Friday, January 26, 2018

January 22-26, 2018: Staff Retreat at Suttle Lake

On Monday morning, the Camp Magruder staff packed the camp vehicle full of sleeping bags, suitcases, pillows, and snow boots, and we left the rainy Oregon coast to head for our sister camp, Suttle Lake.  Suttle Lake is located outside of Sisters, Oregon, and we arrived shortly before dinner served to us by Able, Suttle Lake's head chef and our host for the week.  I was excited for the meals Able would treat us to because his food never disappoints, and sometimes he'll spoil me with his delicious brownies.  Monday night, he spoiled us all with warm chowder and brownies.

Troy planned the staff retreat as a way for us to start the year together by centering ourselves on our mission.  For our first session Monday night, Troy shared with us a devotion that reminded us why we were there.  He wrote, "This week, we want to try to experience what our guests experience when they visit us. Work to quiet yourself to not think of what’s going on outside. When you have a moment to relax, to explore, to be still, give yourself permission. Listen. See if you hear something that brings you peace or joy. Live with everyone during this week. As we live in close quarters, eat together, spend a lot of time together, pay attention to the benefits of living in community. Think of how we can better create an environment for our guests to do this."

It was hard for many of us to leave behind our work at camp.  I'm in the middle of organizing summer schedules and hiring summer staff.  Rik, the head of our maintenance team, is knee-deep in projects that can only be done in the winter season, when we have fewer guests.  Angie, our bookkeeper, stays busy.  Despite camp being a place where we hope to provide space for others to retreat and to rest; it can be hard for all of us to also give ourselves that permission and that time, too.

Able met us after breakfast Tuesday morning to give us a tour of Suttle Lake.  The Camp Magruder staff, as Oregon coasters that we are, bundled up in several layers and our snow boots to hike around camp while a light snow fell.  Able met us wearing a sweatshirt and shorts and showed us around Pioneer Lodge and the bunk cabins first, then the challenge course.  Angie spotted a trail that led us up a ridge and looped around through the forest to the other side of camp.  Her adventurous side spurred us all to want to see the loop to its end.  Rik made us laugh by poking fun at each of us, like he usually does, and stopping to hug a tree.

On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to lead the staff in some team building exercises.  I'm familiar with leading youth and guests in team building initiatives, but I was nervous to lead these very same activities for people who I worked with.  But I explained to them about comfort zones and our goals for leading groups through these activities, and we even tried a few initiatives.  In one initiative, Leslie, our head of Housekeeping, put on a blindfold while Rik lead her through a maze we'd made for her.  At the end of the initiative, I saw something in Leslie's eyes that I'd seen before in many campers'.  We talked about a sense of a trust that was beginning to build, and Leslie talked about how letting go of control and allowing Rik to help her lifted a weight off her chest.

On Wednesday evening, our last evening, we all went out together to explore Bend, which a few of us hadn't been to.  We cruised through little boutiques and antique stores.  Rik and I looked at the wall hangings and furniture and imagined new projects we could make inspired by different home decorations in each store.  Leslie bought a scarf to keep warm.  We all took turns making Aura, Allyson and Troy's little one,  giggle as we browsed.  At the end of the evening, we joined together to eat at Deschutes Brewery, where Able had referred us to try the pretzels as appetizers.

Looking around the table, I felt a great sense of warmth to share a meal with these people.  This job is still new to me, but I was reminded in that moment how each person around the table has taken special care to welcome me to Camp Magruder, to make me feel a part of the family.  The week gave me a new awareness of that family and the care we have for one another and the work we share. 

It's easy to forget to pause and allow ourselves to rest and to refresh.  It's hard to realize how badly we need that and how that can help us do the work we have.  And sometimes, the best thing we can do is to remember why we do the work we do: to provide a space for guests to form sacred communities, to live beside each other, to sleep, to eat, to learn, and to recalibrate.

Thanks to the Suttle Lake staff, we were able to do that this week, to see ourselves as guests and to benefit from the work we are trying to provide for others.  It was a great reminder for me of many of those things that make camp so important.  Trust, community, family, rest, sacred space.  I'm thankful for that time, and I hope you get a chance to share that with us, too, and sometime soon.

This weekend we welcome Open Meadow's Girls Retreat, OSU's Social Justice and Multiracial Akido Retreat, and Rana DeBey.