Winter Camping at Wilderness

Wilderness has borne some of the most uncomfortable and formative experiences of my life, and my first foray into winter camping was to be no exception! My companions were my father, Jeff, an enthusiastic, pastorly man, and Bill, camp manager and wilderness savvy guide, who also happens to be my boss. Dad had dreamt of winter camping for years, and in the Sackett family, dreaming is usually synonymous with obsessing. He had perused website after website, watched countless Due North videos, and had finally met Bill at WCB, who agreed to guide the adventure. After a few days of preparation and 8+ inches of snow, Dad arrived up north and we covered last minute details over malts at Trail Center, as any professional explorers are wont to do.

The morning of our trek was bitterly windy and cold, marking around -10 degrees. We loaded up our sleds with gear (tents, fishing gear, warm clothing, food), and safely burrito’ed them into tarps until they resembled massive body bags. Bill taught us to strap the sled ropes to webbing wrapped around our torsos which would enable maximum power in our pull, and boy howdy, did we ever need that maximum power. As we began the journey away from warm, cozy Pinecliff, I quickly realized that this was no ordinary summertime-single-Duluth pack-on-a-portage trek. These sleds were full of frozen food, metal stove parts, canvas tents, and boots, everything necessary to keep us alive while camping – if we survived the trek.

Bill forged ahead, breaking trail through the mounds of new snow like nobody’s business, and Jeff threw his hands triumphantly in the air, finally achieving his dream (obsession).  I would like to credit the moral support I offered them from the caboose of our train. We ski-trudged along, and as I grew painfully accustomed to my newfound life as a sled-dog, I began to take in the absolute beauty surrounding us. The wilderness blanketed in white, dark pines silhouetted… these were our remedies to ski boots that rubbed and backs that ached.

Once we mercifully arrived at our destination of Miles Island, we raised up the hot tent before starting the work of foraging for firewood. After about an hour, Dad and I had successfully hauled 5 sleds worth of small cedar branches. After about 10 minutes, Bill arrived at camp with 3 giant cedar logs slung over his shoulder. A fitting analogy of our skills, I believe. We snacked and fished the rest of our daylight away, returning to the tent for a night of freshly-caught lake trout, and cribbage (let the record show that bossman Bill lost to me, little canoe guide Hannah). Bill returned to his teepee tent, where he slept the night away. Jeff and I however, faced a steep learning curve of winter camping sleep… should we sleep soundly, let the fire go out, and wake up with potential icicle toes? Or sleep fitfully, at the dying fire’s beck and call? We managed to find a happy medium of both very little sleep and very little warmth – but the only way to go was up! Another beautiful snowy day lay ahead of us, complete with more wood chopping, warm food, and fishing. It’s the simple things, really, and Bill/Jeff were the most hilarious duo I could have asked for. Dad and I worked our way up the steep learning curve, and achieved a much warmer and more restful night of sleep, and we were ready to begin the trek back the next morning.

The trek back to base was warmer, although just as snowy and just as plodding, but as Bill cheerily stated, “Well, there’s no other option! Just think like a horse to the barn door!” Very optimistic for somebody about to break trail through knee-deep snow. We maintained that infectious optimism, stopping to photograph one another and truly admire the breathtaking wilderness landscape surrounding us on Seagull Lake. Dad continued to excitedly throw his ski poles into the air, loving every minute of the exertion because, “WE DID IT”.

Yep, we did, and it was a truly wonderful first experience winter camping. It was gritty, working hard to survive and stay warm. It was sweet, watching my dad realize his dream. It was humbling, swallowing my pride to learn so much from Bill. It was wild, finding otter tracks in the snow, staring down the wonderland of tundra that is Seagull, nourishing ourselves with fresh lake trout. It was sacred, experiencing the stillness of God’s creation in community with two of my favorite people, both of whom have influenced my love of wilderness greatly. When I woke up after my 14 hour sleep the day after, my StoryPeople calendar read: “Trust love. That’s pretty much it…. Except, maybe, drink more water.” Basically, my first winter camping lessons in a nutshell. I invite you to take a step (or leap) out of your comfort zone, and join us at Wilderness Canoe Base! Let’s trek together through this crazy, holy world together.

