Rain is here to stay for a while in the Pacific Northwest. We’ve seen precipitation every day this week, and some days we saw rain the entire day without rest. The skies have been gray with no sunshine that I can recall, and days are getting shorter. This setting would seem like a climatilogical recipe for depression, but I’m still looking at it as an opportunity to get to know my new home better. I’m still pretty fascinated by what the ocean does against these coastal mountains and valleys. It feels like this world is at work, and I’m very intrigued, standing back watching it at its craft.
Allyson’s parents took the long, cross-country flight from BNA to PDX this week, and we’ve been treating them to Oregon life for the first time. Allyson’s dad talked about how he had, just a few years ago, done a lot of research on the Oregon Coast, hoping to some day travel here. Allyson’s mom revealed to us that when she was in her twenties she entertained moving to Oregon. With the rain, they have definitely gotten a true taste of Oregon living, but even so, they’ve gone out walking to the ocean nearly every morning, coming back with rounded, black rocks and driftwood to show off. In the evenings, we build fires and cook soups. It is the time of year for soup.
It’s also the time of year for birthdays and celebrations, at least for many of my friends and family. In just this week, there were 5 birthdays of people I care very much about. I should mention I’m pretty terrible at remembering birthdays, and even if I happen to momentarily remember it is someone’s birthday, I will often lose that thought before I do something about it. This is a part of me I want to improve on, but it’s a dance that is consistently a few steps forward, a few steps back. I want to connect with people, share our lives; I want the people I love to know it. But, there are times I find myself enthralled just watching what is unfolding. I’m standing near a window, watching the rain or the dark of night descend. I’m listening to the wind gusts. I’m wondering what I’m taking from this day. Not meaning to be silent, I go silent, trying to listen harder.
This weekend, the camp had three groups: a High School Choir, a Boy Scout Troop, and a Methodist Confirmation group. I like to get these little snippets of life for these groups, getting to be a part of what they are doing for a moment. It rained nearly constantly, and so when I bounced among the lodges checking in on each group, my rain jacket got heavier and heavier. It’s a pretty cheap target rain jacket, but it usually does what it needs to do. I was out in the rain enough this weekend, though, that it started to fail. Rain finally breached the hood and neck, and I felt cold wet drops of rain trickle down my chest, under my shirt. Despite the dreary weather, each group put off a nice positive energy. Each time I checked on the choir: to be sure the pilot light in the oven got lit or to change out toilet paper rolls, this group of about 70 teenagers said, “Hi,” and “Bye Troy,” almost in unison.
As the choir’s buses were about to pull out, I stood outside the Sherlock Lodge to wave to them. A student put down her school bus window and asked, “Troy, do you like your job?” I told her I loved it, and she asked me what it’s like each day working here. I told her about welcoming and taking care of groups, about recruiting and training staff, about planning, and about helping make our programs happen. As the buses pulled off and we all exchanged waves, I felt so touched that this teenager had thought enough about me this weekend to open the window and ask me about myself. I keep thinking about it, even though it was a simple, short thing. It brings me happiness when I think about it.
On Saturday my old camp, Lakeshore, held a celebration for Martha Holifield, surely a matron saint of the camp. Martha started working with the camp in the 60s, and minus a few breaks has been there the whole time. She has been a fixture at the camp, this consistent, dependable figure who could always make someone feel welcome. During my time there, we had this sort of relationship where I was a bratty little brother. I would pester her when I got bored in the office and she would return. Like so many, she became family. It’s hard to imagine Lakeshore without Martha. I couldn’t make the trip back to Tennessee, but I sent a video message. My mom and dad went, and sent me pictures. It is good to remember and honor her, to honor her work. I’m glad that even this far away, I was able to participate, that I got to experience a little part of thoughtfully taking time to show some respect to her and her enormous impact on this special place in my life.
I took the afternoon off one day this week to meet up with Allyson and her parents at Short Sand Beach in Oswald West State Park. I asked how they liked it so far, and they talked about how beautiful it was. We drove on to Cannon Beach, came in from a drizzle to have lunch at Sweet Basil’s Cafe. Then we took them out to the beach to see Haystack Rock. Allyson’s dad is fascinated with tide pools, and I enjoyed watching she and him explore, doing that back and forth dance with the waves coming in and going back out. They looked at starfish, anemones, and mussels. I turned and saw Allyson’s mom a little farther down the shoreline, looking out at the beautiful stones, rising from the ocean like monuments. It was like a picture. I enjoy observing people pondering something, in awe of something.
I found that if I slowly moved in among the stones with mussels and barnacles attached, the sea gulls would get comfortable enough to walk nearby and pull the food out from the shells. If I was still, I could watch them up close. Every now and then, Digby would come running through barks-a-blazin and scare them off, very proud of himself. But, if I stayed still, they would come back. I watched the way they interacted with each other, the pecking orders of the young and old, the larger and smaller. I watched them inspect each shell, find the right one, and peck their beaks in, coming out with a seafood snack.
There have been many things to ponder this week. We are on the edge of flooding in the Northwest and there’s a forecast of rain all next week. Terrible, scary violence is happening in France, Beruit, and plenty of other places that won’t make it into our facebook feeds. I’m seeing people scared, hopeful, angry, exploiting, compassionate, betrayed, righteous, wanting answers, wanting to be heard, wanting justice, confused about what this means or where to go. I feel it all too. I wonder what this means, what will motivate us to grow a world more people are satisfied with.
I think of those kids on the bus, smiling, telling me goodbye like an old friend. I think about watching Allyson and her dad and mom next to the crashing waves, transfixed. I think of Martha and standing in the doorway of her office in conversation. I think about those seagulls, scanning the rocks, squawking at each other. I just want to stand there with them in this beautiful moments. I want to find these moments with everybody, and I want us both to remember them. I want us to have more of them. I want them to give us hope. I want us to believe we can bring them, that everyone can have them again.