"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Wonderful remembrances and the blessing

My sister and me at Suttle Lake United Methodist Camp, 1973
In Blue Iris: Poems and Essays Mary Oliver recounts an event from her childhood in an essay titled "A Blessing" which had a lasting effect on her life. As a teenager she and a friend camped alongside a river for several weeks. They received the blessing from their parents for the weeks they were away from home. Their days were full of exploring nature and their evenings were spent sitting by the campfire telling stories. Near the end of the essay Oliver expresses her gratitude that she was allowed the freedom to explore nature on her own terms, without parental supervision. This camping trip influenced the rest of her life and her work as a poet.

I, too, was given a similar blessing from my parents. Every summer, starting at age thirteen through eighteen my parents paid for me to go to church camp. By high school I was attending two week-long camps per summer. One year I went to three. Not once, until now, did I even consider the financial cost to my folks that came with this blessing.

I absolutely loved church camp. I loved everything about it -- staying in a cabin full of other girls my age, being in a small group with boys and girls and our counselors, meals eaten together in the lodge, singing, campfires, nature walks, meditations, and friends. So many of my happiest memories from my early years happened at camp. And many of my oldest friends I met or got to know better at camp.

Normally I don't spend a lot of time reminiscing about high school days, but two events this past week brought some wonderful memories forward.

First, my mother recently gave me a batch of old photos she found in some boxes. Among the photographic treasures were two pictures of a church youth leadership team called SYMCO that I was part of during my senior year. The thirteen of us on the council were responsible, along with our advisors, for planning and implementing a summer camp we called "Workshop." In addition, our team met once a month at various churches around the state to provide leadership and enthusiasm for youth group programs. It was a tremendous experience being part of SYMCO and I became very close with the other twelve members. With the reappearance of these photos I felt compelled to find my former teammates. I contacted one person from the team, Sue, who I've stayed in touch with all these years. She remembered everyone's name or knew where to find them. With that information I posted on Facebook hoping to generate a reaction. So far I've found ten of the twelve and four have responded to me. I am thrilled at the prospect of renewed friendships.

Secondly, another camping buddy, Greg, created a private Facebook page this week for long ago youth group members from all over the Oregon-Idaho conference. Since all of us were active in our church youth groups in the 1970s, we are all in our sixties now. To a person, everyone loved camp. One of my oldest best friends, Ken, remarked that he loved camp so much and all his best friends were campers as well. I think it was our shared experiences that made us and kept us as best friends. Another friend, Kris, concurred that many of her happiest moments happened at camp. It is just a thrill reconnecting with these people. My older sister, Kathy, and I had a long chat this week about how much church camp meant to us. The photo (above) of the two of us at Suttle Lake Camp was taken when I was a sophomore and she was a senior in high school. We were not only siblings, we were also (and still are) great friends.

Which brings me back to the blessing. I just got off the phone with my mother. I thanked her for the blessing she and Dad gave me by funding my ability to attend so many camp weeks each year. Mom, who is now 91 years old, said she didn't think camp was very expensive in those days but was happy to acknowledge my thanks. She remembered going to church camp at Suttle Lake as a child and can vividly remember many things she did there. I have very vivid memories from my camping experiences, too. I have been richly blessed by my church camp experiences and continue to be blessed by friendships formed or cemented there.

My very favorite church camp location was Suttle Lake in the Oregon Cascades. The website describes Suttle Lake United Methodist camp as a "Sacred Space." I wholeheartedly agree. The website also has an archive of old records and photos from the early days. Who knows, maybe my mom is in one of the photos from the 1940s. Wouldn't that be perfect? Because of its location in the mountains it was also a wonderful spot for winter camping. My husband and I have figured out that we both attended the same snow camp at Suttle Lake one year when we were in junior high, though we didn't know each other at the time.

Camp Magruder is located between a small lake and the Pacific Ocean on the Oregon Coast.
My second favorite camping spot was Camp Magruder on the Oregon Coast. Their website assures us that camping will "keep the fire burning." Ain't that the truth! My camping experiences have laid the foundation for my lifelong faith and interests in spiritual matters. I not only went to youth group camps at Magruder but every year our church congregation attended a family camp there over Labor Day weekend during all my formative years. What a wonderful way to get to know people from your church -- camping together.

Camp Latgawa UMC Camp is located in Southern Oregon. I not only attended camp there as a teenager but I also have very clear memories of being there as a kid when my parents hosted a camp for college students. The camp's motto is "finding something special at the end of the road." It is a truth universally acknowledged that when we leave the paved roads of our lives we often can find ourselves. I did that through camping.

Apparently my first camping location, Loon Lake, is no longer a United Methodist camp. I have really fond memories of living with other campers in a teepee beside a stream for the week-long camp. It was my first and only experience living in a teepee. What fun! To get to this camp a barge had to ferry campers across the lake as it was only accessible by boat. In addition to teen camp, my parents took the family to Loon Lake camp for several years when they were hosting college camps. My siblings and I were like the camp mascots.

Such wonderful remembrances! Such a blessing!

-Anne

PS: Please share your camping stories below in the comment section.