-Hannah Sackett, Guide ’16 & Retreat Staff ’17 (pictured with her dad Jeff in the top right picture)

Interested in scheduling your own winter trek with Bill? Contact the WCB office at wcboffice@campwapo.org or (218)388-2241

Introducing the Yurt

 

yurt-2We are thrilled to announce the completion of our newest housing option, our yurt-inspired cabin! After a year of planning and many helping hands over the summer and fall, it is open for business!

The Need:

Wilderness is seeing an increased need not only for more housing in general, but a desire specifically for family-sized housing units thanks to our growing number of families who are visiting both in the summer and year-round. Furthermore, our growing retreat season numbers dictate a need for more winterized spaces. This new building addresses both of those needs while also providing a unique housing option for outdoor adventurers looking for a new way to get outside.

 

 

The Specs:img_4674

This 12-sided wooden cabin boasts all the charm of a traditional yurt while providing a permanent structure to serve our guests for years to come. It is a fully winterized building for up to 4 guests which utilizes a wood-burning stove for heat and solar power for lighting. It is located near the beginning of the Janzig trail behind Selah cabin.

Take a virtual walk through of the yurt!

 

The Helping Hands:

Hauling lumber to the yurt site

The volunteer participation in this project was enormous! We received significant design and construction help from general contractor Jack Harness who helped us transform our vision into a reality. Once the building process began, we had help from work-service summer groups, church work-groups during the retreat season, summer staff members, retreat staff members, and casual volunteers from May through October of 2016. We are so thankful for our volunteers!

 

We would like to specifically recognize:

  • Our Saviour’s, Minneapolis MNimg_4675
  • Christ Lutheran, Marine on St. Croix MN
  • Lord of Life, Baxter MN
  • First Lutheran, Amery WI
  • Como Park, St. Paul MN
  • Christus Victor, Apple Valley MN
  • Normandale, Edina MN
  • Mt. Olivet, Plymouth MN
  • Our Redeemer, St. Paul
  • Prince of Peace, Brooklyn Park MN
  • Shepherd of the Hills, Shoreview MN
  • Grace, Albert Lea MN
  • Hope Lutheran, Minneapolis MN
  • National Smokejumper Association

 

The Future:

imgp4128Plans are underway for a second yurt to be constructed nearby to the first one in 2017. This would allow an entire canoe group to be housed between the two yurts, or two families or smaller groups to have more private housing. We are looking for members of the Wilderness community to contribute to this project with the knowledge that we cannot do it without you! Donations can be made online or in the mail (for more info please click here) and be sure to designate your funds to the project. If you would like to volunteer your time and talents, please send us an inquiry at wcboffice@campwapo.org so we can get connected with you!

Come Visit!

Email wcboffice@campwapo.org if you want to come stay in our yurt (or any other cabins, for that matter!) We would love to host you.

Community Singing

This summer, a new tradition began at Wilderness – Naturalist Solveig and Guide Alison introduced us to “community singing.” Community singing is singing in the oral tradition for the joy of singing. There is no audience or performance – everyone sings, regardless of musical ability. Community singing songs are taught by rote, not sheet music, and often include layered parts, harmonies, and rounds.
In the beginning of the summer, Solveig and Alison taught the staff lots of community singing songs that many guides in turn taught their campers on trail. On base, we shared community singing songs at Sunday church, evening Vespers services, and campfires. By the middle of the summer, it was not uncommon to hear community singing songs sung spontaneously in Pinecliff or hummed along trails – Wilderness was full of beautiful music!

IMG_8969

Solveig, teaching us a song during vespers.

