Friday, April 21, 2017

The News from Magruder April 16-22

Spring continues to toy with our emotions out at Camp Magruder. On several days this week, we had the types of beautiful days that are legendary on the Oregon Coast. Crisp blue skies that make you feel like you have some sort of special glasses making everything high definition. Whales have been spotted near the jetty the past few days. Life is waking up at camp. Then, there are still days of rain and wind that seem to come out of nowhere, drenching the ground and our socks. Our roof project continues to be postponed, because we can't string together enough dry days to get the roofers out here. 

The week started off on Easter Sunday. Magruder has hosted a sunrise service for the local communities for many years. This year we moved it from Carrier dining hall to Sherlock Lodge. Anytime you make a change with something that is a long-standing tradition there are many potential pitfalls. People may end up at the wrong place, because it's so routine to go to the old place. People may miss the old place because there is a special attachment with it. There are routines built into the old place that may not transfer to the new one. It is a scary thing to try something new. Still, Sherlock made much more sense for us this particular year, and so it was moved. 

While I was traveling between lodges to get supplies before the service, I encountered two ducks who have been spending a lot of time on Smith Lake the past few weeks. They were in the gravel lot near Carrier, and they quacked around until I got too close for their comfort, and they retreated through the air back to safer waters. I thought about how very soon they would have several little balls of fluff following them around over land and water. I thought about how life is returning to this place in nearly all its forms and how that is such a perfect setting to reflect on Easter. 

As the service began, I looked around at this community of people who had woke before dawn to participate in this ritual, how I'm growing to know many of them and share faith with them. I looked over at my wife who also worked early and helped me transport pastries and coffee to Sherlock. I thought about how this feeling could come about anywhere--in Carrier, Sherlock, on the porch outside, on the beach in the rain. The power of that time spent really has more to do with the way we fill the space than the actual space involved. Those spaces that means so much to us, mean that because of how we fill them. 

This week we welcomed St. Pius X Catholic school, and they have the special distinction of being the first group to do boating at Magruder this year. To prep for them, I woke our fleet of row boat from their winter hibernation, flipped over on the side of the swim area. These boats are heavy and sturdy, and it takes the correct lifting techniques to avoid dropping one on an important appendage or finishing out the day with major back pain. I turned #2 and #5 over, scooted them into the lake, and attached the oars. It began to drizzle, then rain harder, but this had an incredible calming affect on the lake water itself. I sat in the center and began the familiar motions rocking forward and backwards, taking the boats over to their slips at the boat dock. This seemed almost like something sacred, something holy. 

Boating didn't happen that day. The moment the rain stopped, wind began to rush in making the water way too choppy for a bunch of middle schoolers with minimal boating experience to navigate the lake. The next day we tried it again, and this time we were successful. It continued to rain, which again had a calming effect on the lake. I was soaked by the end of the morning. My toes and fingers felt icy. But, I had done some true camp work. The work of getting outside and having an adventure, even if the conditions weren't perfect. The work of exposing people to something new, something maybe out of their comfort zone. The work of playing in a way that soothes and heals. Even if the weather was going to continue to toy with us, even if the conditions are not the way we idealize them in our minds when we imagine a boating period, the most important thing was the way we filled the space on that particular day. 

This weekend we welcome Cornerstone Church High School Retreat and First Unitarian Church of Portland Men's Retreat. We pray that they are able to fill the space with something life-changing regardless of what the Spring weather decides to give us. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Camp Magruder Welcomes new Executive Chef

Camp Magruder is excited to announce our new Executive Chef, Nick Atkins. His influence will continue Magruder’s proud reputation for serving tasty food made from quality ingredients with special attention to locally sourced. Nick began work with Magruder the beginning of March, and our guests and staff have already enjoyed many wonderful meals prepared under his guidance.

Nick is Oregon born and raised but has traveled all over the world, spending years in Hawaii, New Zealand, British Columbia, Mexico, Greece, and also Paris, France where he studied at the Conrad Hilton. He came to Magruder from Seattle, where we worked in the restaurant industry. Nick began looking for ways to get out of the city and make a bigger difference in the world and it landed him with us. He also loves ocean swimming and diving, sailing and windboarding, and tai chi to start his mornings.

