Precipitation stayed away this week for the most part, but we felt a lot of cool wind along with a back-and-forth rotation of clear skies, then foggy marine layer, then clear again. There were some gorgeous mornings where fog framed the trees and buildings in this beautiful mysterious way. I think we’ll see a gradual fading of summer, as it continues to cool and the rain amps up. Like so much change, it looks like it will be a slow slide from one thing to another. Every now and then, though, there is something swift and abrupt that brings change quickly.
We hit another one of those transitional moving to Oregon milestones this week when Allyson came back with our brand new Oregon license plates. There are so many aspects of your life you have to change when you move, especially when you move to a different region of the country. We are still checking things off our list, and this latest move ensures that we won’t be mistaken as outsiders at least until we get out of the car. The Oregon license plate design is one of my favorites in the country, with purple mountains and a green Douglas Fir in the center. It just screams, “my state is really into the outdoors.” It’s the kind of identification I’m happy to bolt to the front and back of my car.
This week marked the completion of a big transition in the camp calendar. The last of our summer staff had all departed by Saturday night. Departures began with Hope, who had been basically been my right hand over the summer. Allyson and I will both miss her company for a long time to come. She taught Allyson the guitar in a few weeks. She helped me set into place some big plans for camp that I think are beginning to take hold. She is very much a questioner and a seeker. I feel a strong kindred spirit with Hope, like she’s helped all of us be better versions of ourselves and we her.
On her last night with us, we went to the beach to see the sunset–the ritual we’d taken part in so many times over the summer. Brock , a Magruder camp kid, joined us. Hope had helped bring him out of his shell. When he first started living at camp, he spent most of his time on his laptop. Lately, he’s joined us at the sunset each time we go out. It was a windy day, so windy, you could see its motion in the sand and on the shallow stretches of water near the surf. For moments you could see the shape of the wind as it moved over, under, and around us. The sand and water twist and go in and out like an hour glass laid down and flattened. Then it lifts and changes to something new. You must look closely to see the change. It is constantly passing.
I walked out until the incoming surf met my ankles. The sun sat behind the clouds just about the horizon and colors started to splash among the clouds. I looked over at Hope and noticed tears in her eyes. I gave her a strong hug. Brock jogged through the surf, rejoined us, and told us about the water and tides this evening. Hope wiped her eyes and turned, and we made our way back to the house. I suspected I knew what she was feeling. The sunsets here have come represent the wonder of this place. It’s as far West as you can step, and you watch the sun disappear on its westward journey. It reminds you of the ocean, the mountains, the trees, and all the beauty that convinces us there’s something bigger than us. And, it happens just about every day. This would be the last time for some time she’d see this and feel this this way. I think I knew she was feeling this way, because I had felt that way so many times. I was sad that this was ending in a similar way.
Allyson had a surprise for Hope on her last night. She had talked about steaming oyster before Allyson even made it to the coast. Allyson stopped by the Fish Peddler and bought them, shells and all. We steamed them and ate them with some tasty garlic butter. Kara, another camp kid, rang the doorbell because she wanted to tell Hope goodbye. Then, we witnessed a pretty amazing thing. Hope managed to talk Kara into trying and oyster and swallowing it. Kara is one of the pickiest eaters I know currently. I don’t know if she was caught up in Hope’s last night or if Hope just has a strange power over her. But Kara tried the oyster, swallowed, and lifted her tongue to prove it went down the hatched. We videoed it for posterity. The look on Kara’s face said every second of the experience was disgusting to her, but we applauded and cheered her on.
It is interesting how we open ourselves up to something different, how we get blown over by a change when we aren’t even expecting it. You come over to tell a loved one goodbye and before you know it, you’re eating something you find disgusting. We don’t know what all is ahead of us, we just step towards those things that compel us and those things often shape us. We often trust these things even more than we trust ourselves in these moments of change. We put our chips in the baskets of who and what we love, and we figure out who we are from it.
On Saturday, I had a hectic morning full of hiccups, schedule change requests, and misunderstandings. I wanted the experience to be good for the guests and I wanted to know I had not been a hindrance to that. It felt like I was on a big uphill climb, and I was already worn out. At lunch, I had multiple things to take care of and they all needed to happen immediately. I tossed around not eating lunch at all, on a self pitying martyr impulse, but I reminded myself of my biological need for food. Still, I wanted to eat fast, so I sat down at a table with no on else, so I could woof down my food and get on with my laundry list of tasks.
Then, a whole table of middle schoolers vacated their table and came and sat with me, saying they didn’t want me to eat alone. My mind was totally blown. I didn’t think these kids had paid any attention to me, and here they were reaching out to me when I didn’t even realize I needed it. Soon after, a college choir group got up to share a few songs with the group eating lunch. Then they proceeded to serenade us, as we ate, with a few gorgeous choral numbers. I stopped completely, awed by their voices working so well together. It choked me up a little, it was so beautiful. Immediately, those two actions completely altered the feeling of my day. It felt completely new.
Joelle left just after dinner on Saturday to embark on an epic road trip back to Florida. As I was cleaning the compost pails, Laura came up with her parents for a quick introduction then goodbye. They walked down the main drive towards the North ballfield, and I parted ways with them to go to my house. And then, it occurred to me the summer was over. Retreat season had begun. It didn’t feel that different, but a change had become more complete. I have a summer under my belt now. My car is an Oregonian. I’m knowing this place better. I’m knowing myself better. These changes move and shift. I watch as close as I can, hoping I’ll grow to know the shape of this wind as it shifts, at least for a time. Hope I am creating a wind of my own.