Community singing is fabulous for many reasons. The songs themselves are lovely. They are often short and repetitive, but full of thoughtful and inspiring messages. For example, in “One by One” by Michael Stillwater we sing “One by one everyone comes to remember, we’re healing the world one heart at a time.” Or in “Humbly” by Laurence Cole, we sing “Humbly we walk here, humbly we sing here, humbly we bless this ground / Humbly and with gratitude, remembering the ancient ones who walked this ground / Humbly we walk this ground with the spirit of blessing in our hearts.” These lyrics are especially powerful when sung by many voices.
Community singing is also wonderful because it perfectly fits the spirit of Wilderness. Community singing is all about making music accessible to everyone, regardless of musical ability, much like Wilderness aims to make canoe tripping and wilderness experiences accessible to everyone, regardless of canoeing or camping experience. The lyrics of the songs, and the act of singing together in harmony, evoke the commitment of Wilderness to community building, peacefulness, faith, and love. We are so thankful to Solveig and Alison for teaching us the tradition of community singing and we are excited weave these songs and this type of singing into the fabric of Wilderness.

 

-Emily Spoden, Program Coordinator 2015

Blueberry Season

An exciting time has come in the north woods: blueberry season.  Whether it is by the sauna, on the Janzig nature trail, or on a portage, these little morsels can be found everywhere, and often in seemingly endless quantities.

The staff go on hikes around camp, relaxing and picking berries, and bring back yogurt containers full of the blue gems.  Visitors at camp do the same, enjoying the free, fresh fruit that does not grow in the cities down south.

One thing that struck me as I filled my bag one day, collecting some berries to bring home to my family, was that there were so many berries.  We could all go out and pick for hours, taking large jugs back, and there still would be countless berries.  This almost endless supply reminded me of one of the passages I read on trail, from Psalms 139.

 

Your eyes saw my unformed body;

    all the days ordained for me were written in your book

    before one of them came to be.

 

How precious to me are your thoughts, God!

    How vast is the sum of them!

 

Were I to count them,

    they would outnumber the grains of sand—

    when I awake, I am still with you.

 

Psalm 139:16-18

 

Since I cannot fully comprehend the vast number of grains of sand, I likened this verse to the blueberries.  No matter how many picked, there were always more.   If these berries seemed endless, how vast the grains of sand must be!  And God’s thoughts about his children outnumber the sand, and outnumber the blueberries.  This was a humbling fact as I watched new groups each week go and pick in the abundant berry supply.  God’s thoughts and plans about me outnumber these berries! 

Another interesting fact about these lovely blueberries we have enjoyed is that they would not be possible without the clearing of trees that was made by the Ham Lake Fire in 2007.  The burn area has fewer trees, more sun, and more acidic soil, making it a perfect habitat for the blueberry plants.  We would not be able to enjoy these little blessings without the destruction of the fire.

Sometimes God works in mysterious ways.  Sometimes the tragedies and the hardships are just making a more fertile soil for his countless blessings to spring forth, much like our lovely blueberries. His thoughts, blessings, and mercies keep coming…and coming. They outnumber the blueberries on the island; they outnumber the grains of sand.

Alison Vuolo, Canoe Guide 2015

 

Full Circles at Wilderness: the Promise of Renewal

One of our favorite times of the summer at Wilderness is when the Nominations campers arrive on base. Because of their positive attitudes and great work ethics, these campers were nominated by their previous guides to return to Wilderness to complete a longer, more challenging trip. This year, we had the opportunity to guide a “Noms” group that paddled east along the border route, ending with the 8.5-mile Grand Portage to Lake Superior.

Nominations Campers!

This trip was meaningful in the ways that most canoe trips are. Our shared struggles and triumphs quickly fused our group together, and we shared many laughs along the way. This trip was especially meaningful for us guides because we were both Noms campers ourselves in 2009 and 2011. It was surreal to be leading the same trip that we had participated in as campers – it felt like our Wilderness journeys were coming full-circle.

Jarrod and Rachel! 
Camper Rachel, on Nominations in 2009!

