For ten weeks this winter I was gifted with a sabbatical. After eight years serving as executive director, it was time to pause daily work and step away to reflect, rest, and be renewed. I’m incredibly grateful to the staff team and Camp Board who encouraged and supported me in this time away, and who kept things running smoothly in my absence.
Among the graces received during the sabbatical was the reconnection and renewal that came through time spent in the woods here at Camp. To experience the trails, the trees, the creatures, with fresh perspective and space was a real gift – and to experience them with my family added additional layers of joy. Below is an excerpt of a journal I kept during those weeks, providing a glimpse into my experience on sabbatical.
March 22, 2022
As I sat on the deck facing the rising sun, a rush came over me – I love this place.
Yes, I thoroughly enjoy my work at Camp – full of purpose & meaning. I’m deeply committed to Camp, with care and tenderness for its mission, its people, and its history.
But I love this place, this land…The oaks, older than any person alive; the big beech of Turtle Hill. Even the non-native maple in our yard – the one that Mae referenced when she said she missed home while on a recent vacation in the desert.
On this sunny Sunday, the first day of spring, the kids and I walk the woods. I’d intended to walk alone, seeking quiet and some time for myself – but their insistence made me relinquish my plans and we headed out on the trails together. Mae in the stroller to start, we head down the wider, mostly flat, Main Trail. Together we look at the map and decide– to the Red oaks we’d go.
Leaving the stroller behind, we all hike the hill leading up. Henry asks if we can stretch our arms around the trunk of old Red oak in an embrace. We try. Too big. But then the children lean up against old Red oak’s trunk anyway, looking up at its branches so high – still bare. They linger awhile – something of awe lingering. Suddenly Mae wants to run down the hill, so off she goes, pausing where erosion makes the way less friendly to little running legs.
Then it’s off to Wellspring they decide – they’re hungry and it is time to find watercress growing in the fen. The kids go to the water’s edge, climb on fallen branches, trying to retrieve nourishment to revive themselves (or so they say), without sinking into the wetland.
I sit on a bench – watching – sun pouring through the bare trees’ limbs. I turn at the sound of rustling grass behind me – a garter snake slinks down, pauses and looks at me. We locked eyes for a while, long enough for me to observe its two beady black eyes, forked red tongue. The kids join me at the mention of a snake (part fear? part curiosity?), scampering up to the bench. From there, we all sat watching her watching us. For minutes, I think, we stayed that way – captured by her attention, her gaze, until we watched her nearly stand straight up, enough to round a fallen tree, and slither away, out of sight. A graced moment.
As I return, I hope to remember the gifts of retreat and renewal that I experienced through the peaceful woods and to let it infuse my daily work. I hope to remember the gifts of the bubbling springs, the slinking snakes, and steady trees. I hope to remember the ways that God is alive in the world all around us – and to continue to provide a place for people young and old to experience this Divine Love!