Ah Spring, what a time to be alive. It is a joy to live and work at a camp, year round, but that joy is accentuated during times of the year like this. I believe that Spring is the most beautiful time of the year for this country. New England has us beat in the Fall. The Mountains have the edge on beauty in Winter. The Pacific Coast beaches are far preferable to me in Summer. But Spring here is hard to beat. The dogwoods bloomed this week, with their big, bleach white flowers. You can see these trees from miles away right now. They stand out so bright against the bright green that has also emerged. I don’t understand the fascination with Bradford Pear trees when you could have a Flowering Dogwood instead.
In addition to all the great growth that has exploded over the past few weeks, it seems that a pollen bomb has exploded too. A giant pollen bomb. Overnight, every car becomes the same color. Your patio furniture will have a coat. My cat came to the back porch with green ears. This week I passed Justin, not mowing, not blowing leaves, but blowing pollen off the roads and sidewalks. Dian and I walked out to the High Ropes Course, because she had not yet seen it. We walked the short trek from the maintenance building to the course and back, and when we got returned our shoes were green. So, our world has basically been covered with sneeze powder and will continue to fall on us for the foreseeable future. Green sneeze powder. What if pink baby powder fell each Spring? Maybe an orange powdered milk? Or, yellow foot powder? Purple Billiard Chalk? Sorry, those will have to just live on in our dreams. Until the trees evolve in a very strange way, it looks like we’re stuck with green sneezing powder every March.
I was going into my house a few evenings ago, when I saw, from the corner of my eye, what seemed to be a lightening flash in the distance. I was surprised, because I thought the sky was clear of clouds that night. I looked up, and could see stars, so I wondered where this storm was. After looking into the distance, I realized that I wasn’t seeing a storm, but a return of some old friends–the fireflies. I remember nights, when I was a child, that they would light up the night. It was as if you had slow, pulsing Christmas lights strung in the trees that were constantly, slowing moving. It seems, these days, that you don’t see nights like that, full of fireflies. It may just be me being overly nostalgic, but I have heard a theory on this that there are less fireflies these days. The theory says that we have too many lights that stay on through the night. It is so bright, that fireflies can’t find each other, and therefore can’t mate. Just in case, I turned my porch light off that night. It’s prettier with the fireflies providing the lighting anyway.
This week, I made some improvements to our advanced orienteering course. This course is out in the woods west of Wilderness Camp–10 posts that participants must find. Each one has a unique hole punch, so you can prove you found that place. Each post site is named after a former Wilderness Director. This week, I made signs with the name of each point to place out on the course. I got to use the router in the Maintenance Building, and it was a lot of fun. As I wrote these names, I got to relive the eras of Wilderness Camp under each of our Directors. I am at a lucky age. I began serious work at Lakeshore about the time Wilderness Camp was starting, so I have been around to know every Wilderness Director that has come through. It was nice recalling the faces and experiences I associated with the names as I carved them in those planks of wood. I got to relive over 15 years of summers spent in the woods, sun-burned, smelling bad, and growing in so many ways. What a group of people. All the stories we can tell when we sit down together.
I went out to the woods to install these signs, and it went very smoothly. I remembered where each post was without help from the map. I was able to carry them all in one sitting, and I had a power drill in my backpack. So, now all the posts have signs identifying the name of the place. I was feeling very good about myself and the job I had done, which of course, is an invitation for me to do something stupid and embarrassing. I got back to Little Red (our red pick-up truck), which I had parked in the Cedar Grove just off the road to Wilderness. I had pulled into a muddy area on a slight hill, and I noticed the muddy tire track of one wheel. It looked like I might be in trouble. I started the truck and kicked it into reverse. The truck backed up a few feet, but then stopped. Then, that sound I was hoping I wouldn’t hear–the engine revving and wheels spinning. I was not done trying, though (even though I should have been).
I decided that I should pull the truck down the hill a little farther where I might get better traction, then use the momentum like a running start to pass through that muddy zone. It was a dumb idea. The ground was, of course, no less muddy down the hill, and I was down the hill. The truck doesn’t get better at going up a hill by going down the hill some. By the end, I had stuck Little Red in front of a tree with two muddy, cut-out tracks under the driver side tires. There was no way I would get this truck out on my own.
It’s pretty plain and simple–if you are over the age of 17 and get your vehicle stuck in the mud, you are an idiot. By that age, you’ve surely gotten a vehicle stuck before or been with someone who did. This is not complicated. If you put your tires in the mud, there is even the slightest hill, and your vehicle is not 4-wheel drive, you will get it stuck. And you are dumb if you do, because you know that’s what happens. You will know it’s stuck, but you will still try everything to get it out. You will get sticks or planks of wood and try to wedge them under the stuck tires, hoping they might grip the wood and drive over it. You will shift the weight of stuff over the tires that are stuck, hoping the extra weight will make them have traction. When you get desperate, you will try to push the vehicle yourself, and you will almost make your veins explode in your forehead from exertion as the vehicle barely budges. You know, ahead of time, that none of these will work–you have never seen them work. But, you try them anyway, because you would rather saw your right leg off and put it under a tire in hopes of getting your vehicle out, than going to someone who can help you and admitting to them that you are dumb.
You know that that person you will go to for help–that person who has the tractor or come-along or 4-wheel drive, super-duty truck is someone who never gets their stuff stuck, because they know about this stuff (and they have a 4-wheel drive, super-duty truck that wouldn’t get stuck in a swamp filled with peanut butter). You know that they will know how much of a dummy you are, and you will know that you are not as good with cars and trucks as you like to imagine yourself. For me, I will have to go to Corky, Travis, and Jim in shame and admit that I got the camp truck stuck in the mud out in the woods and I will need one or two or all of them to help me get it out. They will graciously come and help me, and I will hope that they aren’t thinking that I am less of a man. But, tonight, I will not have a truck to take me home from the woods, and it is getting dark. I will make it back, though, I’ve walked these woods plenty. My ego will recover just in time for another silly mistake. And, tonight, I’ll be guided by the bright whites of the dogwoods and the occasional flutter of firefly light. God laughs, shakes his head, and pats us on the back.
This week we have our second Confirmation Retreat, Franklin 1st UMC Youth, and Ebeneezer UMC visiting us. My we all find the humility we need during this Lenten season.