We see these full circles everywhere at Wilderness: campers become guides, birches and aspens grow taller each year, and burned pieces of land become blueberry patches. Wilderness is always in cycles of growth, renewal, and change. At the same time, Wilderness is also a constant, steady home to return to and an ever-growing family comprised of all the people that are connected to this place. As we’ve both discovered, Wilderness is a place that takes hold of people and never really lets them go. We are so grateful to be a part of this place and its beautiful, changing cycles, and we know that it will continue to be an impactful, sacred space as our campers become guides and the cycles continue.      

— Rachel Enwright and Jarrod Klopp, Canoe Guides 2015

Notes from a Swamper

The 10-hour drive to camp from my hometown began with familiarity as my dad and I drove on roads and passed landmarks we recognized. Only once we were through Duluth did I begin to feel like a stranger in a new land.
Wisconsin to Minnesota – not too different, right? They’re neighbors! Farther and farther north we drove, without the destination appearing to inch any nearer on our cell phone’s GPS. I began to feel very, very small. We had only driven between two states in one of the world’s largest countries that takes up only a fraction of the globe- and THAT trek felt huge.
Having spent a few days at WCB now, I have done many new things and seen even more beautiful sights than I could count, but the one thing I have certainly gained is perspective. It’s been incredibly humbling to sit on enormous rocks that have been in their spots since before humans, or to stare up at the vast night sky and imagine all the possibilities of eyeballs that have seen the same sky- voyageurs, explorers, cartographers, or a gentle moose.
The vastness of God’s creation should never be belittled. Being here for the first time has allowed me to look at the little red squirrels in the woods with the same understanding and compassion as I would look at my own sister. Because in the family of God, every creature, tree, and drop of water are brothers and sisters in Christ.

 

Haley Winckler, Swamper, July 2015

Sunrise, Sunset

This summer, my first
summer working as a canoe guide at Wilderness Canoe base, I have gained a new appreciation for sunrises and sunsets. During my time spent on base, I often spend my evenings observing the sunset view easily seen from upstairs of Pinecliff. It’s incredibly peaceful to watch the sun dip down behind the spires of the
chapel on Dominion, the sky tinted orange with the heat of day and the clouds pink and wispy and the trees silhouetted to black. Once I even watched the sun set twice in one evening, first down low from the dock, then again much higher up in Pinecliff. I think that the reason I like sunsets so much, apart from their obvious aesthetic beauty, is that they offer a time to slow
down and focus on accomplishing absolutely nothing, a luxury seldom afforded to
me.

Sunsets on trail have an entirely different meaning. It is rare that I actually
get to see a sunset while leading a group on trail, sometimes because my selected
campsite is not west facing, but more often because I like to get my groups in
bed by 8:30 pm, exhausted from waking up at 5 am and a long day of paddling.
However, the few times I have witnessed a sunset on trail have been special
moments for my campers and I, perhaps because they were some of the only quiet
moments from the trip, or perhaps because the sunset touched everyone in a
different way although we experienced it together. I think of a quote from
“Paddle Whispers” by Douglas Wood, “So why… why go through it?
Why even be here [in the Boundary Waters}? […] Because “here” is
where the beauty is. Here is where the sunsets are.”

Before my times on trail this summer, I had seen very few sunrises. Usually I
like to get up before my campers, gathering my personal belongings, lowering
the food pack (hung high in the trees to protect from bears}, and heating up
some camp-stove coffee in peaceful silence before the hustle and bustle of the
morning begins. During these quiet moments I am able to enjoy the beauty only a
morning on trail can offer, as the fog clears from the still lake, not yet
stirred by traveling canoes and afternoon winds. Therefore, for me, seeing a
sunrise is often a solitary endeavor, a chance to gather my thoughts and
prepare for the day ahead.

Although you may not be spending your summers in the BWCA like I am, I
challenge you to find your own meaning in sunrises and sunsets, and enjoy the
beauty and tranquility only they can offer.