Nick brings a warm spirit and his kind grin to life at camp. We are excited about the ways his presence and work will help us further our mission of providing Christian hospitality to every camper and guest group who visits, not to mention the good it will do for our taste buds and stomachs. 

Friday, April 7, 2017

The News from Magruder April 2-7

It has felt quintessentially Spring out at the coast this week. Our unpredictable seasonal visitor has toyed with our emotions all week long. We have stretches of sunshine and warmth, followed by downpours. One part of the day, you stare out your window wishing to go outside, hoping some task will come up to draw you out. The next part of the day, you stare out your window at the miserable conditions, hoping that nothing pulls you outside into it. On Friday, we've had high winds and periods of rain. Both the rain and the trees are being tossed in strange directions by 40 mile per hour winds.

Outdoor school returned from Spring Break this week, and we welcomed a middle school group from a school in Hillsboro. On Monday, I crossed paths with a few Outdoor School staff members prepping for their high school counselors. We walked towards the dining hall together discussing the previous week. One staff member had gone to Crater Lake during her time off. She showed me a picture of herself standing in front of a 20 ft. snow drift. She said they didn't get to do all that much, but they pretty well had the place to themselves.

I enjoy the possibilities that await in a simple stroll from the office to the dining hall. On mornings like this, I make a hot cup of tea and walk around, observing and interacting with camp life. You might have a solitary walk, spent listening to the birds, looking up into the trees. You pay attention to the breeze, to how loud the ocean is on this particular day. You might encounter kids making their way to their next activity, wrapped up in their conversations, their songs, their games, their growing up. You might find another solitary walker and join up, beginning a quick conversation to pass the time from point A to point B. All are potentially a prominent memory from the day. All could wake you up to the huge variety of ways to appreciate working at a camp.

The next step this week in prepping for roof work on the Walworth Building was to move the old bell. The bell has been decommissioned as an emergency bell when Carrier Dining Hall got an alarm on its roof. The pull rope for the bell rotted several years ago, so it wasn't even usable in its current state. The bell was located very close to a power line, so Rik had to call the utility company to shut down the lines and bring it down. This old, heavy cast iron bell slowly came down. It was originally in a bell tower at Camp Magruder, which stood close to the Miller Cottage where there's now parking for the dining hall. The tower housed the camp office for a time. It was later moved to Walworth. Rik and I gave it a good look. Both our minds were turning over the places we might put it next, the new role it might serve when we wake it up to use it once again.

This week the camp directors of the Oregon-Idaho Conference of the Methodist Church held their meeting at Camp Magruder. In all, there are 6 camp site with directors, and a gathering like this can be a great uplift for camp staff. There is something about sitting at the table with people who do the same work. There's the common knowledge, knowing someone gets what you're going through. There's the stories that everyone easily relates to, that we can laugh at or feel the weight of. Then, there's that chance to help each other, to share our successes and challenges, to pass along little tricks we've picked up, to collectively work on solutions. And then, there is just the chance to let loose a little and play with the people who share our passions.

Late Tuesday night the directors stayed up in the Edwards Lodge playing board games, swapping stories. There were lots of laughs, lots of friendly teasing and joking. In managerial positions, we often find ourselves stuck in this constant need to be serious, to take things seriously. We should be serious about our work--it's a sign we care about it. But, one of the foundations of any successful camp is fun, and I would imagine most of us fell in love with camp in a time when we were having a whole lot of fun. As I looked across the room and watched this group of people who manage these big budgets and thousands of retreat guests, who are steering these ships that are so important to so many people, it was comforting to know we are still laughing and allowing ourselves to play and engage. It was good to feel that we have not forgotten the grease that keeps these gears turning.

