Monday, March 27, 2017

The News from Magruder, March 19-25

The rain is slowly letting off at Camp Magruder, and we are beginning to have more days where we aren't totally inundated with water. This is not to say that every day is dry and sunny. Even now, most days rain still manages to fall at some point. But, we are seeing glimpses of the blue sky. Our skin has even seen sunshine here and there. It has been a very rainy winter on the coast, and a string of sunny days sounds like almost too much to ask for. We are seeing hints that it may return, though.

This week was a split week for Outdoor School. On these particular weeks, one school group comes in at the beginning of the week, leaves on Wednesday, and another group comes in on its heels to finish out the week. It adds an extra day to ODS's typical weekly schedule, and presents some logistical challenges on that Wednesday where one group is coming in and one is leaving.

Imagine the feat it is for these staffers to finish up with a group and take care of all that you do the last day of camp. Cleaning the cabins, packing, eating the last lunch, wrapping up your sessions, saying goodbye to everyone, putting a ribbon on those meaningful relationships that were established in those three days. Now imagine as you are doing all that, also managing to do all the things you do as you welcome in a new group. Helping them get off the bus and find their way in a new place, giving introductions and introducing the staff, eating the first meal (right after the other group ate their last), teaching them songs, learning their names. Think of the emotional transitions for staff members that has to happen in quick succession. They do this and do it well, but it is an impressive undertaking.

I think about how this is the life of a healthy camp. You welcome the stranger, and the stranger leaves a little bit more a friend. This is powerful and life-changing work on both sides. It has an impact on us. A good retreat experience can stay with us for weeks, months, years. But when you work at a camp, it's important to be able to put feelings and experiences on their proper shelves, so you can go back to them later. It won't be long before you will need to be totally present for the next group. In a world that puts so much value on multi-tasking, camp sometimes requires a good organized shelf where we quickly switch from one item to the other.

Towards the end of the week, we were also joined by a Church of God Men's Retreat. We hosted participants from all over the country, who gathered on the Oregon Coast for a time of fellowship and worship together. This group along with our outdoor school group presented more logistical challenges, mainly in the realm of dining. This is also a big part of camp life. On the surface, what is often seen is the relationships, the care for the buildings and grounds, the way we try to make it nice to the eyes and comfortable for the guest. The underground work is the scheduling, the coordinating among staff people, the meetings just to figure out how to hold people in the same place at once.

This week we hosted meals in the upstairs of Carrier Dining for outdoor school, and the Men's group in downstairs Chappell Hall. That seems straightforward enough, but that means the meal must be split in the kitchen and carried to two different locations. Kitchen staff must haul food, plates, cups, utensils downstairs. We need two KP crews. When the meal downstairs is finished, all the dishes must be brought back upstairs to be washed, then back down for the next meal. We have to coordinate this to try to avoid a traffic jam between the groups at the dishwasher. The kitchen staff must be on the same page. All this must be figured out before the groups get there to eat.

We spent a lot of time over the past few weeks, and even months, planning for these events, knowing that having two large groups like this together could be uncomfortable if we hadn't prepared for it properly. At the end of the week, most of the work done, it was a nice release to stand at the serving line with Big Mike watching our guests enjoy their meal. Our work at this point was just to watch the food and make sure the serving dishes were refilled it needed. The tough stuff was finished. We talked about how smooth things had gone, we talked about some of the characters in this group and what a hoot they were. Every now and then, I'd grab an egg roll or piece of curry pork and snack as we saw the fruits of our labors and just took a moment to enjoy life.

At the end of the day, it is a beautiful thing to see these processes go smoothly. We don't always get them perfect, but it feels like such and accomplishment for multiple groups to get their meals, to talk about how tasty the food was, to have a few moments just to greet people and ask how their day has been. It's also a pleasure to work with people committed to these types of challenges. When you get home at night, you are tired, but it is a good kind of tired, a warm kind of tired. You leave with a good feeling deep down, because you did something that could leave an impact on other people, and it has also left an impact on you.

Friday, March 17, 2017

The News from Magruder, March 12-18

We've seen signs this week that Spring is coming soon at Camp Magruder. Coming off the Daylight Savings time change, it has been very enjoyable to have so much daylight left at the end of the work day. There is a crisp feeling of life when you step outside the office door into light, knowing you have a little bit of freedom to go out and enjoy it. We have seen a few beautiful sunny days this week, reminding us of July and August when nearly every day will be sky blue and crisp. Spring likes to mix it up--a few parts Winter, a few parts Summer.

Last week we welcomed NWRESD Outdoor School Staff for their orientation. We saw several familiar faces and several new ones. This crew will become part of the Magruder staff family during their 13 week stay. They will depart just before our Summer Staff comes in. They will teach lessons to middle schoolers for weeks and weeks, right here on the coast.

This week, the first round of students arrived. We saw the big, long yellow buses arrive, a familiar, nostalgic sight to all of us. The staff stood out in the north ball field, cheering ready to welcome the students the moment they got off the bus. This group does a great job in that regard, making they students feel valued and welcomed. It's something that's important to us at Magruder, and it's wonderful to see other groups sharing those values in our space.