– Megan Ecker, Canoe Guide

 

Reflections on a Mosquito

One does not need know me long in order to find out how much I hate mosquitoes… especially in
a place like the Boundary Waters, where every molecule of air seems to produce another
mosquito.  I can frequently be seen doing a strange mosquito-swatting dance while making weird yelling noises when those tiny, humming bugs are particularly fierce.

About this time last year, I determined that I would probably achieve enlightenment the day I found out why mosquitoes exist. Well, today I’m here to report back.  No… I still haven’t learned why they exist, nor do I expect I will anytime soon.  But I have had a few realizations in the past year, and one in particular pertains to mosquitoes.

The outhouses at Wilderness Canoe Base are a great way to attain information.  There are posters about nearly every plant and animal you can find up here.  One day earlier this summer, I found myself reading a poster about luna moths.  I wasn’t trying particularly hard to retain the facts I was reading, but one fact stopped me.  Did you know? Luna moths store up all their food and energy in their caterpillar stage and don’t eat at all once they become moths.  They only live about a week and their primary goal before their death is to reproduce.  My first thought was, “if that’s all they do, why do they even exist?!” A couple days later, I read a similar poster about mosquitos, and was once again awed by their short lifespan and how they only eat (mostly our blood) and reproduce during that time.  Once again, my thought was “Why do they exist?”

And then it hit me.  “Why do we exist?  Why do humans exist?” Unfortunately, I can’t answer that question any more than the same one in reference to mosquitoes.  Biologically speaking, homo sapiens really aren’t that different from mosquitoes and moths.  We may live much longer and place more meaning on our lives, but our main focus as a species is to eat and to reproduce.  Furthermore, humans certainly must do more harm to the Earth than mosquitoes do, mostly because we live as though the Earth and all its creatures exist almost entirely for our
use and benefit.  I suppose I can’t say for certain that mosquitoes don’t  act and feel the same way, but it seems to me that they are more “one” with the world and creatures around them than we are.

These thoughts reminded me of a song that has sort of become my motto or “spirit song” when I am up here.  Now I recognize that the Disney movie Pocahontas is not historically accurate, but it conveys some strong messages and the song Colors of the Wind is one of the more profound songs I’ve heard in my life.

You think you own whatever land you land on.

The earth is just a dead thing you can claim

But I know ever rock and field and creature

Has a life, has a spirit, has a name.

You think the only people who are people

Are the people who look and think like you.

But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger,

You’ll learn things you never knew you never knew.

Come run the hidden pinetrails of the forest.

Come taste the sunsweet berries of the Earth.

Come roll in all the riches all around you

And for once, never wonder what they’re worth.

The rainstorm and the river are my brothers.

The heron and the otter are my friends.

And we are all connected to each other

In a circle, in a hoop that never ends.

I find these words to be so humbling. Though intended for a European settler arriving in the “New World” in the 17th century, they are still so relevant today.  We, humans, so often see the world as something for our benefit and we question the existence of things that don’t benefit us…like mosquitoes.  But this song, though it does not speak explicitly of God, can be understood as saying that all living things, all of Earth, all things under the sun are equal and beautiful to God.  Even living and non-living things are equated – “the rainstorm and the river are my brothers.
The heron and the otter are my friends.”

Furthermore, there are so many systems, processes, and cycles that connect all beings, that the complexity of the human body and brain is only a mere reflection of the complexities of the earth and the roles of each drop of water, each landslide, each sunset, and each mosquito. Who am I to say that I am of more value than a luna moth because I am bigger and live longer?  It, like myself, is part of God’s great colorful canvas of creation.

Perhaps my favorite part of “Colors of the Wind” is the refrain:

Have you ever heard the wolf cry to the bluecorn moon?

Or asked the grinning bobcat why he grins?

Can you sing with all the voices of the mountain?

Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?

Those last two lines especially catch my attention, because they don’t immediately make sense.  Of course, mountains can’t really sing and the wind has no color, because it can’t truly be seen at all.  Yet, as I dwell longer on the lyrics, I once again consider the complexities of the world that we likely haven’t the capability to understand.  I am only limiting myself by dwelling on what my senses tell me the wind and mountains cannot do.  By opening my mind to the possibilities that mountains can sing and the wind can have color, I am also expanding my senses to endless possibilities of new experiences and understandings.

