This morning is motionless. There is no breeze; no leaves rustle as I walk by. A few birds sing, but I don’t try to find them. Instead, I’m listening to the footsteps. Ahead of me are a dozen people on a rocky trail. The crunch of gravel, the rustle of pant-legs against grasses, the occasional sound of a boot sliding across a rock. No voices. Just people walking together.
But I can’t see anyone else. The path winds too rapidly for a lengthy view, and a thick fog hides what land I can see. The fog disperses the trees, disperses the rocks, extends the bridge. When I arrive at the bridge, I can’t see across; it vanishes into nothing.
I can’t see, but sounds are enhanced. As I follow the footsteps, I feel close to the other walkers. The fog hides us from each other, and yet we are drawn together through the sound.
Back in the city, I am often either excited or overwhelmed. I chase the next adventure – going to dinner at that new vegan restaurant, checking out that show at the Guthrie Theatre, meeting a potential new friend for coffee – or retreat to my cozy apartment, my yellow lamps, chocolate-colored curtains, the sofa, the cats. On a cold morning, I grab tea, crank the heater, and avoid going outside. Life is low stakes. Comfortable.
Here, there is little choice. We continue with our scheduled routine and alter it according to safety rather than comfort. Already this year, we’ve hauled concrete under a humid sun and have practiced diving despite the chilling rain. These things must be done despite weather. And our actions, despite weather, because of the weather, draw our community closer together.
I’m pulled back to this place for this reason. I recall waking, last year, to thunder, feeling my body tense at the sight of lightening. It was 3am, but within a few minutes I’d called my campers out of their sleeping bags and under the blue tarp to tremble in lightening stance and to watch the bending trees. I was cold, tired, helpless to the natural world… and yet I find myself back again.
Back at the headquarters of the camp, our community has been gathering this year for numerous routines. We get up every morning and congregate for First Word before breakfast – a ritual of walking in silence across the bridge, meditating on a Bible verse in the open-air chapel, and returning in silence to the dining hall. We share family-style dinner three times a day and pray before eating each time. We stay up in the evenings to write letters, read, plan day-trips, and chat.
Last night, we didn’t plan, but instead reflected on our past week. Two dozen yellow swallowtail butterflies took flight when someone stepped into a campsite. A little green bug hung onto a sweatshirt for an entire yoga session. A recently matured dragonfly dried its wings on the back of someone’s head. A moose swam out of Canada. And the turtles flicking sand into a small hole – were they nesting or laying eggs?
We share stories and laugh and bond. After all, we have little choice. We come here to an island together and now are stuck with each other for the summer. There is no technology to distract us. No quick trip to a friend or pastor to calm us during a storm. Our problems must be dealt with as they come. So for our safety, we learn to trust each other. And yet, as we support each other, our friendships become our comfort.
Here at Wilderness, we seclude ourselves in community onto an island. Together we come, denying our chocolate-colored curtains and cats, and we choose to live in a place with less choice and less comfort. So why do we willingly come back to this place of restriction? And yet, as I cross the bridge for First Word, as the fog hides our community from my eyes, one of the reasons we come becomes apparent. Because, this place, by its very nature, causes us to experience community in ways we otherwise wouldn’t.
– Written By Britt Bublitz Guide ’16-’17
– Picture by Mercy Garriga Guide ’17