This week, we’ve seen a pretty wide range of weather, considering it’s the first week of January. It’s been very cold, very mild, very windy, or very sunny depending on which day you’re remembering. We are having our first retreat groups since Christmas and Culture Day, so as Epiphany comes and goes, the maintenance staff is getting the last of the Christmas decorations back in the closet for another year. The trees have been disassembled and returned to the boxes. The nativity sets have been carefully wrapped in newspaper and put back in the box. All that’s left of the celebration is the spare needle in the corner, missed by the brooms or glitter that the vacuum didn’t manage to suck up.
For much of the week, Josh cleared everything off the floors in the Conference Center and buffed the floor. When you walk through, there is a shine that you might not even realize. You stand there and know that something is different, but you can’t put your finger on what it is. The room just feels newer. You feel like you are stepping into something for the first time. As the weeks go on, shoes will drag across the floor, drinks will be spilled, and dirt will make it’s way back, despite our best efforts. We’ll forget what it can look like until it’s buffed again, and we hardly recognize it.
Lisa Elder and Preston Wright came to visit this week to do some tree climbing at camp (they have recently been trained here). We were worried about the weather from the forecasts, but it turned out to be warmer than we expected. We got our lines in a beech tree near the creek and began to climb. As we ascended the wind picked up, then settled down, over and over. It would occasionally come in gusts, and you had the feeling of a wind chime, dangling from a high branch. It’s an exhilarating experience. When we got about 30-35 feet above the ground, we set a treeboat (a sturdy hammock, designed specifically to be put in a tree). Lisa relaxed in it, and I remember her saying, “I am so happy right now.” It was very nice, from our vantage point on the branches of this large tree, looking at this valley we know so well with new eyes.
Towards the end of the week, the cold really set in. By the time our weekend groups arrived, it became clear that we would not see temperatures too far above freezing. During one of the very cold nights, I walked home around 1:00am. Counselor Certification had just gone to bed, and I was ready to get to my warm bed. I bundled up with toboggan, gloves, and vest coat to make the journey home, and I had your typical cold weather stance–head down, arms stuffed in pockets. The wind was blowing on my face, and I could feel my whole body getting colder. Then, for some reason, I looked up to the sky and saw the stars. The moon was nowhere to be seen, and there was a steady view of stars throughout the sky. There’s something about a cold, winter sky full of stars that’s different from any other time of year. You feel like there’s not as much out there. The animals are tucked away somewhere keeping warm. The trees have gone dormant and dropped their leaves. On a late night, you feel as if you are the only person in the whole world. Then you look up and see thousands of stars in shapes even you vaguely recognize. I began to notice the cold less, lifting my head to the sky, just to be in awe of what was there in front of me. All alone in the whole world, except for the stars and the one who made us all.
This weekend we Emmanuel UMC youth and Counselor Certification were our guests. Be careful enough to enjoy this winter weather and may God bless your time.