There was a time when our senses were all we really had to survive in the world.  People would track animal herds for food, smell the coming of a storm, taste whether berries were good to eat or not, feel the warmth of a fir, and listen to animal calls for warning signs.  But as our technology has advanced, we have weakened our senses and our value of them.  God gave us five (or more) incredible senses so that we could navigate, appreciate, and learn from the world.  We should make a goal to focus on expanding our senses, one at a time or all at once – taste the sunsweet berries of the earth, smell an approaching storm, touch the hand of a friend, hear the waves hitting a canoe, see the spider webs that thread between all things.  By doing so, we open ourselves up to the complexities and connections, to the colors and songs, to the simple beauties that God created… and, if we’re lucky, we might find the value of a pesky little mosquito.

— Solveig Orngard, Naturalist at WCB, Summers ’14 and ’15

A Place to See God

You are a hiding place for me;

you preserve me from trouble;
you surround me with glad cries of deliverance.
Psalm 32:7
It is impossible to talk about a place without recognizing the people that exist within that place; the relationship between people and place is complex and dynamic. At Wilderness Canoe Base, the physical land that comprises the Cove, Fishhook Island, and Dominion Island is intertwined with the intangible essence of the community that thrives upon it. Some of the summer staff have shared about certain places in camp that transcend this boundary between the self and environment and how these places facilitate experiences with God. The interviews below will provide a glimpse of these special places to tide you over until your next visit to Wilderness!

David (pontoonist, rock tech, maintenance)
  •  Tell me about your favorite place in camp.
    • The bridge – I like it because from an architectural standpoint it’s so different than anything else. It connects the two main islands and without it things would be dysfunctional. You get more of a view here than anywhere else on camp. We go over it every morning and the water is like glass. It’s also nice to see it at night with the stars – it’s like you get opened up to an entire new world. When the sun is setting and you get pink reflected off the water it’s nice to be above eye level.
  • Tell me about your first impression of this place
    • It’s the first thing you see when you enter camp – this monumental bridge. It both stands out and fits in with the landscape. It’s a nice contrast to the chapel. Walking down it is like walking down a long tunnel. There’s just something really cool about walking on the bridge. I really like the metaphor it represents of connecting the two islands. In my architecture studies I try to make a design reflect the environment around it and in the boundary waters, which is so simple and elegant, the bridge does just that.
  • Tell me how you see God in this place.
    • It’s like the metaphor of God connecting the two islands as one. Without God and without the bridge connecting the two, camp wouldn’t be what it is. The bridge takes so much foot travel, day in and day out, rain or shine, and still supports us just like God supports us. We take care of the bridge. It stands out because it’s not made of the same materials we see surrounding it in nature, just like God stands out in our lives. The bridge is the first thing you see when you enter the islands and God is also the first thing you see when you come to this place. Here you see God’s world, not the man-made world of the cities.

Kennedy (guide)
  • Tell me about your favorite place at camp.
My favorite place in camp is on Sunset Rock, on Dominion.
  • Tell me about an impression or memory from this place
    •  To me, the time that pops into my memory is actually not even during my first summer here, but it was during last summer.This was the first time I came up and I wasn’t on staff but I was just up to help with staff training and cook. The first night I got here, I just walked out there to watch the sunset by myself just because it was the first time I’d been back here in quite a while. I just wanted to be able to sit – and from that point you can see so much of the islands because you can turn around and see Borderline, and you can see Trail Shack and Pinecliff and you can see the tops of the chapel and watch the sunset. It’s like a 360 view.
  • Tell me how you experience God in this place
    • I think I experience a God moment there every time I just sit there by myself in silence. That first time I went there last summer was just really nice because I was coming up for the week and knew that I was going to be part of staff training but I wasn’t going to be able to stay all summer. I was upset about the fact that I couldn’t work here last summer but it was so nice to sit there and I just sat there for a very long time feeling grateful for where I was. Because when you’re sitting on Sunset Rock everything echoes so you can be watching the sunset, but if there are people jamming out to music in Pinecliff you can hear that, or if there are kids playing games on the beach you can see them, or if there’s a camper group on Peanut doing wild things you can hear them laughing too. And it just felt so good to be sitting there watching a beautiful sunset and also be hearing all the laughter and all of the community that’s at camp. It’s the best of both worlds.


