It’s been almost exactly a month since I last recounted the week, in large part, because I didn’t make any time for it. This past month has been one of my busiest, most sleep-deprived in years. Some of this was planned. Some of it was totally unexpected. There’s a lot over the past few weeks that really isn’t information to share in a public forum, so in order to give some explanation I’ll say this: at the beginning of the month I was the Assistant Director at my camp. In one day, I unexpectedly learned I would be asked to step into the Director role.
I have been in the sort of survival mode you feel when something suddenly changes. Adjustments are necessary, you know life will change in very specific ways, but it’s not always clear what those changes will be. My emotions have been tinged with a numbness that you get when there is a big task that requires a majority of focus. There is much to be done, and I’ve been trusted to do it. So, this next stretch of months promises to be full of fatigue, on-the-spot learning, and a roller coaster of confidence and doubt.
Long before this news, I had worked out an evening and next day off that would not be changed. My wife Allyson was flying back in on Tuesday around midnight, and we would take the next day to spend with each other after being apart for over a month. I left camp mid-afternoon with Digby to make a leisurely trip to Portland and try to give my mind and body a rest from work.
When you get into a routine of steady work, your body behaves with you. It gets used to less sleep. It switches to a mode of multi-tasking. It becomes impatient and fast paced. It knows it can’t get distracted, it can’t spend too much time in any one place. It knows it should be a few moments ahead, not in the present moment. It knows you need to be efficient and it does everything it can to help. But, this mode presents challenges when you seek to slow down and enjoy life. I realized a long time ago that there will be times when efficiency mode is necessary, but I also try to promise myself to get out of efficiency mode as quickly as possible and get back to enjoying being alive.
I stopped at Smith Homestead Day Use Area in the Tillamook State Forest. I could feel part of me feeling to need to move on and accomplish something (though I wasn’t sure what). I could feel the confusion and uncertainty I’d been carrying with me for the past week. It seemed like I didn’t have time–like I might never have time again. But there was time. There would be time. Dibgy and I took a trail into the forest. It was sunny and breezy. I watched the trees sway. Walking in the woods on a sunny day is something in my blood. I’ve been doing it as long as I’ve been alive. When I leave this Earth, I can imagine myself leaving into something that feels like this.
The trail ended at the Wilson River, and all I could hear was the water rushing over the smooth rounded rocks. I wanted to stop there. But, I really wanted to stop there. I felt like I was all alone, and it was a comforting feeling. The water and the green mountains all around felt wild and I wanted that feeling too. I thought about it for a moment, almost resisted, but then decided to take my clothes off and get into the water. I waded into the cool water naked, looked to my right and saw Digby swimming right next to me. It felt a bit like a baptism. I felt awake and refreshed. There I was with a companion who would follow me into the rushing river. There I was hours away from being reunited with Allyson.
I have had hard conversations in this past month. Some have been the normal conversations you have during a week of camp. Some have been conversations I’ve never had to have before. I’ve talked to campers about the pain in their lives. I’ve talked to adults about the pain in their lives. I’ve pondered these things and prayed for these things. I’ve wondered why they happen, and I’ve searched and pressed forward to bring good in these uncertain times. In the end, I am less worried about my own deliverance–I feel like I’ve already been given all I’ll ever need. I have great hope, though, that I won’t squander my time. That I’ll love it, that I’ll find the good in it, that I’ll soak myself in it and really know it.
When I came home Saturday night, Allyson had rescued a chipmunk that had stuck itself in the hole of a brick near our house and had become very lethargic. Allyson does this. Creatures in need are drawn to her and she is drawn to them. She has done this before. She has taken in a hurting animal, even when she knows the odds of its survival might be nil. She knows pain as well as anyone, she knows it is around every corner. And, yet she still welcomes in the smallest little hurting thing. Not only does she take it in, she cherishes it and gives it the kind of care most people hope for their whole lives.
She gave the chipmunk water and before long it was crawling up her sleeve, scurrying up her arm and shoulder. She took it out and placed it in a tree. It walked from branch to branch, squeaked and went back into her hand. It seemed to be choosing her. When I got back to the house that night, she had fed it grass (after a google search of what chipmunks eat), and it had become even more energetic. She was not sure if it would be ok, but she knew she needed to let it go. She put it into a tree.
We have no idea what happened next. We don’t know what the future has in store for us either. I hope, though, that time we spend together, that care we give for each other makes this life a bit more livable, I hope there is joy and appreciation. I hope we fall in love with this life we build. I hope we make ourselves vulnerable and naked and soak ourselves in something wild. I hope we spend most of our time wild and free. I hope that we frequently remind ourselves who has promised to travel with us. I hope we walk out of the river each day refreshed.