I’ve been very conscious of a great beauty that inhabits the coast this week. The coast always has something to admire even when it’s dreary and soggy, but as summer approaches the grandeur of the Oregon Coast gets shifted into hyperdrive. I don’t completely understand it–everywhere on the planet is nice in the summer. Blue skies, warm air are something you can enjoy everywhere. It seems, though, like it pops a little bit stronger here. I feel like something special is happening on these days, like this may not be completely real that it’s been enhanced by some sort of photoshop for the world.
It’s been a week of transitions here at camp. The week came in on the heels of Memorial Day weekend, as we hosted two groups that filled up the camp. As I think back on it, those memories seem like they happened weeks earlier. We are getting towards a season at camp where more groups visit, and they visit one after the other. You give yourself over to a group, try to attach yourself to them to give them the best experience you can, then detach yourself from them to begin building with the next group. There’s something a little thrilling about that. It is maybe the opposite of being nomadic, but you experience some similar feelings. Constantly seeing new faces, longing to connect on a deep level, but knowing that change will be constant. To do it well, you must be sure you are present, that you are really living in the moment appreciating it. This is how you remember, this is how those beautiful days will continue to matter.
There is this spot along my walk between home and the office, where I can really smell the spruces. I’m not sure what it is about that spot, but this evergreen smell comes in really strong at the same spot, especially as the weather warms and dries a bit. I love the smell of tree sap. Sometimes on walks I will find a place on a tree where sap is oozing out, and I will pinch it between my fingers and rub it into my palms like hand soap. For the rest of the day, I’ll cup my hands in front of my nose and breathe in the smell. When this smell hits me on my regular path, I try to slow myself down, take deep breaths. It is a remember to look closer, to take these moments in that I enjoy so much. I think about years to come as I grow more comfortable in this place, how this smell will become attached to memories and connections to this time in my life, how it will awaken something I’m already putting away in a safe place.
It was the last week of outdoor science school here at camp, and we watched the schedule wind through its typical incarnations, only at the end, everyone packed up, deep cleaned, and began to switch gears into their summer plans. They took down the signs that had been on the walls of the dining hall all spring, they boxed up all their science equipment to put into summer storage. They shed their familiar red vests, and you began to hear them referred to, a little bit more, by their regular names over their camp names.
For those who didn’t have to leave immediately, I suggested they meet up with Hope and me for one last time before parting ways. We suggested one of my favorite dinner experiences here. We would walk the beach the 45 minutes from camp to Rockaway, have dinner at the Sand Dollar, then walk back as the sun sat over the ocean. It felt like a fitting way to see them off. Andy, Brittnie, Casey, Hope, Jenn, and I walked the shoreline that has become home to all of us in one way or another. We talked about their memories, joked, paired up for conversations, then paired up with others for different conversations the way you do during a long walk with a group. All the while, the Pacific roared in and out right next to us.
The sky looked like a soft cottony blanket covering the sky. Out there on the porch, we swapped stories over tasty food and drink, bundled in our jackets because of the light breeze, watching the day draw to a close over the ocean. I marvel at how people are brought together through chance, through one or two common occurrences. Here I was at a picnic table on the Oregon Coast with a close friend I knew because she started as a camper at the camp I knew and loved. With us was a group of people in love with science and the outdoors who had been brought together at this spot. Casey was just about to leave for California for the summer to work at Mount Hermon, a fantastic site I had visited for a national camp leader gathering. I gave her stories of how gorgeous it was, how awesome their zip line through a Redwood forest was. Casey came here from North Carolina. Hope and I from Tennessee. Jenn is from just up the road in Nehalem. Andy and Brittnie will be backpacking soon in the Olympic forest. It seemed like such a chance that we would even all meet each other, much less sharing this moment next to the ocean.
That was Friday. On Saturday, I saw several of Camp Magruder’s summer staff, rolling in for a lifeguard training we set up. I went to the YMCA with Anna and Hope, so they could practice for the swim test. Afterwards, we walking downtown Tillamook looking for a lunch spot. When we discovered our first choice only opened on weekdays, we stumbled over this tiny place on 3rd street, and we couldn’t really tell if it was open. We cupped our hands over eyes to look in the window, and a couple opened the door and told us we could come in. They weren’t officially opened, but it was their prep day, so they would serve people, they just weren’t advertising it. They had just opened their restaurant–it was so new their oven wasn’t working yet, so they were just serving wraps. Most of their ingredients were local and natural. The couple was fun to watch. You could see we were in the very first days of this business. They apologized for the disorganized state of things, but it didn’t really bother us. And the food was really good. We had barely even noticed the sign for the restaurant. We could have easily walked right by it.
That night, I helped a couple of our staff members change a brake light. Hope, Melia, and I played 21. I hadn’t played basketball in about a year. Then we all went to the beach. Melia brought a guitar, I brought my mandolin. I also brought Digby and his blue rubber ball. There were lots of people out enjoying the end of the day, and it was a great day for it.
There was a canvas of clouds for the sun to paint on as it disappeared below the horizon. As it grew darker and the colors transformed, we sat on a piece of driftwood together singing, throwing the ball to a little dog, watching this compelling performance life was putting on in front of us.
There we were, another group of people drawn together in a way that seemed very much by chance. This was the beginning of something new. What would we be feeling in three months and we took part in some sacred ritual together to mark the ending of that chapter and the beginning of the next? There’s no way to accurately predict what exactly we would be to each other, how we would have grown, what we would attach to this time we choose to be in the same place. But the beginning felt like something I would remember. It felt like it could lead to something important, something I hope to remember to stay present to, so I can keep it in a safe place.