The Gifts of Nature (Sessions 3 & 5, July 14)

By Sandy Schenck

As Annie Dillard notes, nature “is very much a now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t affair.  A fish flashes, then dissolves in the water before my eyes like so much salt.  Deer apparently ascend bodily into heaven; the brightest oriole fades into leaves.”  She goes on to say that “these appearances catch at my throat; they are the free gifts” from the world (Pilgrim at Tinker Creek 18-19).  She would be proud of us here at the GRP; we have been doing our best to be observant and appreciative of the gifts of nature.  Today, while Mini-campers were out on hikes and in activities, and while 3-weekers were participating in service day projects, they saw—and took note of—some amazing things.  And had fun, too!

Mini-campers went on their last hikes this morning, and they made the most of their time.  Our Uncle’s Falls crew had lots of polar bears, and quite a few campers braved the Salamander Cave, too (if you go into the Salamander Cave as well as polar bearing, you’re a “polarmander”!).  They were very excited because they also saw a huge salamander—we think it might be the same one from yesterday, ruling the roost.  They were also excited because on their way up to the Falls, they saw lots of cool bugs—spiders, termites, centipedes….  Our Indian Cave hikers loved exploring the two main rooms of the cave, and they were thrilled because they also saw a huge salamander (maybe the Salamander Cave’s sibling? or more probably, long-lost cousin), as well as a cool cricket and a bat.  They also spied a walking stickbug—what an incredible creature, in its own very humble way.  Our visitors to the Balds marveled at the view; they also marveled at a praying mantis they found.  They played a game where they tried to find the colors of their clothing in nature; as Annie Dillard also notes, seeing the gifts of nature “is all a matter of keeping my eyes open” (19), and games like that help teach us to be observant.

After lunch and rest hour, Mini-campers moved into their last activity rotation.  In Outdoor Cooking, they made cornbread, cooking it up in an iron skillet over the fire.  After noticing all the apples that are ripe and falling to the ground in our orchard, they decided to make some apple cider, too, using the apple-press that’s in the Pioneer Cabin.  Campers in drawing sat outside, inspired by their natural surroundings; campers in nature art used leaves, stones, and sticks to create temporary sculptures.  In stream exploration, they caught lots of tadpoles, crawdads, and fish.  At the swim lake, campers were splashing around and playing with noodles; we were also fascinated by a dragonfly and a Japanese beetle that visited us on the dock.

After dinner—a festive final banquet for the Mini-session, in a Lodge decorated with a flower theme, with a menu of flank steak, broccoli and cheese, rice and gravy, rolls, salad bar, and homemade blueberry cobbler and ice cream for dessert—Mini-campers went to their last evening program, our closing Upper Council Fire.  There, they placed their spirit stones around the fire, and we shared some of our thoughts about the session and things we are thankful for.  We sang some songs, and then we heard a story from Bob.  We finished with “Sisters, Brothers”: “Sisters, Brothers/Let me tell you how I am feeling/You have made me so happy/I love you so!”

You can see some pictures from their last full day at camp here; we are so happy our Mini-campers have been with us!

3-weekers were engaged in some pretty stupendous projects around camp today, if we do say so ourselves.  We are really proud of them for jumping in and performing “at least one act of unbargaining service” with such great enthusiasm today (from the Woodcrafter Law of Love).  One group volunteered to paint our last new, ex-school bus; they chose a lovely lavender for the background color and a theme of bugs—we’re not sure yet what we’re naming our entomology-mobile, but we’re glad it will colorfully take us to see the sights and insects we love!  Another group started from scratch and built a brand-new ping-pong table for us to put under the Lodge.  Some campers opted to help with the construction of a new shelter, out at our South Prong camp-out location.  They got the floor done, and we’ll finish it over the year, so that they can use it when they return next year.  While they were out, they also saw a copperhead—so even though we’ve gotten our Grand Slam, we’re still on the look-out!  Thanks to some other campers, the Cave trail is a lot clearer; they started at the top and worked their way back to Base Camp, so now we’ll get a lot more use out of that trail.  Others were helping with the creation of a GRP field guide, one focused specifically around trees that grow here at the Preserve.  They set out this morning and collected leaf samples from a variety of trees around Base Camp; then they researched the trees, finding out their scientific names and other information about the different species.  This information will be collated into a field guide for use in future years.  And that yummy blueberry cobbler and those fun decorations for our Mini-campers?  All courtesy of our Fruit Cobbler service project group, taking care of our GRP family.  Campers down at the Farm had a huge day; they harvested 50 lbs. of beans, 19 lbs. of cucumbers, 10 lbs. of zucchini, 15 lbs. of squash, 10 lbs. of tomatoes, and 118 lbs. of potatoes!!  They also built a new worm farm, painted yellow with “The Littlest Worm”-themed (a favorite camp song) decorations on it; we’ll use it to recycle our brown paper napkins.  Our last group began work on something we hope to build on in future years, a “Leave Your Creative Legacy” project for the Green River Preserve.  Each year, we’ll choose a different and beloved trail on the Preserve, and record impressions of it through drawings, paintings, and words.  We started this year with the Upper Bald trail; at different points along the trail, campers stopped and sketched the location and wrote poems and thoughts about it.  When they got to the Upper Bald site itself, they painted it.  We’ll take pictures of these works and compile them into a book.  Campers take their impressions with them, when they take their sketches and writings, but they also leave behind a legacy—a record of their experience at The Green River Preserve.

For evening program, 3-weekers relaxed in the Lodge, which we made over into a Coffee House for the night.  Now they are getting some rest—they will be up early tomorrow—3 am!—for their hike to see the sun rise at Pretty Place.  We’ll have more details on that tomorrow, and we have pictures for you from today here—so you can see some of the gifts of nature, and our community, that we’ve been seeing and experiencing.