The day before students arrived, a group of high school counselors showed up to prep and train for the week. It was a beautiful day, with stretches of sunshine. It was a great day to be outside on the coast. It's days like these you imagine leading a group of kids into the woods to look for plants and animals, to discover all the amazing things just under our nose. You imagine yourself kneeling next to some great discovery with wide-eyed students falling in love with the world.

Of course, by the time the students arrived on Monday, the weather had totally flipped. It was chilly, rainy, and windy. So, those idealized images of lessons in pristine weather were chucked out the window for rain jackets, galoshes, and wet socks. Still the lessons must go on, and honestly there are times when less than perfect weather can make a memory more memorable.

The rain has also slowed progress on some essential maintenance projects that we just need a string of dry days to get going on. Over the next year we hope to replace roofs on three buildings: Walworth, Gatehouse, and Bunch. We're starting with Walworth, and we've even got the supplies delivered and sitting on top of the building. We just need five straight dry days for the roofers to get going. Based on recent history, that seems almost impossible. I have a hard time thinking of two dry days in a row in recent months, much less five. Spring is not a season of consistency.

Spring is a season of beauty, though. We are beginning to see early blooms open up around camp, and we know more are coming. Thursday I took a phone call out on the secret dock near the north ballfield. The sky was blue with cottony white clouds. The sun was warm on my face, I could feel color coming back to it after a long winter. As I continued my phone call, I walked on the dock and watched water come through the spaces between planks as weight shifted from one end to the other. I heard eagles call and looked in the sky to see a pair flying just north of camp, criss-crossing in the air. I thought about all the days I've spent standing on a dock on Smith Lake, blue above and below me. More of this is coming.

Yes, spring is at our doorstep, with it's unpredictable beauty. We can never really be sure what is in store for us. There are days we'll get it right and days we will be sorely wrong. This is also life, though. We can't get too caught up in our idealized versions of how each day should go. We might miss something even greater preparing to present itself.

This weekend Cedar Mill Bible Church is bringing a group of youth to spend a few days with us. Hold them and their time with us in your prayers.

Friday, March 3, 2017

The News from Magruder February 26 - March 4

The Spring is toying with our emotions at Camp Magruder. Though we're still technically in winter, we see days here and there that fool us into thinking we're farther along in the seasonal calendar than
we really are. Early in the week, we had several stretches of beautiful sunshine--the sort of sunshine that dries off all the pavements and glimmers the the spruce needles.

For morning prayers on Tuesday it was just too nice a day to stay inside. Angie, Hope, and I went out to the bridge over Smith Lake on the Wetlands Trail to do our daily prayers. As we shared our joys and concerns for the day, a cool breeze came off the lake as ducks regained their comfort zones after fleeing when we entered. The sky was blue and so was the lake. The wind made the water lap up against the shore and the piers of the bridge. It was a great time to breathe in the scenery and let God speak to us just through being in creation.

On another morning, I went to the beach before going into the office. I was out with my terrier, Digby. Just after emerging onto the beach I saw a bald eagle perched on a large stump just about 100 feet way. I grabbed up the dog, so he didn't become an eagle treat, and then tried to figure out what I should do next. I wanted to pause time and watch this magnificent animal who I had just by some coincidence crossed paths with. This is one of those amazing things about living on the Oregon Coast. If you make time to be outside long enough, and you pay attention while you're out there, you will find yourself having encounters like these regularly. Even so, it feels like a blessing, like fortune has smiled on me. I wonder if Digby felt the same way.

On Ash Wednesday we entered the Lenten season, which for many can seem like a very gloom and doom meditation 40 days long. Many see it as a time where you have to give something up, so it becomes a weight loss or quit smoking plan. It may be a time for people to put change in a jar and give it to a charity. That basically boils it down to a time that we do the things we've been putting off, but really think we should do. I like to think there is more being asked of us during the time than just to prove to ourselves we can go without chocolate, though. I think Lent is a time that asks us to get in touch with the reality of our weakness. To sit down and ponder the idea that we are not perfect and we do not have the control we often tell ourselves we have. Understanding that and grasping that leaves room for love to enter. It is comforting. It is hopeful. In this time, we can become more aware of God's presence and how God works through all the things that surround us and sustain us, even in our weak days.

I feel as if many of us have been dragging ourselves through difficult, weak periods. We've been exhausted by it. Scared by it, Angered by it. Knocked down by it. I think Lent offers us a chance to really ponder it, though. To not power through it or put it off, because there's too much going on. It invites us to sit on the floor and cry and understand it is a part of us. It compels us search for relief, to call out for some sort of hope. As we sit there on the floor in our fear and weakness, there is enough time to listen closely, to hear the whispers that we often rush past unaware. There are many things out there, many blessings there to sooth us in our weakness.

This is the last full week without guests we will see for some time. Outdoor School staff will join us next week and the week after we will begin to see the middle school students. From there we'll go right from Outdoor School to the summer. After the summer we'll welcome Outdoor School again until November. Our work will pick up and there will be less time to ponder, less time to prep. Still it is important for all of us to remind ourselves there is time to be silent. Time to really look at
ourselves, to be real with ourselves. Time to sit with our weakness and through it see how many blessings truly are out there surrounding us.

This weekend we welcome the Aphasia Network and Dancemode Women's Retreat. Join us in prayers that these groups find a multitude of blessings during their time.