Calumet lingers long after we return home – like the smell of smoke on our clothing (my kids always want me NOT to wash one thing, so they can still smell the campfire for weeks after we’re settled in to our Wayland routines).
And along with memories of Calumet, a weird phrase kept running through my head all week, and I realized that it is actually quite relevant. It’s from one of my favorite children’s books, called A Very Special House. It’s really about a place of mayhem—the not-scary kind that kids like—which is also a lot like the crazy survivalist experience of Calumet this year: everything got wet, and muddy and we got to play in the rain and stay up late and eat ice cream after dark….
So here’s the excerpt:
I know a house—it’s not a squirrel house; it’s not a donkey house—just like I said—
and it’s not up on a mountain, and it’s not down in a valley and it’s not down in a hole and it’s not down in our alley and it’s not up in a tree or underneath the bed—oh, it’s right in the middle—oh it’s ret in the meedle—oh it’s root in the moodle of my head head head.
And I realized… this is about church. Church is not a building or a place, but where people are gathered together. And sometimes church is not about the readings and the prayers and the singing – although that is important and there certainly was that at Calumet as well. But sometimes, after just muddling through the challenges of sleeping in tents in 35 degrees, or waking up to find the tarp ripped right off the tree, you look back and realize you spent 3 days in church. And despite the miserable weather, you still can’t wait to go back.
There were three new families this year – some whom had actually never been camping before – talk about trial by fire – and after we got home, they emailed to say thank you for inviting them, and that they are looking forward to next year! They came this year because they remembered (and commented on) seeing what I looked like when I got back last year – they said I glowed; I looked peaceful and relaxed – something most parents of young kids rarely feel after a vacation! I wish they would join our church – they are such great people, but I don’t think they will, but they did get to experience a little of what it’s like for us, and as my friend Pam wrote in her email “I can see why you love your friends so much – they are so easy to be around and so interesting.”
I think we draw out the best of each other and I think that is partly our shared faith at work. We trust each other, and help each other, and that makes it easy to help others and invite them in. One example of this—the sermon on Sunday was a parable about the loaves and the fishes, and we sort of experienced something like that first hand. It was so cold and many of us had trouble keeping warm at night. So, Jonathan drove over an hour round trip to North Conway to find a hardware store that sold insulation to put over our mattresses to trap our body heat; Alan drove a long way in the other direction to buy blankets at the Ocean State Job Lot. And one of the families in a cabin donated a down comforter. So finally, on the third night, we had more than enough blankets and we weren’t freezing in our sleep.
My last anecdote is thanks to Teddy Vogt. He and Keira were rediscovering each other over the weekend – playing A LOT together, something that just rarely happens in an hour or two at church. And at one point, Teddy said to Keira, who is very quiet and shy: “Keira would you say something? I don’t remember what your voice sounds like. I want to hear your voice.” That, to me, is Calumet… in so many ways!