The way the weather is behaving today, it’s tough to remember the rest of the week long, when we had spectacular warm weather with a light breeze, as we’ve watched the leaves turn more and begin falling. If you take a walk in the woods, the leaves are falling all around, pretty constant. There’s a kind of magic to it, to see leaves floating down all around you like some kind of multi-colored confetti. It’s enough to make you want to leave the civilized world behind forever. Alas, today the temperature has dropped nearly 30 degrees, dumped a cold drizzle on us, and every time you walk outside, it feels like it has gotten colder. This is a day to curl up on a comfortable chair with a warm drink and some kind of thick socks on your feet and only see the world through a window.
Camp Bluebird, a biannual camp for cancer survivors, paid us a visit this week. It is Bluebird’s 25th anniversary, and they decorated with lots of silver. There was also a pink tractor (breast cancer awareness tractor) out in the front of the building. They go all out when they decorate for this camp. We got a call on check in day from a woman who could not find the camp. Dian spent a long time on the phone just trying to figure out where the woman actually was, so she could direct her to the camp. We never really were sure if she had passed the camp or not gone far enough. Dian said that she would go out in the parking lot and wave her down when she passed. The woman abruptly got off the phone, saying she was going to ask a “biker,” how to get there. She called back a few minutes later, saying that the biker told her about our pool. At points, there were 3 office staff members standing at the door of the Administration Building looking in all directions for a car to come creeping down the road. She did finally find the camp.
I often wonder what we could do to make our camp more findable. There is a pretty large sign as you approach the camp, and the 12 foot stone column with Lakeshore United Methodist Assembly in large letters seems pretty hard to miss. Still, it is fairly normal for people to pass right by the camp and then pass by us again on the way back. So many call us from Pilot Knob or the State Park Welcome Center. I worry that in this world of GPS, we are becoming a little too dependent on computers telling us how to do things. I worry that we are losing our skills to notice things. We are becoming less and less patient when we search.
Old friend of the camp, Zach Al-Chokhachi visited this week to continue shooting a video project he’s doing for the camp. Zach is going to help us put together a general camp video and a bunch of short clips to put on our website. Zach was able to spend a little more time with us than usual. We came out to the cook-out Corky put on for the Nomads who moved on this week. He stayed the night and wanted to go on our Advance Orienteering Course the next morning. Zach is a former Wilderness Camp Director, and the points on the course are named after the first 13 Directors. Zach’s point is named Al-Chokhachi’s Balcony, because it rests on a point that juts out off the side of a steep hill like a theater balcony. With Zach devoting much of his life to acting and film, and the way the name roles off the tongue, it seemed like the right point to attach his name to.
We spent the whole morning going through the course, finding every point. At the beginning, Zach was content for me to just walk him through the course, without trying to actually to navigate it, like the course is set up to do. We found several points, and a few were even challenging for me, due to the changes of the Fall. After we found Jones Glen, something flipped on in Zach, and he looked at the map closer. He pointed the direction where he thought the next point should be, and he was right. For most of the rest of the day, Zach navigated for us. It was a beautiful, Indian Summer, kind of day, as we climbed and descended those rocky hills, crossing creeks and looking out over hilltops. We talked about life, trying to solve all the worlds problems and told stories going back through our history together, which dates back to high school for both of us. We ordered our route so we would find Al-Chokhachi’s Balcony last. Descending the hill, Zach noticed the sign for the spot that honored him. He said, “Wow, it really is a balcony,” and I felt a lot of pride and happiness that he was enjoying this spot as much as I had when I chose to put his name on it. We took pictures there before we returned to camp with our ankles scratched up, stomachs growling, but very satisfied with how we’d spent our morning.
Today, a school group from Henry County joined us to do Teambuilding and the Ground Zipline. They were greeted a cold drizzle, plummeting temperatures, and our smiling faces. It’s not nearly as nice as it was yesterday or any other day this week, for that matter. But, we hope they’ve enjoyed exploring these woods along with their friendships and comfort zones. When you are sitting in that warm room, looking out on that cold, wet wilderness, it’s not your first inclination to go out there and find your way to something new and exciting. What if I get lost along the way? What if it’s uncomfortable? It’s easy to talk yourself out of it. It’s easy to just leave the navigation to someone else. But, there’s a lot to be gained from setting out and finding things on our own. We are certainly not always sure of ourselves, and for good reasons. But, sometimes in that hunt for something, we find other things too. We learn things about ourselves we didn’t know. We fall in love with something at first site. And, it all begins on that trip somewhere new and exciting, when we turn our heads from the path for a moment, and see something so lovely, so great we do not want to take our eyes off it. We know now our lives will be a little different after this.
Our groups this week are Memphis Conference Singles, UT Martin Phi Sigma Epsilon, College Retreat to Stone Door, and Calvin House Youth. Keep them in your prayers this week. Also, special prayers for the family of Sue Kibbons. “Mama” Sue served with “Papa” John for most of the 70s, and were a big part of the construction of the “New Camp,” at Lakeshore (the cabins that you currently know at the camp). We are hoping to gather some memories of Mama Sue and post them here in the coming weeks.