Fall is entrenching itself more and more at camp, and most of the leaves have lost their “pop.” Those bright vivid oranges, reds, and yellows are giving way to a more dirt-colored brown. Sunlight is giving way each day more and more to night, as we near the end of Daylight Savings. After Sunday, you’ll find it dark before you get out of work, but even now the night seems near at the end of the workday. The sun is already sitting behind the tall ridge to our west when the 5 o’clock whistle blows. You’ll find yourself ready to go to bed, then look at and see it’s only 7 o’clock in the evening. What happened? Did I come down with mono? No, it’s just getting dark earlier. It is programmed into our bodies to grow sleepy when it gets dark. Before we had bright candles or light bulbs, we just fell asleep when it got dark and woke up with the sun. It’s still in us, and these late fall/early winter months are great at reminding us that parts of us are still governed by instinct.
Earlier in the week, we had or first Terrific Tuesday, a day at camp for senior age adults with tours, crafts, devotions, and more food than any of us could possibly eat. Some of our guests had never been to Lakeshore before, some had come as campers in the 40s and 50s. One guest, in particular was Ms. Madge, who was turning 103 the next day. She was a bit of a rock star. Everyone wanted their picture taken with her, and she was mentioned at just about every gathering. She gets around very well and still drives. It’s amazing to think of all the things she’s seen. Taft was President when she was born. She was an eight year old when we entered WWI. She was almost twenty when the stock market crashed. She’s seen the hey-day of radio, television, movies, and internet. Of course, she’s a rock star.
Halloween came and went at the office this year with little fan-fare. No one dressed up in the office, and most everyone’s kids are too old for trick or treating. Attention to Halloween was mainly paid by looking over Facebook pictures of grandchildren and friends or volunteering at the local Trunk-or-Treat. My wife, Allyson, and I sat on the porch of our soon-to-be house and passed out candy. We only had about 15 trick-or-treaters pass through, though. I think the day sort of snuck up on us in the midst of a lot of other events and meetings. We were happy to revel from a distance in everyone else’s fun, but this year my costume of a lazy, slightly unshaven camp program director would have to pass. We do, however have a bucket full of candy left over from the festivities, and my teeth are feeling the pain that you could describe as the taste of giving into temptation.
We were also able to finally do our Program Planning Meeting. It had been scheduled a month earlier, but illness and tight October calendars caused us to postpone it. This is a very important meeting. We decide pretty much everything that will happen at the camp over the next year. Summer Camp dates are determined, Staff positions are decided on, policy changes, new retreats, rates, and so much more are discussed. This is a meeting you can’t put off too long. We will soon release our 2013 Summer Camp Dates and two new Summer Staff Positions that were added.
We came to the exciting point in our Fall retreat season, when we were able to light our first fire in the Conference Center fireplace and circle some rocking chairs around it. It was a chilly Terrific Tuesday, and the same thing popped into every staff member’s mind who passed by the empty fireplace with that nip in the air. Corky brought up some hickory logs from one of the trees that fell this summer, and before long, flames were blazing under the hearth, and it was standing room only around the rocking chairs. Before too long, people began telling stories and singing songs there in that circle. Bill was asked to sing a solo, and he broke out three verses of “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” Good friend of the camp, Mr. Phil Williams got up and recited several poems from memory that his father had written. His father was Poet Laureate of Tennessee for a stretch, and the poems Mr. Phil knew from memory dealt with chiggers, political candidates, and God inspired natural scenes.
Mr. Phil’s recitations told first person from political candidates’ perspectives had us rolling with laughter. We are, of course, especially prone to laughter, because of the discomfort that just keeps swelling, leading up to Election Day. It seems these days that if you aren’t talking about a candidate, you are talking about how tired you are of hearing talk about the candidates. I know the stupid slogans about our state representative and senate candidates that come in my mailbox in oversize postcard form: how one is “triple dipping his hands in the cookie jar,” and how one “tore up a dying woman’s will in front of her face, that would have benefited orphans.” Even the people who loathe parents on facebook who post non-stop pictures of their kids, must have felt relief on the day after Halloween, because, at least some of the political rants were watered down by little Billy dressed like an Angry Bird or little Mary Sue in her Big Bad Wolf in Grandma costume. They probably sighed a great relief to see shadowy pictures of 4 foot tall Super Mario as opposed to Romeny’s staged Hurricane Sandy Relief story or the 80th rant about Obamacare being the death nail in our spiraling debt situation.
These times are trying, for sure. We worry so much about the candidates, I guess, because we are worried about our future. Or we are frustrated by a lack of change, so just get tired of hearing about it. It’s tough not knowing the future. We just all want it to work out for the good–many times to the point that it’s hard to just trust anyone with it. So, we do what we feel is necessary to defend our hopes and dreams for the future. After Tuesday, these feelings will settle a little, but it won’t be the end, for sure. It’s in our nature, after all. There’s a lot that’s wired in us. And, there is something in there that makes us want to survive here as long as we can, even if it does result in an annoying stretch of months with back and forth political discourse. I wonder what Ms. Madge thinks of all this. Of all the Presidents that have come and gone. All the wars and financial crises that have darkened her door. And then of all the redemption that followed those times. I wonder, after all that she’s seen, if her instincts have changed a bit. Further, I wonder what wisdom God has for us in this time, having watched it all unfold. Today, as the sun prepares to sit, I can hear crickets out the window. For now there is a stillness and a peace. I wonder if we found that peace within us, where it might lead us. What would you do next if you had seen this whole world grow and unfold before your eyes? What would you hold tight to? What does this sun, your old friend, sitting over those hills once again say to you?
This weekend we have a Conference-wide Youth Retreat, a group from the State Park Civil War Skirmish, an Art Retreat, Boy Scout Troop, and Conference Youth Lay Speaker Training. As the Election comes and goes, may we vote as our convictions lead us but also vote with the way we live our lives.