We had a significant weather shift this week on the Oregon Coast. Last week it was perpetual sun and crisp, warm temperatures. This week a marine layer of clouds came in and parked itself on the coastal mountains and did not leave the entire week. Temperatures were much cooler and there was a moist chill in the air. It did not feel like our stereotypes for August, not even by Oregon standards.
This is mysterious, magical sort of weather to me when the clouds hand so low and mingle with the tree line. I first developed a memorable connection to it when I feel in love with the Bay Area. I remember one birthday when I still lived in Tennessee, probably 6-8 years ago when the weather felt like this. I was born in May, so my birthday is typically pretty warm, sometimes already humid and hot in the South. This particular year, though, there was a blip in the weather. A low layer of thin clouds covered the trees and it was cool enough that I wore a warm vest with long sleeves. I remember constructing the camp’s disc golf course that day, walking through the pines and cedars near the challenge course and thinking about Northern California and the refreshing, cool feeling of the air there.
Now I live in the Pacific Northwest and we get many days like this. It is easy for me to pass right through a day without connecting with my senses and reminding myself of that appreciation. I’ve taken a little extra notice of this sudden week-long cloud cover, trying to pause to watch it mingle with the spruces on Smith Mountain to our east. Sometimes it takes a strong juxtaposition of two very different things–a warm sunny week backed up to a cool cloudy week–to really grab you attention and bring out the feelings you wished you were in better touch with.
This week, the cross that overlooks the beach at camp went missing. Like most church camps, this cross has a very symbolic, special place in many people’s hearts. So, for it to suddenly be gone feels a lot like some of those memories and life-changing associations got stripped away too. It seems unlikely that weather did this to the cross–the tides have not been high enough to take it. So, it’s particularly troubling to think that someone just took it and demolished it. We will replace it. It will likely be a very memorable experience for our staff to chose and construct the new cross and to help place it in the ground. Still, it is hard to shake from your mind how the previous one was lost, how what it meant to people was disregarded.
I have been gradually building up an accumulation of sleep deprivation. I’m not pulling all-nighters or anything. The worst I’ll do is 5-6 hours a night. But, over time, this is building and building. Sometimes it is just the nature of working a demanding job while raising a newborn. Sometimes it is my need to have my own down time at the end of the night. Sometimes I am just wasting time in the evenings, getting sucked into the internet, not making the wise choice to go to sleep. This leaves me without much of a morning routine, sleeping in as long as possible, giving myself just enough time to get dressed and make it to breakfast. I’m realizing that morning routines go a long way for me. Sleep in the morning also goes a long way, though.
One morning this week, Allyson brought Aura into our bedroom and laid her down under one of her little play areas that have stuffed birds hanging from these little arches. My daughter has been developing her voice much more lately, and it really became more pronounced just recently, almost from one day to the next. As she laid on her back in the floor, swatting at the the little stuffed toys, she started cooing and gurgling, sounding very happy to be playing in the early morning. I had pushed snooze on my alarm once, and my body was not ready to move. She was not going to let me drift back to sleep for the 12 minutes that seemed absolutely necessary at the time. That was ok though.
I laid there, not quite ready to get out of bed, arms around a pillow, smiling with my eyes closed, listening to Aura learning to speak, learning to express happiness and wonder. It was a sweet way to begin a morning. The cynical take on this part of parenthood says you can’t wait for you kids to walk and talk, then you wish they would just be quiet and still. I think those sentiments go are tied up with that idea that juxtapositions tend to make us more aware of something that means something to us. I’ve spent these first two months wondering what my daughter will sound like, what he personality will be. In these early moments where she is learning them, I am very aware it is happening. It is very easy to devote attention to this, to feel it is something sacred and beautiful, not just something mundane and pedestrian. I want to live my life in this way looking at at least some parts of each day this way. Realizing what is special around me, what I am in love with around me, where I encounter God each day.
On Friday morning, as we prepped to tell our campers goodbye, Allyson and I pushed the stroller to breakfast, which we’ve done several days this week. I looked to the east at Smith Mountain and Smith Lake as we walked, reminding myself to listen to my senses, to recall the feelings I have for this weather. Later that day during check-out, the sun would emerge and we would see our shadows for the first time of the week. Now, this felt unique and notable, held up with the past week’s weather.
At the breakfast table, Andrew showed us a picture he took of a project he decided to take on the night before. He was out on the beach and found himself motivated to make a temporary cross to hold the place of the last one, until we find a more permanent replacement. He fashioned together two fairly large pieces of driftwood and got it standing in the old spot. He said he was hurting this morning from type of unusual exercise it requires to erect a cross made out of driftwood. It felt like something very special and heartfelt, something that was important for Andrew to do, something important for us to see in that place where something had been for so long, then was suddenly empty.
After the campers left, several of us went to Wanda’s with Ben and a crew of friends who had traveled across the country to lead our Middle School camp. I watched Ben grow up at Lakeshore when I worked there. He was a Resident Counselor my last summer as Program Director. He secretly recorded my last meeting with them on his phone and years later sent it to me. Here we were now recording this new chapter, eating phenomenal food, feeling the fatigue of a good week of camp work. My daughter snoozed in her carrier as we talked across the table.
For many years, these types of lunches were regular, the standard for each week on the end day of a camp. As more and more is cultivated here, these gatherings, these sharings are happening more frequently. Right now, each one feels unique and exceptional. They have the ring of something I had in another place that was very special to me. For this moment, it resonates so much more strongly because it is juxtaposed with a time of something different. As this season of my life continues to blossom and mature into what it will be, I hope I continue to awake into the special weather, feeling it is something sacred.