Month: June 2015

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.

  • 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


The first groups of the summer are on trail!

Matthew 19:13-15

                     The little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there. 

                     This week, Wilderness’s first campers of the summer arrived from Project Success, an organization that works with students from the Minneapolis and St. Paul public schools. Along with Project Success comes boundless energy, wide eyes and a seemingly endless number of questions – while watching fourteen trips leave canoe beach earlier this week, I found myself thinking a lot about what it is that makes these kids so incredible. I remember last year, after leading a swim and swamp orientation for a group of 7th graders, one camper confided in me that she hadn’t ever swum in a lake before that afternoon: this unbridled attitude of “I’ve never done this before, but here we go,” is something that is so present in these campers. After my fifth summer at camp, I sometimes forget to stop and look around – watching the kids from Project Success see this place for the first time has helped me to re-open my eyes, and remember how truly incredible Seagull Lake is. I am so lucky to be here!

             Your friend in the woods, Kate

Knowing God, Help us remember what it is to be childlike – to be tiny and
mighty, to be alive and awake. Help us to see your living creation through the
eyes of 100 project success campers, brave enough to spend this week in a big place, in wool and wet shoes and sunscreen. Fill the gaps in our fingers with pine needles and a spirit of exploration. Help us, with patience and openness, to serve and to grow through and with all who we welcome in to this place. Amen!

Hello and Happy Summer! 

Things are starting to come together here at Wilderness Canoe Base as we near the end of staff training! The camper season approaches and we have been busy preparing the islands for all the groups who will venture up the Gunflint the summer! Cleaning and packing gear, First Aid and Wilderness Water Safety Training, perfecting paddling and portaging techniques, and the countless other tasks for prepping the base for our first groups next week. The past two weeks have been a wild mix of preparation and excitement for the weeks to come. 
As a returning canoe guide, I had long been looking forward to returning to Wilderness this summer. I made the long drive north while thinking about great trip memories and friendly faces. I was beyond excited to live another summer as a canoe guide. Since arriving here, another theme has resonated throughout the days: gratitude. Words can barely express how thankful I am to live another season in this place and share the BWCAW with a new group of people every week. Every day I am struck by little moments of beauty. I am so humbled by where I find myself every morning: walking a bridge over clear waters, among cedars, toward an open air chapel, where I sit and listen to the Word of God — living in a community of my peers, all committed to their faith, cherishing the beautiful space where we live, and serving others.
I decided to wander the islands the other night during a clear, sunny evening, and soak in the scenes of Fishhook and Dominion. The blooming lady slippers, young tamaracks, the breeze felt while watching the sunset from atop Dominion, the foundations of Morningside, and many more. My camera and I spent some quality hours capturing scenes that I hope will bring some happiness or good memories or hopeful anticipation for a visit this summer!
Peace to you,
Kennedy Reed