I remember the first day that I stepped foot on Camp Magruder property. I’m from Tennessee, so even the tall pine trees along the main drive of camp seemed spectacular to me. One of my favorite early memories of Magruder was seeing the sunset’s colors light the sky and sprinting to the ocean from main camp because it felt like something we couldn’t miss.
One of the ways-of-being that we cultivate in people through Camp and Retreat Ministries is to observe more deeply, more contemplatively. We teach ways to become a part of, to recognize, and to listen to the voice of nature, which has its own language and way of communicating. I hope one day I can communicate both as powerfully and as gently as nature. I hope by learning from creation I am drawing closer to the force that beckons all of us towards deeper interconnection.
These days, we all know how technology, modern life, and work can distract us being able to communicate like that with nature. In my work now, I watch for that light of contemplative observance to come on behind campers’ eyes. I’m hopeful for what it can teach us and how it shapes who we become.
In the summer with our youth camps, there is an activity period we call "Home in the Woods" for campers to build forts out of fallen branches and to explore whatever else they can find in the tangled forest of shore pines on our western border to the beach. It’s become an instant favorite among campers. Grace Wise, a 2017 resource staffer and 2018 camp dean, led this activity. Those days she’d always came back with stories to share with us. She saw the light I’m talking about. In Grace’s words:
“Home in the Woods provides kids a chance to unplug from society. Nothing beats the smile on those faces standing next to the branch structure they’ve just put together as a team of scavengers, collectors, engineers, and supervisors.”
Most of my favorite memories of this place are attached to the visceral reaction people have to its natural beauty. There are many: wave jumping at sunset with Labor Day Family Camp, stopping to enjoy an afternoon of berry picking with Huckleberry Family Camp, starry night worships at the Lakeside Chapel with the middle schoolers, finding a four leaf clover on a hike with the mini campers. I hope these experiences are shaping us, guiding us to pay more attention to our impact on earth, as well as earth’s impact on us.
These sorts of experiences with nature have always tied me to camp, first as a camper, now as a professional leader of other leaders. My camp counselors who pointed to the setting sun also directed me toward the questions that would ultimately shape my faith. Now morning walks on the beach ground me. What makes the river run? How does the newt know when to leave the lake and head for dry land? If all of the roots beneath our feet are intertwined, will it hurt the pine if the sitka spruce falls? What does the ocean have to say if I listen?
Will I listen?
The Love of Creator be with you,