time of great change, but the truth is that it's always changing, we just don't always notice until some of the larger structures begin to fall. Things get whittled away, then something big must fall. Soon, something new will start building from the ground.

As I reflect on a week often spent indoors, preparing for the future--I find myself reflecting on the past. Thinking about MLK and his legacy, where we are at now with civil rights. I am sorry he was killed. For that matter, I'm sorry thinking of so many activists being killed, of Jesus' death. I think also, though, of those times that must have been absolutely thrilling, walking with these great leaders, feeling something in the air, feeling something new and important was on the way. What would it have felt like to travel with King from Atlanta to Selma, to cross the bridge? What would have felt like to be there with him in Memphis at the sanitation workers' strike--to hear him speak at the church? What would it have felt like to walk the roads outside of Jerusalem with Christ, people coming in crowds to be healed, to hear the man speak? Ideally, I think about a week of camp like this--this time we come together peacefully and live this accelerated feeling life, this life where you can see things happening, see people changing in front of you. I feel so different about so many things because of times I spent at the table with people who weren't like me, knowing them better, hearing their stories. It made me want more of that. I made me want to stand up for them, it made me want to be better.

I wonder what new and important things are coming to our institutions. I wonder what ways the things we currently know will begin to disappear before our eyes as new generations go farther down a path. I wonder what will be built in their place. I wonder what will endure. I hope that what we do here is important enough to endure. I hope we do something that future generations find necessary. I hope that we are able to take more pictures full of kids of all colors and backgrounds standing together smiling. I hope we make a place where that sort of thing is easy to come by. I'm not quite sure what that answer is, for now it seems like it will continue to be complicated and elusive at times. But, I plan to keep searching from it. Maybe those saints who came before us can continue to teach us. Maybe some of us will do good enough to be saints one day.

Friday, January 15, 2016

The News from Camp Magruder 1/10-16

It's been rainy nearly every day out here on the coast this week. It's been hardly more than a drizzle, but steady enough that you're not going out looking for outdoor tasks. This weather has kept the skies gray most of the week and the nights still come pretty early. Still, as we begin a new year and make plans for it, we are reminded that it won't stay this way. We'll be treated to plenty of blue skies, plenty of warm, dry days.

We hosted our first group of the year last weekend, the Beaverton High School Choir. On Sunday morning, we bid them farewell. It felt good to shake the rust off and interact with a guest group. The camp life can be feast or famine when it comes to human interaction. During the summer we are inundated with human contact, during the winter we are starved of it. There is so much joy waiting to be claimed just by welcoming people to a safe, warm place, to invite them into buildings, to share food, to join in a community. Teenagers like this are so primed to join in something like this. Even moments spent on mundane tasks like washing dishes turns into these moments of sharing and growing. I've seen as much personal growth around a sink sometimes as I have an altar.

The ocean latest reshaping job of the beach has left us with about a 7 foot drop our wooded area down to the beach. At the places where the access trail opens up to the beach, about a month ago you would have climbed a hill of sand to get to the beach. Now you have to step down. Large driftwood pieces are exposed that I suspect spend most of their time under sand. They extend under the shore pines that keep the sand intact at the back of the beach. If those shore pines were not there, much more sand would have been washed away. Who knows what all is buried under these layers of sand? When they excavated for the Camp Magruder basketball courts, much farther in from the beach, they found the remains of a ship wreck. Who knows what is just beneath us? Who knows what we'll unearth with this next act in these next moments?

The maintenance crew has been working to improve the Atwood Bathouse before retreat season kicks into full swing. They will be adding shower stalls, which are sorely needed for this building that serves many guests when the camp is full. It is an awesome thing to witness, when a group of people with the right skills can take a building in one moment that has X number of showers and through the right work and the right know-how turn it into a building with Y number of showers. That's impressive enough, but it's also awesome to see how this will effect the guests. How now that more people can shower, how there will be more time for other things, how groups will have an opportunity to accomplish more of their program or more time to grow closer. We can not imagine all the ways a gesture can reverberate into other things.

In the office, we've also been prepping for the days to come. There's been a lot of end-of-the-old-year/beginning-of-the-new-year financial paperwork that has to be competed and logged. We are making preparations for all the guests who will visit in 2016 and what their needs will be, trying to be sure we accommodation them well. I am searching for the deans, summer staff applicants, and nurses who will be the backbone of our summer programs. Each time I send an email, a facebook message, leave a voice mail, I wonder if this might be a person I spend a week or even a summer with, doing this work, meeting these guests and sharing this community. Could this person be one I get to share a life-changing experience with down the road? What will this message or that phone call bring? None of us can be sure until the time washes over and reveals what is underneath.