The landscape at camp looks completely like winter. Nearly all the leaves have been dropped, and as you look out through the forest, you see gray and brown with occasional breaks of green from the pine and cedar trees. Even on the sunniest days, the world seems to be tinted in gray. For the most part, it has been cold enough to shut up the large groups of animals that provide a soundtrack to the outdoors during warmer times. The crickets and frogs have gone to a warm place and won’t talk to each other for a while. The steady hum of croaks and chirps have been put away, and the woods seem much more lonely. It is a time of year for solitary, larger creatures. If a deer is moving a mile away, you will know. Each squirrel announces its presence, bouncing through piles of brown leaves. But even these noises are only breaks in the silence that scores these woods.
Our plans changed drastically on Tuesday, when we made the tough decision to cancel Christmas and Culture Day, which had been scheduled for this Saturday. We wanted at least 40 signed-up to do the event, and we barely got 30. We had grand plans of live trees, oil lamp light, old-timey crafts, storytelling, and period costumes. This week was to be spent decorating the Conference Center in greenery and ribbons, experimenting with recipes, and learning time-honored stories from our Christmas lexicon. The calls or mail did not come in, sadly, so we went back to the work of planning for the spring. We can, of course, take comfort in being relieved of some work, but you can’t help but be sad when you picture all the things that could have been happening this Saturday. You take this chance anytime you plan an event during this season, these days. Every entity wants to have its Christmas celebration, and why wouldn’t they?
A thick fog came into the area Wednesday and hung around until the afternoon. The sun was shining the entire day, and it took it hours to clear the fog. As I walked on top of Mockingbird Hill, I could see the fog covering the trees under Pilot Knob like Christmas decoration. Farther north fog covered most of the river, and the blue of the water and the gray-blue of the fog faded together, so that you couldn’t really tell where one ended and one began. It is eerie and beautiful to be out on these foggy days. At times, I think, we need some fog in our lives, so that we don’t see everything in our line of sight. Those of us who tend to try to manage everything and know everything, don’t really know when to turn things off. The fog covers up all that is not immediately in front of us. It gives us a chance to focus more on the things closest, leaving those far off things for when we are actually near them.
Bill opened his Christmas Cottage for the second year, selling hand made ornaments and more to benefit Lakeshore Scholarships. Kathy Conrad taught Bill how to hand throw pottery and how to use the kiln, so Bill’s added platters, nativity sets, candle holders and much more to his stock of driftwood crosses and Christmas trees. On nights that Bill cannot sleep, he spends his time making these crafts that will make life better for people in several ways. Bill mentioned he’s recently noticed a skunk near the Kaigler Lodge where he sleeps. He is convinced he is going to get sprayed sometime soon. Bill takes a lot of time, walking down by the river where he finds driftwood and rocks that look like some sort of figure only to Bill at first. Then, he sets a few rocks next to each other, and you see it perfectly–it’s Mary and Joseph kneeling by the manger. How he sees these things, I don’t know, but it’s clear to him. I doubt that when Bill accepted this job, he realized he would become an artisan in addition to a fundraiser, much the way I didn’t realize that I would become a naturalist while serving as Program Director. Sometimes, when you look for ways to do your job well, secret passions let you see them for the first time. It was there in you all this time, and now you see it. You know more what your life is to be about.
During this season, our best intentions urge us to see everyone, experience everything, reach out to all, and that doesn’t even consider all the voices begging us to spend money on something. If we listen to all the voices too long, we will overwhelm our minds, bodies, and spirits. In the original Christmas story, Mary and Joseph are dealing with all types of voices of their own: the Roman government, birth pains, finding a room, even keeping warm. I like to imagine, though, that the winter silence that finally came on that first night gave them a chance to look at their newborn child, still not even sure exactly what he was to be or do, just comforted by only a few sounds in the night. A few sounds they could take in with their whole being and love with all that was in them.
If you are in the neighborhood this Friday or Saturday (Nov 30/Dec 1) stop by the Arts and Crafts center next to the pool to check out Bill’s handiwork.