This week, summer has taken it easy on us. While we aren’t yet wearing sweaters and coats, the temperatures have dropped enough that we were able to dial back the AC and open windows for a nice morning breeze. I love these days, when, instead of hearing the drone of fluorescent lights and the hum of the Air Conditioner, you hear the birds, the wind, and even the lawn mowers in the distance. On one particular morning, I was in my office, on the computer, when I heard a person in the distance. It sounded like it was coming from the woods near us, and it was too distant to make out what was being said. I wondered if I was hearing voices from the State Park or just some weird animal involved in some kind of strange mating ritual. I asked Dian if she heard the noise, and she came to my window to listen. When she heard it, she looked at me with concern and said, “What is that, Troy?” We rushed out to investigate further.
Once we were outside, we began to hear the voice more clearly. It was coming from the Waterfront, so we walked quickly down the road, beginning to panic a bit. As we closed in, we could hear a voice yelling for “Corky, Travis, or Jim.” For the next few seconds, our minds braced themselves for all the terrible things we might be about to walk up on: Someone fell 20 feet off a ladder and the bone is sticking out of their leg, a 25 foot long water moccasin is slowly swallowing someone whole, aliens have replicated members of our staff and are taking down the maintenance department one person at a time. I yelled, “HELLO, WHERE ARE YOU?,” and we heard a voice coming from the lodges, saying, “I’m in Calhoun, I’m not hurt.”
As it turned out, Kathy, one of our housekeepers had been cleaning the Calhoun Lodge on the top floor. She went out on the back porch to empty a dustpan, didn’t bring her keys or cell phone, and the door shut behind her, locking her out. Since this was the porch of the top floor, there was about a 20 foot drop between her and the ground. All she could do was yell for help. When we let Kathy in, she said she had been out there for about 30 minutes. I wonder what crazy schemes she cooked up in all that time out on the porch to try to get down.
If you’re walking in the woods these days, you’re bound to find muscadines on the ground. They ripened pretty early this year, so if you want to sample some wild grapes, you probably aren’t too far away from somewhere they are growing. I know a few places along the Lowe Trail where there are some low vines, and you can just pick them right off. These are different than the grapes you get in the store. The skins are much thicker, and they are loaded with seeds. The taste is different too. It’s an oaky kind of taste, which many people expecting store-bought grape taste are not expecting. But, being used to them, I love this time of year. There is a sweet juice between the meat and the skin of the grape that makes all the work of spitting out seeds and chewing the thick skin worth it. And, I can’t help but enjoy the fact that these just grew all on their own. I didn’t have to go buy them, and no one even planted them. This is just the food our woods naturally provide for those who want it.
One morning, I came in to find Bill, Martha, and Kathy Conrad crowded around the coffee table in our Administration building looking at a three-ring binder. In this binder was a large group of brochures and camp newspapers from the late 50s and early 60s. These are documents from the very early years of the camp. You see pictures of the “old camp,” as it’s called, featuring buildings there before the hill was leveled on top. You can still see pictures of the craft hut, and it looks about the same, though nothing around it does. But, the camp newspapers are the most interesting. These are the one pages newsletters published by the campers each day, with recaps of the day’s activities, lessons, and gossip. It was pretty hilarious to read about what happened each day at camp and see how much things have stayed the same and how much things have changed (let’s just say political correctness has come a long way since then). Beyond the fun we had reading these, these helped you imagine a much earlier version of Lakeshore. You could put yourself there like you were watching a movie set at summer camp in the 50s and 60s.
The maintenance team was alerted early this week that it was raining inside cabin 4. It had been a while since we had a cabin develop its own weather patterns. Typically, they keep up pretty well with what’s going on around them. Most of the time, they keep rain out, even when it’s raining outside. But, when Cabin 4’s water heater began leaking, it became it’s own climate. Our dormitory style cabins have an odd designing feature–the water heaters rest in the ceiling, above the bathrooms in each cabin. And, if you have even installed a water heater, you are immediately thinking what our maintenance staff was thinking upon hearing about the rain in Cabin 4: “Oh man, those things are so heavy, and we’re going to have to replace the old one, and then carry a new one up through a hole in the ceiling. That’s going to be a pain in the rear end.” Don’t worry, though, if you are slated to stay in Cabin 4 in the near future. There is a new water heater, and Cabin 4’s weather patterns have normalized.
I returned this week after a vacation, and realized I had made a big mistake. I had neglected to ask someone to water my plant while I was gone. I had been growing a Purple Peruvian Pepper Plant for at least 2 years. I had gotten so good at watering it, and there had been a few times I had almost lost it, due to other week long trips. But, I had always been able to bring it back after a few days of watering. But, when I returned, to my horror, Every leaf was shriveled up and crispy. If I had lit a match nearby, the whole thing would have gone up. I was disappointed in myself, because I really don’t like killing things, even if it is just a pepper plant that never grew peppers. I had made this thing grow, kept it alive, and killed it, just because of negligence. Later in the week, though, I brought some muscadines down that I had picked from the vine. I spit the seeds out from each one and planted them in the pot where my pepper plant had lived. I’ve been watering it every day, and I hope someday to see the sprouts of a young vine peeking up out of the soil.
Lots of things are in flux these days. Many of our summer staff started college this week. The seasons are showing us that they are getting ready to swap. The retreat season is getting into full swing as we welcome groups today. They’ve begun, and often they begin with something tiny. A small seed, a drop of water on your forehead, a distant cry from the woods, or a few buildings with no AC or running water. These things will grow, though, with the right attention to something else. Something bigger. Something we hope will be greater. Something we hope he can be proud to be a part of.
Keep our retreat groups in your prayers this weekend: Lakeshore’s Scrapbooking Retreat, Collierville UMC Youth, and Treveca Nazarene.