Late Thursday night, the wind began to pick up, and it has continued. The advisory is on until 11pm Friday night. There's also a high surf advisory, and those two forces combined make the Pacific look very formidable to a beach visitor. I'm watching out the window as the trees bob back and forth. The office is making creaking noises as gusts build up. There is motion and power all around us, swirling. Spring is keeping us on our toes. In all the chaos and uncertainty, it is good to get out and walk around, even in the crazy moments. The more I look and listen, the more I find myself connecting with things that give me comfort and ease the anxiety brought on by regular change and uncertainty. So many beautiful things happen on any given day--even just a few tastes of them make for good medicine.

This weekend, we welcome an Adventist Young Adult Retreat and the Cleveland High School Choir. Join us in these feelings of welcome, keep in your prayers that they find joy and rest out here on the coast.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The News from Magruder, March 26 - April 1

It was a Spring Break week on the coast, which may or may not have been on your radar depending on what your line of work is or if you have kids. At Camp Magruder, it meant a break for Outdoor School, who I'm sure enjoyed it after two straight split weeks. Being on the coast, it also meant there were more people in on the weekdays than is normal for this time of the year. When you're out at the grocery or eating dinner at your favorite restaurant and notice it's pretty packed for a Tuesday, you scratch your head for a moment then remember, "Oh, that's right. It's Spring Break."

We opened the week with the honor of hosting a memorial service for Jon Brown, a prominent figure in our community. We had been a regular at Magruder's Easter sunrise services over the years, and his family felt like it would be a fitting place to memorialize him. I did not have the pleasure of meeting Jon before his passing, but it was evident by the numbers who showed up on a Monday afternoon how much his life meant to the Rockaway Beach area. 

The Magruder staff was present to help the family set up and to facilitate parking. I spent most of the time waving vehicles into an organized parking plan. The weather was interesting--one moment it was sunny, the next it drizzled. We rotated through this weather all day, really we rotated through this all week. Once the cars were parked, I snuck into Carrier to see a room packed with a range of ages and backgrounds. People traveled from neighboring states to be here. There were infants and toddlers all the way up to elderly here to pay respects. Jon Brown was a teacher, but it was obvious his influence went well beyond the classroom. The next day, my wife and I were meeting with a local lawyer, and he talked about how he had been at the memorial himself, how next to his parents Jon was one of the biggest influences of his early years. 

I thought about how this place will forever be tied into this story for the people who were touched by Jon Brown's life. How the act of choosing a setting can be sacred and make a place sacred for a huge group of people. Over 300 people joined us on a Monday afternoon in our dining hall that has been on this spot almost as long as it has been called Camp Magruder. I think of how many other stories are tied up in that building, how it has been made sacred over the years for so many people, from young worshipers finding their faith to outdoor school kids discovering a passion for wild things to much more random chance encounters that change someone's life forever. 

Spring Break slowed life down for just a moment at Camp Magruder. Slowing down is crucial to healthy life. We will find ourselves busier and busier as summer approaches and passes. There is much work to be done. We hope that our impact is a lasting one. We hope people are changed a bit when they spend time with us. We hope what they experience furthers the sacredness of this place. It is important to remember, but it is also important to continue to practice to bring a place into something new even as we remember what it has been and what it has done. If that doesn't happen we are doomed to forget it--and we don't want to forget things this holy, this impactful, this important.
Things are becoming new again at Magruder. The flowers are blooming, Green buds are opening up on the bushes. The alders will open their leaves soon and we will be mired in sunshine and greenness. It is Spring Break everyone. We often look at it as a time of rest, of taking a break. But make no mistake there is important work going on even now. the work of appreciating, the work of noticing the beauty surrounding us, the work of remembering those who shaped us, the work of making even ourselves new. The sun is visible more and more each day. Summer is on the way. Let's go out into the open air. Let's hear the ocean. Let's do something wonderful with our moment here. Let's leave this space full of memories that will inspire someone else to call it holy and sacred.

This week, we've had the joy of hosting Brush Prairie Baptist Women's Retreat. They were originally scheduled for the fall weekend when tornadoes hit the coast, so we are happy to finally welcome them back. Keep their time in our prayers.