As my former home dealt with arctic blasts of air and ice storms by the end of the week, I experienced paradise-like conditions on the Oregon coast. It has been predominantly sunny here with temperatures ranging between 60 and 70. I’m told this is fairly uncharacteristic for the season–it’s normally cooler and raining. While I trust that (I remember last week), this week has drawn me in some very magnetic ways to this new life. Giant life changes can be this roller coaster of excitement and doubt, especially when one is trying to learn the ropes and feel like a contributing member. This week, I’ve found myself in the high points, looking out over everything and thrilled.
I’ve started getting my office in order, taking out all the things that have piled up over the years that aren’t really necessary. There were VHS tapes along with a VCR, lots and lots of books, lots of supplies that could come in very handy one day out of the year and take up space the other 364. I’ve developed a philosophy for an office that it should be much more a comfortable place to work and retire to than it should be a storehouse of everything an employee might ever need. I overhauled my Lakeshore office a few years before I left–took out a bunch of stuff I hadn’t used in years, got rid of clunky furniture and equipment, moved in a carpet and tried to make it a place I would want to go to. It became more than just a place I did my work. It was a sort of sanctuary. This is how I wanted to start out with my Camp Magruder office. So a bunch of stuff got set outside the door.
I’ve been walking the camp a lot, trying to get to know it, to learn the names of all the buildings and know the quickest routes to take to get from Point A to Point B. Early on, I found myself not feeling very much walking around the camp. It was a curious feeling. I want to have that comfortable knowledge of the place someday like I did at Lakeshore–having memories and associations with nearly every square inch of property, but still being able to see it as something new too. I know that will take some time. I found it curious, though, that I wasn’t even getting that feeling I get when I visit other camps–a feeling that I’m a new camper at a place, and excited exploration of a place. It was this limbo where I was just looking at cool stuff, but with an emotional distance that I didn’t understand.
About mid-way through the week I got an email from my good friend Randall. It was an encouraging message with his version of how to get acquainted with the camp. He said stuff like:
…you should sleep in a cabin, so you know what makes noises, what it smells like. Then you should get up too early and go to the cafeteria and eat breakfast. Go to the rec area and spend an hour. Have lunch in a way kids will have lunch. go change and paddle a canoe around. know how long it takes to go from lunch to the cabins to the lake. Spend time in the places they’ll spend time. in their
conference center sunroom- see how distracted you can get. don’t think about how youll use the space yourself, leading, imagine following. Figure out places you’d take Allyson to make out. pick the spots younger you’d sit out of things that weren’t basketball.
I really needed to hear that. I was trying to skip a few steps in getting to know a camp. I totally need to be looking at it from a director’s perspective, but like everything else in life, it’s easy to get caught up in responsibilities and obligations and lose the basic senses of awe that come to us so much easier as kids in a place. After hearing that, things got much better.
I’ve been incredibly drawn to the ocean this week. Every day I’ve gone out to it at least once, and many days multiple times. I’ve caught it at low and high tide, at midday, sunset, and under starlight. I’ve seen it under gray mist and under bright sun with a brilliant blue. The ocean has taken on such a personality to me. There is so much to learn about it, from this little piece of shore. I don’t really fashion myself as a beach person, I probably lean slightly more towards mountains. But, this week, with each slight weather change, I wonder what it will do to the color of the water. I wonder where the tide will be. I look forward to knowing this giant thing more deeply. I guess it’s one of my great longings– to sit next to the giant things of our universe, explore those depths.
We had our first group this weekend, and I could feel myself becoming more comfortable, making my way through a room, welcoming people, making conversation over meals, hearing a few of the stories of this place. I think about this social experiment I often like to play. I’ll sit down somewhere and see who sits with me, see who needs to talk or wants to offer me company. I see what kinds of conversations may come up. I also like to walk up near people and see if they talk to me or if I find something to make conversation about. This often seems a little creepy in the real world, but at camp, it normally seems pretty natural. It is easy to get yourself into a meaningful conversation with someone if you’re both in a comfortable place.
In these days, as I’m still unpacking from the move, still unloading all my ideas for work here, still getting a feel for everything around me, I’m realizing the spaces that slow everything down for me, those places that take the 1,000s of things that will need to get done in my first year and parcel them out into bite sized chunks. I’ve felt it, sitting crossed legged on a piece of driftwood on a dune overlooking the biggest piece on water on our planet that laps up just outside my house. I’ve found it in a vesper ring, hidden under giant, green elder trees next to the lake. I find it when I breathe in that air mixed with salt and spruce sap and sweet grass. There is a lot to learn and work that must be done. As I walk the paths and look way up into the tops of the trees, I kid seeing a tall tree for the first time. But, I also feel like a caretaker, a steward, a guide who, if he’s doing his job right, will help other people see those treetops and have a feeling very similar.