The imminent arrival of Fall is becoming clearer and clearer as the days advance. Fall is sneaking in slowly in beats and ticks. We still have long stretches of sunshine. The rain is not constant yet. But, there are more and more days where I don’t have to shed my long sleeves. It’s a slight cool down, but it has begun. Labor Day is yet another announcement that it is time to say our goodbyes to summer and get ready for this new guest in our home.
The busiest days of camp are also slowing as well. We will continue to have guests all the way into Thanksgiving, but the programs we are needed to tend into the evenings are almost all finished. This means the last of our summer staff will soon be going, and we’ll transition into hosting, networking, and planning. We’ll get more on the work of sprucing this place up in each of our ways, repairing the wear on the camp and our bodies from this extended use.
We had a couple of days at the camp with no groups here, and we took that as a sign that we should also not be a group at camp. When you get into a mode of working non-stop, your body develops the ability to take it on. You have fairly constant flowing energy. Your body prepares itself to jump from one task to the next one with no down time. When you get out of this pattern, the body takes a little time to readjust. When you stop, your body feels the need to do something else immediately, even if you have nothing to do or nothing you want to do. You want to slow down, watch a sunset, look back on what you’ve been doing and appreciate it. Your body is saying, “no, no, no. No time, there must be something. Keep looking. Can we pick up some trash? Can we go check on someone? Surely something must be fixed. Don’t stop. We only do that when it is absolutely bedtime.”
Oneonta Gorge is the perfect remedy to throw the body out of this routine. On Monday, Allyson, Hope, and I ventured east, through Portland on to the Columbia River Gorge. I’m sure my favorite outdoor settings in Oregon will fluctuate like the seasons as I live here, but the Gorge is my current favorite. The higher, mountainous ground of Oregon that leads up to Mount Hood gives way at the massive Columbia River very quickly, resulting in a beautiful waterfall about every 500 yards along with these massive rock faces covered in moss, ferns, and giant evergreen trees. It hardly seems real it is all so beautiful, and Oneonta Gorge is a whole other world in the middle of this other-worldly setting.
We stepped off Historic Highway 30 right up to a trail is basically a wide creek bed running between two sheer rock faces a few hundred feet tall. The walk is less than a mile, but it felt like we were leaving many things behind with each step forward. We climbed over giant fallen trees, stacked up by some heavy water flow from some past rain events. When the walls closed near each other, the water got deeper and took up all of the opening, and we were
forced to wade, sometimes up above our waist. The water was very cold, but it felt like a tonic, shocking you into knowing exactly where you are, telling you to pay attention to this world, this world that surrounds your body. At the end, there is a hundred foot tall waterfall and pool full of cold water beckoning you to come in, even though you know it will be so cold you can barely stand it.
There is only one week before the last of our summer staff ships off, and we’ve had more of a chance to slow down. There’s more time to prepare for the work ahead and maintain the place with more care. We’ve gotten to enjoy each other’s company more and reflect on all sorts of aspects of our summer. It’s nice to close things out taking deep breaths, looking around and taking it all in. There are some times you want to end your time in something pushing yourself, exerting every last bit of energy, leaving it all on the field. There are other times you want to finish quiet, watching it all transpire, absorbing every ounce you can.
We played a kick ball game this weekend with our Labor Day Family Camp. We were able to put a good bit of time and planning into the whole thing, and I think we felt the rewards. The staff constructed a scoreboard. We had cheerleaders dressed to the parts. We had a sound system that played the national anthem and walk up music for our kickers. I remember standing behind second base, serving as umpire watching these campers from elementary ages to adults in their 50s playing together out on Marvel Field as the sun sat. I looked over and saw our staff, Allyson, and Kara cheering. The other adults sat in their lawn chairs laughing, enjoying the show. I think this is a moment I’ll go back to when I think of this summer. It’ll be one of those moments that we got right, a time everything seemed safe and contained among us in this world that can be so chaotic.
When Allyson, Hope, and I waded into the pool under the waterfall at Oneonta Gorge, we breathed out like we were doing Lamaze training. The cold inched up our bodies and just kept surprising us every new part it touched. The water was so cold we got out and did jumping jacks to warm up. Then we got back in again. It felt like we should spend more time in something like this. We took pictures for couples who came behind us. Just before turning back, we got in one more time. My skin was burning when I came out. Hope couldn’t feel her big toe. We felt so freaking alive, though. All we could talk about was how awesome it was. I kept pressing my hands and face close to the rocks, breathing in the smells, looking up those tall, green cliff faces.
There is so much beauty around us in the midst of the hectic running, the pain, the conflict we find so much in our lives. I want to deal with the hectic, I want to soothe the pain, I want to confront the conflict and work for new understandings. It is easy for the hectic to just turn into work, though, work void of spirit. Sometimes we have to wade into cold water and be shocked by something that feels even realer than us.
In the middle of the week, there was light rain on the east end of camp, just over the lake. We looked out the windows of the dining hall and could see sunlight too, and we knew we’d find a rainbow. We saw it just above the lake, then saw the other end of it on the other side of the lake. It felt like the rainbow had chosen us especially, come a little closer to the ground than normal. We called others to the window to point it out. There have been times this summer I got caught so much in a body rhythm that I couldn’t connect with stuff like this. I’d see it, but that would be it, just see it. Not this time, though.