PPS: Here is a shout-out to a few (out of many, many) friends that I remember sharing camping fun with:
Loon Lake: Linda W. and Kay L.
Camp Latgawa (which has been renamed since we attended camp there): Sue T., Sherrill B., Linda L.
Camp Magruder: Gerry H., Ken W., Andy G., all my SYMCO partners, Paul L., Rita S., Greg W. and so many more.
Suttle Lake: All of the above plus Tami F., Lael H., Ken B., Michael B., Kathy K.
Family Camp at Magruder: Many of the above and Barb S., Kristen B.
Counselors and advisors: Betty and Wayne H., Tom T., Michael S., Norm B., Wes T., Max, Bob H., plus many I have forgotten your names but not your kindness and devotion. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
For making it all possible for me to attend camp so often: Bob and Shirley K.---Mom and Dad! I love you!

15 comments:

  1. I wasn’t a good camper. However, we grew up poor and that was a favorite vacation my family could afford. I do appreciate that my parents saved money to buy a small boat from which we all learned to water ski. That made our camping vacations a bit more exciting. Although my camping days are over, I do have a lifelong appreciation of nature and the sacred place it should hold in our lives. I thank Dad for spending hours foraging for mushrooms, fishing in the streams and harvesting the wild berries of the Blue Mountains and showing me the simple mountain treasures to be found.

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    1. As a family we went camping every once in a while, which made church camp extra special. I think your experiences in nature sound a lovely and bonding experience with your parents.

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  2. My mother is also going through old photos and has found some real gems (and some I'd sooner forget!). It must be a pandemic thing. :-)

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    1. Every time I talk to mom she is attacking another box or file. Ha!

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  3. Wonderful memories spurred on by frozen moments in time. I loved going to Camp Magruder. I love even more reliving those memories with those who shared them with me.

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    1. I have so many happy memories fro Magruder. I wonder if it is still as magical as it was when we attended camp there?

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  4. Thank you for reminding me of some of my happiest memories. It was not church camps in my life but Boy Scout camps. Camp Meriwether on the Oregon coast on Cape Lookout, Camp Wallowa in the Blue Mountains of NE Oregon, Camp Baker outside Florence on Siltcoos Lake at the coast and the dunes for a number of years and finally Camp Melakwa in the Three Sisters Wilderness in the heart of the Cascades. I won the “Big Fish” award at Camp Melakwa with a 6 inch trout. Of course it was also the only fish caught that week😁.

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    1. I think camping in general is a life-changing event in young kid's lives. So important to out in nature and out from under our parent's wings.

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  5. My parents never camped, nor did I go to church camp. Patt loved it though, so we did quite a bit of it as a family. Now that I'm older, I prefer more comfortable accommodations! :)

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  6. Anne, you describe well the indescribable "camp" experience. Scott - 1971-1972 SYMCO

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    1. Scott, We have all been trying to figure out when SYMCO was formed and when did it die? Were you part of the first SYMCO or did it exist before 1971? Too bad that it didn't continue. Wonderful youth involvement.

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  7. I went to 4-H camp one year, and spent most of the week dreadfully homesick. Although my family were big campers, taking trips every summer to Canada, Yellowstone, and many other places. I continued that tradition with my own kids. We still camp, but now it is mostly “glamping.” My sister loved CYO church camp so much, she went every year and became a counselor. I’ve always been a homebody. Still am.

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  8. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Church Camps, Anne. I also have treasured memories of Suttle Lake and Camp Magruder. Looking back, the exploration of my ideas and faith first took place there. It was a time where no one was telling me what to feel, think or do. It was between me and God. It was self realization, and God realization happening simultaneously. The love and affection of trusted adults was so important. It was great to discover adult "friends" in the counselors. Wes T, Max Pew, Michael, to name a few. And, I learned about perspective on life from a new friend who was 4 feet something tall (Leann). And, at Camp Magruder, I had my first close encounter with Jesus through prayer. Although I was blessed to have the influence of believers in my family, my babysitter Marilyn was probably the most influential in my life. Until her last days of life, we spoke about Jesus, his love for each of us, and our hope in Him, trust for His plan, and faith in His ability to keep all His promises to us. This post is so fitting since Marilyn was also a camper at Camp Magruder, with CFO. Part of her cremains were spread there this past weekend, over the cross near the sign where everyone drives into camp. Her son Doug sent me photos of the event. This really makes me happy, and I know it would her, too. Thanks again, Anne.

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  9. Jeff Anderson, a friend from old SYMCO days said:
    "Many years ago I was on an organization in the United Methodist Church called SYMCO which stood for the Senior Youth Ministries Council of the Oregon Idaho Annual Conference of the church. So much of my life began in that organization in that time that I can clearly look back and attribute almost everything to what happened there and then. The last week or so it has been wonderful to reunite on Facebook with others who shared this experience with me. It reminds me of how very real it all was and how much of a difference it truly made. I'm profoundly thankful for SYMCO and Conclave and Lani and all the other strange names that became second nature to me during those marvelous, enchanted times."

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  10. Anne Merydith, a friend from Old SYMCO days said:
    "My SYMCO year was transformative. Great people. Great work, including being on a conference wide committee on peace and justice. Finally being able to drive to Portland from Grants Pass on my own at the end of the year. Speaking in front of 1,000 people at convocations. Tears, smiles, back rubs. And broadening of mind and experiences."

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