The beauty of the summer has continued unabated out on the Oregon Coast. The sun has been a constant companion through our days, and the air has felt light and warm. We experience the temperatures most other summer dwellers are wishing for. If you can pull yourself away from tasks and worries it will be difficult not to be impacted by being outside on days like this. We get into habits of constantly looking ahead, constantly preparing for something to come, constantly looking at something that isn’t really happening now. Days like this are the ones we’ve been waiting for. It’s time to stop and enjoy them.
For about six months my camp’s ACA accreditation visit has been looming. The ACA is the major camping association, and their accreditation is the standard for quality among all sorts of camps all over the country. To be accredited, you must submit to a visit every 3-5 years where you spend a whole day producing documentation for policies and regular checks, where visitors observe your camp program and your camp staff. It’s something like a board exam. We’ve been getting paperwork together, going over old files, updating, catching up on documentation, emailing our conference, and it felt like we would never finish. With the visit on Wednesday, I’ve spent the home stretch leading up to it staying up late into the night, then waking up early in the morning. These are the times I’m most likely not to get interrupted in the office. I would still take the late night feeding with the baby, so I was getting something in the order of 4-6 hours of sleep a night.
As you might expect, I was dragging myself through each day, mostly focused on getting the next document filed in the correct place. I purposefully took care of any documentation requiring thought early in the day, and the more mindless copying and attaching stuff for the night when my brain had mostly shut down. The day of the visit came. I had wondered for months how I would manage this day. Would I feel in over my head, would I feel exhausted, would I feel confident, hopeful, frustrated?
The day came and went. I spent about 10 hours with my visitors (camp directors from other Oregon camps). We went through hundreds of standards, walked around most of camp. I was honest and listened closely, taking their advice, engaging and explaining things well, I felt. I won’t know if we retained our accreditation, probably for 4-5 months. But I feel good about what we put together, and I feel even better about having it behind me, and being able to be more present with camp, with life, with the blue skies, with my bed.
I very intentionally planned to have the next day off. In stretches like this when the workload has been heavy, it can be difficult to really get much value out of a day off. You get yourself into a routine of long hours and focus on this singular thing. You’ve taught yourself not to lose focus. Then, all of a sudden, you’re supposed to not focus on it. I was excited to sleep in, but found I didn’t sleep too far past what had become my normal 6/7am waking hour. There was work to do today too, but this work was about enjoying the here and now.
I accompanied Allyson to the chiropractor, keeping Aura while she was getting adjusted. We had lunch at Wanda’s. Aura cried a little, but Allyson walked her around until she fell asleep. About the time she settled her down, our food came out. It was good as always. We made a habit of going to Wanda’s after our doctor’s appointments with Aura. Now she was out of the womb. Strangers made eyes and talked to her. How many times would we eat a delicious meal here as a family? From there, we went to Short Sand Beach, the first time we had taken Aura some place outside of camp for a hike. The beach was full of surfers. We saw groups with young kids toting their boards to and from the beach. It occurred to me that we could all three learn to surf about the same time. That Aura could grow up doing this.
Every day at Short Sand Beach is beautiful, but this one was particularly pretty. Allyson and I sat on a log for most of our time, looking out on the ocean, the surfers, the people playing with their dogs on the beach sand. This place is basically our back yard. This is a place where our daughter will form her earliest memories. These spots along the Oregon Coast with ridiculous sights of ocean water, rugged mountains, towering evergreens. We strolled the beach sand. We crossed the creek, walking on a log that bridged the water. This is our playground. It will be our daughter’s playground too.
Even in this time of busyness, I’ve managed to take a little time to look at these surroundings. I’ll take my daughter for a walk next to the ocean on my breaks. I’ll walk slowly on the way to the dining hall, inhaling the smells of the spruces and pines. Everything is so crisp. Whenever I am out, I feel sun beams on my forehead, warming the cool air. Even when I set aside a few minutes of a day to this kind of presence, it had a profound affect on my attitude, my spirit. It is good for the soul. It will make me better at all that other stuff.
On Saturday we had a break between groups, so we let the camp rest for a few hours. Allyson, Aura, and I took Hope and Joe to the Tillamook Farmer’s Market. We tasted olive oils and vinaigrettes, fresh berries, local honey, and lunch from food trucks. The sun was out again. The sky looked so big above the closed off road lined with booths. I took it all in, walking with my wife, my baby, my good friends. From there, we went to the Pelican and had drinks out on the patio. Aura snoozed as we swapped stories and relaxed from our work, from our longs hours. Something big and beautiful was here. So much of it was something straight out of our daydreams. Here it was. The pressing work now was to enjoy it with the focus and care we had brought to the other work that, for now, we could rest from.