We are back from another week in the sand and dirt and woods of west Michigan. Our ankles are covered in mosquito bites, our shoulders are slightly pink still from too much sun, and we are, for a brief time, sated with s’mores and hobo pies.
And our tanks are full again– we’ve spent a week in worship and study and play with our extended church family so we are, again, buoyed and hopeful.
It was a very good week. We’ve always camped in the same area– within two tents of Tent 13.5 — and this year we packed up and moved East across the camp to the mid 30s. Our new spot was near good friends and we reveled in late night card games, chats around the communal fire, and big “family dinners” that everyone contributed to. Our rhythms changed with the new location– the family dinners were slower, more boisterous. We were not labored with tending to just our own needs– fire, food, shelter– and so had more time to just Be.
It is good to head into this new school year with the confidence of who we are and to whom we belong– Jack needed that but so did we. It’s the best thing about family camp– all the generations tumbling upon each other so that there are always extra hands to hold the little people and extra advice for those in the pre-teen trenches. And so much love. Love for even the middle-agers who are tired and worn down from work and routine.
There is balm in the sunsets. There is rest in pulling our chairs out into the shadow waters and letting Lake Michigan lap over us while we read and talk and soak up the sun. There is joy in the singing at Firebowl. Convivial warmth in the shared meals and trivia games and walks along the trails. There are old friends and new friends and reconnections.
And there is dirt, and grime, and uncleaned bathrooms, mice in the walk-in coolers, chipmunks in the tents, and worn out children in need of a nap. There is patience required in the long walk to the ice-cooler or the wiping down of sandy tables and the shaking out of sleeping bags.
What a gift it all is.
If you aren’t a camper it’s horrifying– the filth and the faint whiff of mildew in a platform tent that is an open invitation to the little wood creatures and Daddy Long Legs. If you are an extreme introvert it’s a nightmare of having to talk to people everywhere– the classes and showers and beach…
But if you ARE a camper– all that lovely green around you is a wonderful thing. To hear birds and the skittering of tiny, furried feet is music. To be surrounded by people who reflect back 1 John 4:7-8 in their laughter and kindness and offers to toast a marshmallow for you… And what a pure and holy thing it is to be out of cell phone range– to see that “No Service” pop up on your iPhone and know that you are not for this world. Ah– that is a sacred offering in itself.
We store it up as best we can– we pack it up as surely as we pack up the tarps and bungee cords and camp dishes. Throughout the long year ahead we’ll find remnants, even in this thicker place, — a piece of a song or the whiff of wood smoke. And those remnants will stir the memory of who we are, what we are called to be, and how much we are loved.
Or at least that’s the hope.