We have seen the nourishing side of nature this week, and we have seen the hard side. It’s crazy how sometimes that is the same side. The storms that have passed through this week were likely much worse in the areas surrounding us, but we’ve had some down trees and really soggy ground to tromp around on. The winds that ripped through Monday night woke most of the staff up, we discovered, as we traded stories the next morning. You walk through the woods the next day, when things have quieted down, and you see trees lying down, asleep, still, and firmly planted on the earth. You walk by streams that are rushing with mini waterfalls, where there is normally dry ground. You know last night, though, there was violence. Trees much stronger than us were tossed around like a game. Rain came down in droves and washed chunks of wood and brush over places you wouldn’t imagine. The next day, you go out, feel the streams rushing, hear the birds singing and gathering pieces for their nest, and you marvel at how beautiful it is one day after such destruction.
Tiffany Dowdy has been helping build an orienteering course for the camp, and she came up twice this week. Treehouse Wilderness will be doing a day of orienteering, where they will be given a map and compass and told to go find several points out in the woods. We’ve been working on a beginner course that stays close to the wilderness trail, to get campers used to navigation before they get set loose into the woods. To do this, Tiffany and I did a lot of pacing, measuring, writing down coordinates, and double checking our compass work. The wilderness trail looks much different to both of us, now that we have criss-crossed it, mapped it, and developed stations all around it. It’s interesting how easy it is to change your perspective on something you thought you knew so well, just by standing at a different angle.
As we were laying out points number 3 and 4, I looked to a small tree above the creek, right next to the second bridge, and I saw a Barred Owl perched about 30 feet away. I told Tiffany to stop and look. We were both awestruck. The creek was roaring loud enough, that it made it more difficult for the owl to hear us, so we very quietly walked closer. We walked like we were passing through a minefield. Every now and then, the owl would turn it’s head almost 180 degrees. We froze, as if playing red light/green light. The owl would lean his head down, and look down his nose at us. It was like a parent giving a child, “the look.” When he turned back, we would slowly start moving again. We got about 15 feet from this bird, and he flapped his big gray wings, settling on a large oak farther away.
The NOMADS have returned to Lakeshore. They are a group of retired Methodist couples who travel around in RVs, staying at Methodist camps along the way. They stay for several weeks, and in return for an RV parking space and some meals, they do work projects during their stay. This group is a talented group with carpenters and licensed electricians. In this first week, they have gone to work on the Oxley Field Station, which has really deteriorated over the past few years. While walking out to the orienteering course, Corky pulled up in his truck, stopped and rolled down the window. He was visibly excited, and said, “You should see what they’ve done with Oxley. It looks like a whole different place.” As you can probably guess, it takes something of note to get Corky excited as far a maintenance projects go. Gary and Bill announced that they would rededicate the Oxley cabin as the Oxley/Lambuth cabin and try obtain memorabilia from Lambuth to decorate the cabin. We are excited about keeping Lambuth’s memory alive in this cabin that had connections to the university.
Years ago, the cabin was used as a biological field station. Lambuth Biology students would come up for weekends as part of their class and do field work in and around the river. The cabin was named after Professor Oxley. I imagine what it must have been like, thinking back to my college days, to come up to this cabin, tucked in the woods with 10 or 15 other college kids. We’d pick up samples, run tests, and probably have to write some papers along the way. But, then there would also be the evenings when we would sit outside, listening to the sounds of the river–the splash of the water on the shore, the frogs trying to out sing each other, and the spring wind cutting through the pine trees. Later the camp would make the cabin the focus of the Camp Hope Series, and youth from some very volatile places came to rest and be loved. Now, Camp Hope has outgrown the cabin, and Lambuth is closing it’s doors, years after college kids’ schedules got far too busy to make a weekend trip to the cabin. A tall tree in the forest has fallen. Our hope is that people will come back to this old cabin made new to explore, to remember, to reflect, and see something awe inspiring just feet away from them.
I stood at the window of the Kaigler Lakeside Cabin (I had been without power at my house for about 2 days) during lunch. I watched the rains come down out the window, and I saw the waters of the river rise. It bounced the docks and began to pull sand from the shores into the lake. By the end of lunch the waters were higher, and they have continued to rise for several days with no sign of slowing. It will carry things away, topple trees, cause work intensive damage. Even today, as they still rise, life springs out and thrives in the midst of this disaster. The birds sing as loud as ever. And today, the sun shines. The storms have certainly come, and they have certainly brought things down in their wake. We should look around and know the sadness it brings. But, in the sadness remember that the God of life and creation gets right back to work, and life eternal springs up. It will cover us if we let it.
Middle Tennessee Camp Bluebird and Rehobeth UMC youth are with us this weekend. There are many to keep in our prayers this weekend: those hit by the storms, those tied to Lambuth University, the family of Holly Bobo. May the sun shine on us in this time.