Coming Together

By Green River Preserve

After a long day of Group Learning Projects followed by a meticulous cabin cleansing and a herculean packing effort, The Hunger started to set in at GRP. Anyone who had forgotten to sneak an extra apple or two on their GLP adventure was openly salivating, and a few counselors who packed only one sandwich for lunch might have been weeping. The Hunger was upon us.

When, at last, campers had identified most of their muddy socks, primitive creations, and pirate outfits, and had finally managed to stuff them laboriously into overflowing trunks, we all drudged up to the Lodge for our last dinner together. And then we waited.

For six and a half maddening minutes we waited. Those of us who spent the day hiking 10 miles through DuPont State Forest did our best to look like breathing life-forms, while the folks from the Practicing Primitive and Baking GLPs fought to pretend that they didn’t spend the whole day eating. A select few even looked well-groomed and freshly showered…

Finally, dinner was hot and ready for us. We variously crawled, skipped, or (in the case of the Journals & Yoga GLP folks) almost seemed to float into the lodge.

But instead of our usual configuration, where each cabin group inhabits its own island of a table, tonight campers saw those islands come together, forming three long banquet slabs. There was no better way to defeat The Hunger than by feasting like Chieftains.

This dining style might be unfamiliar to campers, especially those who are not in fact Chieftains or Medieval Kings or Norse gods, or those who have yet to experience a last day at GRP. But for staff, Banquet is both expected and revered. For us it’s a visual reminder of the growth and connection we’ve seen in each of our campers over the last two weeks.

We stuff our faces with fluffy slice after fluffy slice of pizza, and help ourselves to the crumbs of the caramel cake, pour a sixth cup of coffee. We try not to tear up in public when our campers say through a mouth full of mozzarella that they will miss us a whole lot, or when—without prompting—they offer to help clean up the dishes.

When the very last bite of cake was devoured, Banquet came to a close with a slide show from Sam and our talented media team. If the symbolic table configuration didn’t do the trick, a few hundred pictures of smiles and adventure clearly illustrated how much we’ve grown—not just as individuals, but also how we’ve grown together as a community.

As we’ve climbed winding mountains, become “Polar Bears” under Uncle’s Creek Falls; as we’ve searched the woods for caves and fireflies and wild edibles, or even as we swept our cabins, cleaned our tables, or helped teach a friend how to wood burn or make poplar-bark cordage, we have built a special community here. These pictures remind us of how we are all connected. How we must recognize our impacts on others, and that we must be grateful for those who have enriched our lives over these few weeks and beyond.

Our islands of individuality have not eroded, of course, but grown more defined—because we have each helped to connect the dots, to draw a constellation in our minds between ourselves, our friends and mentors, and our fellow creatures who are each a part of this land.

Just like Banquet, the final piece to our closing ceremony was also replete with symbolism. After another gathering around the sacred Upper Council Fire, where we heard once again the wisdom of those that came before us – and this time perceive it from a place of deep experience – we walked softly to the edge of the lake. Here we were given a lit candle fixed to a small square of wood.

Candlelight

As we stood by the shore, we were asked to remember this place, our precious time together, and to always seek the joy of being alive. Then we set our candles into the lake. We listened in reverence to the sound of guitar and banjo, the music of frogs and crickets. Our tiny floating lights flickered together in slow motion, mirroring the clear expanse of stars above. Many of us held each other arm in arm and sang. The current spun our candles across the surface and back again to the shore, sending waves of light through the shallow water.

Avery McGaha
June 26, 2014