This week saw more warm temperatures with sunny skies, the usual for this summer. As the week closed out, though, smoked crept into the sky from fires downwind. The adverse effects of this dryness that have kept fires going in eastern and southern Oregon became eerily evident in the sky, creating a filter over the sun. We’ve heard the news reports and wondered how close it would get to us. The county put a ban on all outdoor burning, and we wonder if we might see fires in our future.
I took two days off to begin the week because I had gone more than a couple of weeks without a free day. This camp work is very important to me, I’m beginning something new and learning a lot, so there is much to be done. Still, we aren’t fighting fires or delivering life saving medicine. There are many people here who love this work and are good at it too. We can find a way for all of us to get the rest we need. The rest we need to come back happy to do our work instead of numb to it. This is important to me. It is this idea of Sabbath that so many people seem to have forgotten, especially those who do ministry.
I am looking for ways that we can take part in this in such a way that we don’t always feel pressed and exhausted from the things we love. I know this just happens sometimes. There are nights you will stay up late with sick children. There are days you will spend the whole time in the kitchen because there are a lot of dishes to be washed. But, there are so many of us, so many searching for meaning and purpose, looking to do something that matters. We need to get good at knowing when to share the load and knowing what is important.
Our good friend Jonathan led a camp last week and he stuck around several days after to take advantage of cheaper weekday flights and to spend some time with Allyson and I. One afternoon, Jonathan and I scaled Neahkanie Mountain on a clear day. I love hikes with friends. It’s physical, you see awesome, outdoor sites, but you spend a fair portion of your time in deep conversation. There’s something about walking that lends itself to good talks. We talked about our work recently, our joys and frustrations with the church, and about how much we love camp. These are talks Jonathan and I used to have frequently when we both worked at Lakeshore–he would ask if we could get together on the weekend and we’d talk work and life. Along the way, there would be a pause in the conversation as we approached an opening in the treeline, where we could see for miles over the Nehalem Bay. We’d stand there quiet for a moment, then turn to walk, continuing where we had left off.
I’m tired of feeling behind. Even now, I’m writing this blog almost a week after it happened. I want to write these posts on Friday or Saturday of each week. Several times I’ve pushed the posts days and weeks later. I haven’t written anything beyond my weekly posts, haven’t sent anything out for publication. This is the nature of summer camp, you get engrossed in it. It needs you, and you come to need it. The more you give, the more you see benefits. It’s a great feeling. But, if you aren’t careful, you can hog it all. I’ve learned you must be teaching too, you must be inviting people into the work. This is how it grows, this is how you avoid exhaustion.
Two of our summer staff left at the end of the week. We did a closing worship for them, where Hope and I recalled many moments from our summer. We had them prayerfully remember different ways they felt, ways they want to be. We constructed an altar with objects commonly found this summer like sand, ocean water, salal berries, spruce branches, and a walkie talkie. We talked about how the act of remembering is a holy thing and how it should make us want to be different. We did all this in the Carrier Dining Hall. The acoustics were beautiful, little echoes of our songs bouncing from the walls and ceilings.
Rikki found me on the docks putting boats into the water and taking them out. She gave me a big, long hug. She would start work with college peer mentor training the next day. Savanah left a day later right after breakfast. I hugged her and watched her leave the dining hall. We had spent the last few months seeing each other nearly every day, hoping we might be able, together, to do the work of this place. We’ll be unpacking what this summer means to us for many weeks and months to come.
I’ve heard stories of the Oregon fires nearly every time I turn on public radio. I think a lot about our sister camps, about the lack of rain in a place that is known for rain. I think about the habits I’ve been a part of that may have brought on these climate changes that have increased the fires out West. Then, I think about how fire is also this cleansing force in nature that native people used regularly. Just to the east of us a terrible set of fires burned over 350,000 acres around the time Camp Magruder was being founded. It took the largest reforestation effort in history to bring the forest back. All of this swirls around in my head, looking at these beautiful sunsets brought on by a thin layer of smoke blown south from some minor fires in the region. I wonder what it asks of me, what my place should be in this.
When Jonathan and I topped Neahkanie, I lost my breath for a minute. Climbing the rocks that form the last 30-40 feet of the summit, I got this weak feeling in my legs for a minute looking at the drop-down. We could see the Pacific Ocean to the farthest reaches of the horizon. There were mountains, towns, beaches, and we could take it all in. There are these moments on the journey–even the difficult journey–that you experience this great satisfaction with just being alive. I really hope what I do with this life adds up to something good. So many of these things I’m spending my days with sure seem to deserve that.