This week was a whirlwind for me–one of those weeks where when you look back, most of it seems like something that happened in the distant past. I’ve been burning the candle at both ends as of late, not getting much rest, trying to slam out as much camp work before summer gets here so that summer work is not so intense. There are seasons of life where you suck up your fatigue and keep pushing, because you know more work now means less work later.
The week opened with an early morning flight to L.A. out of Portland. I’m on a team that writes camp curriculum, and we are fortunate enough to meet at a Methodist Retreat Center on the hills above Malibu Beach. This work doesn’t always make a lot of money, but it regularly puts you in some pretty awesome places. I can deal with that trade-off. Money and stuff hardly compares to inspirational places, good food, and people you can trust.
I spend a lot of time these days thinking about where we as a people are going, especially with our faith. I think especially about Christianity, but beyond even that I wonder how all these changes happening before our eyes will affect the way we draw together and believe in a higher power. I hear people talk so much about the fall of the “institution,” talking about the structure of our churches. Studies talk about how younger generations don’t want to be members or organizations, they don’t like labels, especially those that separate or exclude. The idea is that churches as we know them are on the way out. I don’t know if it buy that it will go down that way. Most things don’t go down the way we predict. I do think, though, something new is coming, something we can’t quite imagine yet. I’m waiting for surprises, totally expecting the place we go to be something the experts aren’t calling.
As we talked about what our theme for 2018 would be, I thought about the lessons the up and coming generation might need to hear. I thought about what they are already good at, the hope I see in them. I thought about the guidance they might need. My mind when all over the place. I talked to my group about Star Wars and then Kendrick Lamar. About how there is room for the old and the new in one conversation. How exciting is that, that every generation has something to say, that everyone can contribute towards this thing we are building.
Allyson was able to join me, and we didn’t get much time to site-see, but there was an evening or two we got to walk the Pacific Palisades. The sun sat over the Santa Monica Mountains, and we casually strolled through neighborhoods with beautifully manicured lawns. David, an old camp friend in charge of Methodist Camps in Southern California tells us about the stars sited in the neighborhood. We talk about how we need to stay longer, how we’ll visit when the Cubs/Dodgers series is in town. We imagine some grand trips that may be in our future. It likely won’t happen this Fall, but who knows? We keep taking about these things, imagining these encounters, we are liable to make them happen if we’re on our game. I believe in following through on dreams, I’m not a fan of idle talk.
After enduring the misery that is LAX and a 3ish hour flight, we touched down in PDX under cloudy skies. It felt nice to return to our Pacific Northwest home, to see the green, to hear a piano player as we stepped out of the tarmac into the airport proper. I got a message for an old camp friend Katy Branston. She’s living in Montana these days, but was visiting a friend in Portland. They were spending a few days on the coast, wondering if they could visit. We told them of course they could visit.
We met Katy and her friend Lindsay on Saturday at the trail head for Neahkhanie Mountain. This is a mountain hike just about 15 minutes north from where we live. From the top, you can see miles of ocean and coastline. It’s a place a regularly show guests with that “can you believe we live here,” look on my face. We hiked under spruces, wildflowers sprouting all around, catching up on the last several years of life, getting to know Lindsay. At the end of the hike, you climb the rock face of the summit, emerging from the treeline to see the waters of the Pacific Ocean hundreds of feet below. The four of us found comfortable spots and basked in the scenery and sunshine.
I am continually impressed by how so many good friendships have this ability to pick right back up regardless of the time lapse. Katy seems very much like I last remember her, which was easily over 5 years ago. I love how trajectories are rarely straight lined. We can’t always predict when we are bound to cross paths with the people in our life and what will result from those crossings. Sitting around the table at the Pelican Tap Room, we talked about how Allyson and I were going to steal Lindsay as a friend, about how we could take Amtrak to Whitefish to visit Katy when things slowed down at camp. These thoughts were so very improbable at the beginning of the week. These thoughts seemed much less idle now.
We bid Katy and Lindsay goodbye early this morning as they departed for stop off at the Tillamook Cheese Factory for free cheese samples and ice cream before heading to Portland. That afternoon, Allyson and I went out to the beach at low tide. The sun was out, and it was nearly 80 degrees. After throwing the ball with Digby and stepping out to the tide to get our feet wet, we decided to build a shelter out of driftwood. The two of us started dragging solid pieces of wood and assembling them tepee style in the sand. It was the first time we build one of these beach forts, but it seemed pretty sturdy for our purposes.
Sitting under the shade of our driftwood beach fort, Digby panting in the corner next to his slobbery, sandy tennis ball, I thought about how good for the soul it is to periodically build things. I think it is a crucial part of being human–finding something to build in your life and seeing it grow. What a wild journey I’ve been on so far in this life. At so many points, it’s felt like a big adventure. I look at how those adventures have lead further and further to so many different places, so many different people. Those people step out of the story for moments, then back in again. We’ve traversed this beautiful world a few times, and I hope to keep doing that. We keep adding new people to the story, the family just keeps growing. We are building something exciting. And, the closer I get to the people involved, the more I am excited by the prospects of where we’ll end up next.