Eliza
(swamper)
  • Tell me about your favorite place in camp
    • My favorite place at camp is Sunset Rock. I love to hike there and then climb on top of the rock and see the whole camp. It’s really cool.
  • Do you have a favorite memory of this place?
    • One morning last year, I got up really early at 4:30 and I walked there and I sat on it and watched the sunrise and it was really cool.
  • How do you experience God in this place?
    • I experience God in that place when I look over his Creation and see from His point of view how beautiful the world is and how small we are in comparison.

Caitlin (Trail Shack coordinator)
  • What’s your favorite place in camp?
    • My favorite place at camp is the boardwalk up to the Confessional (a new outhouse near the tent pads). I think it’s probably the best view at camp because you’re at one of the highest points on Dominion and you can see all the way 360 around Seagull and the islands. It gives the best view of the Chapel during both sunrise and sunset, which are both great. Also, the Confessional is probably the best outhouse because it’s hardly used and it’s a hilarious concept. That’s my favorite spot.
  • What’s your first memory of this place?
    • My first real experience at the Confessional was my first Project Success group last summer. We stayed on the tend pads our first night, and I got up in the morning at probably about 5:30, before I woke my campers up, and I just remember standing on the boardwalk and it was one of the most beautiful sunrises I’ve seen at Wilderness. I just stood there for a while and soaked it in. And now that’s my favorite place to go to watch to watch the sunsets or the sunrises after vespers or before first word.
  • How do you experience God in this place?
    • It’s just the views and the fact that you can see the chapel. So watching the morning light come up with the chapel above the treeline in the background, is just really amazing. And how the sun sets and lights up the chapel as if a spotlight in the soft evening
      light is really nice.

Renewal and Thin Places

           In Celtic tradition, it is said that heaven and earth are only three feet apart, but in “thin places” that distance is even smaller. Harvard Theologian Peter Gomes writes that “thin places” are locations where God’s presence is more accessible than elsewhere, places where the space between heaven and earth, holy and human, meet for a moment. Last night, after sauna-ing and eating popcorn in Pinecliff, Ty, Solveig, David, Emily and I laid outside on the rocks by our cabins and watched the Northern Lights until early in the morning – in that moment, falling asleep under a sky of stars and swirling light, the distance between earth and heaven felt small. Wilderness is a thin place, a place that always seems to say: “God is present here.”
           It seems to me that everyone who visits WCB, whether it be for seven days or for seven years, shares a thread of understanding: what it is to be present, to be in awe, to be tiny in an incredible way. This is the place where my friendships have been the closest, my voice has been the strongest, and my arms have been the sorest. With soreness and a spirit of work comes a sense of purpose, a tangible knowledge of what it means to serve and to give willingly to the patchwork community of visitors who seek this place in search of peace, faith and rest.
          Renewal is important to me because Wilderness has provided me with strength and inspiration, just as much six years ago as a wide-eyed, over-packed camper as it does today. The experiences I’ve had here are meaningful and grounding – from early mornings on the dock to late nights in the kitchen, I am thankful for all of the time I have spent on Seagull Lake. Wilderness is a “thin place,” a sanctuary of green trees and clear, deep waters, a place that has given so much to me, and will continue giving for as long as there are people seeking a place for sunsets and blueberries, for peace and adventure – which, I think, will probably be for a very long time.
                                                – Kate Kinkade, WCB Summer Staff ’14, ’15

 

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