Monday, October 22, 2012

I Make Bad Decisions

New Sorting Moon

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Oswald West State Park by Tapestry Dude
At the beginning of each week at camp we have a staff meeting where everyone does a body, mind and spirit check in. We get to report on how we are doing in the different aspects of our lives, and how we are feeling about the upcoming week. It is a fun and meaningful way to debrief from our weekend away, keep in touch with each other and share the things about our lives that are so important to share when living and working together so closely. Often people say things like "I had a great weekend, I got so much sleep" or "I had fun on the beach/in town/reading". Not me, though. It has become a bit of a running joke that I start my check in with a "I made a lot of bad decisions this weekend." We all laugh, I tell my tale and we move on with our morning.

Over the years I have learned that when a phrase comes to me often in a period of time it is probably important. Yes, "I make bad decisions" is a joke, but the fact that it keeps coming up means I should probably examine the sentiment a bit more closely. This week is the start of the Sorting Moon, the last month in Annette Hinshaw's calendar. It is the end of the cycle and the time to look at what we have done, make choices about what to keep and what to let go of, and get ready for the beginning of the next cycle. As I read through the Sorting Moon chapter in Earth Time, Moon Time I noticed that she talks a lot about decision making style during that chapter. Ultimately, the Sorting Moon is asking us to look at not just what we are making decisions about, but about how we make those decisions at all.

About the Trees by Dead Air
My work schedule is grueling these days and my weekends are short. In my 24 or 48 hours off I have to fit in seeing my friends, walking my dog, doing my laundry and taking care of my self care needs for sleep, alone time and reflection. There is literally no time during the week for any of these activities. The "bad decisions" keep coming in the form of choosing the seeing friends portion of the to-do list over the self care portion of the list, and that usually involves alcohol, late nights and other debauchery. When you add in the 2 hour drive from camp to town, that has turned into short nights and busy days when my body and spirit really need the rest. That being said, I don't regret the time spent with my friends or the fun we've had. Last weekend I went to a rock n' roll show, ate amazing Egyptian food at a late night cart and laughed with friends new and old. These memories are the mortar that holds the bricks of friendship together, and as I am spending so much energy here at camp I realize just how important having those strong friendships is to me.

Incoming Surfy by surfonaut
So maybe I'm not making bad decisions. I'm just making a decision. I am valuing my friendships and the (admittedly debaucherous) fun we have over self care. I am quite confident that these decisions will have impacts on my future choices and maybe even my future abilities or health - you can only burn the candle at both ends for so long. But what decisions don't? One of Annette Hinshaw's questions for consideration during the Sorting Moon is "what decision do you feel was most important in getting you where you are today?" I suspect it is rarely a lack of options that makes that question so thought provoking. Every decision we make puts us on the path that leads us to the current moment and into one of an infinite number of futures. I think, like is the case with so many things in life, it is not what you actually do but how you do it that is most important. How am I going about making these decisions? Maybe I'm just justifying gut level decisions, but I think I'm doing some thinking, too. 

As the autumn season builds to a crescendo here in Western Oregon the days are getting wet and dark. We begin to honor the seasonal impetus to turn inwards and to reflect on our choices. What have we done this year we like? What decisions do we regret? Were we able to gather the resources, physical and emotional, necessary for the coming winter? When have you made bad decisions, and how did that turn out for you? What process do you like for making decisions? What does deep autumn look like where you are?

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New Sorting Moon 2011: Sorting it All Out 

New Sorting Moon 2010: Useful, Beautiful or Loved

New Sorting Moon 2009: New Sorting Moon

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Outdoor School Harvests

Full Harvest Moon

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I'm falling behind again in my posting but this time because I am busy and working hard, not because I am off gallivanting. As my summer job came to a close I was lamenting my lack of employment for the fall and a friend suggested I apply for outdoor school. "You'd love it, and they'd hire you in a minute," she said. I sighed and agreed. "You're right, you're right... I know you're right."

Smith Lake, my office
For those of you who did not grow up in northwestern Oregon, a little background. Outdoor School is a residential environmental education program that started by the school districts in the counties around Portland in the late 1960s. It has grown into a beloved tradition for 6th graders to go to camp with their science classes and generations of high schoolers have come to outdoor school as counselor-teachers. Even with the budget cuts in recent years, the Outdoor School programs in the Portland area have survived and continue to give teenagers these really important and empowering experiences.

I went to Outdoor School as a middle schooler and counted the days until I could go back as a counselor, which I did 6 times before I graduated from high school and another time the fall after I graduated. I joke that I went to college to become a camp counselor and got my dream job working for the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry's science camp and outdoor school. I worked at camp for a summer and a fall before I decided that I wanted a kitchen, a dog, and a home in town rather than camp life.

Sunset from Camp
Seven years later, after a circuitousness route of work and school, I'm back at outdoor school. It's all the magic I expected and more. Within two minutes of meeting my co-workers I knew we were going to hit it off great and have a really fun fall. The work these last two weeks has been physically exhausting, emotionally draining and absolutely mind blowingly awesomely fun. The high schoolers rise to our extraordinary high expectations and the sixth graders bring energy like you wouldn't believe to our camp community. We adults pull together to support each other while making each other laugh until we cry almost every day. I can not discount the awesomeness of spending all day every day in the woods by the ocean surrounded by squirrels, racoons, chickadees and gulls.

The Harvest Moon

A touch of cold in the Autumn night
It is the Harvest Moon! On gilded vanes
  And roofs of villages, on woodland crests
  And their aerial neighborhoods of nests
  Deserted, on the curtained window-panes
Of rooms where children sleep, on country lanes
  And harvest-fields, its mystic splendor rests!
  Gone are the birds that were our summer guests,
  With the last sheaves return the laboring wains!
All things are symbols: the external shows
  Of Nature have their image in the mind,
  As flowers and fruits and falling of the leaves;
The song-birds leave us at the summer's close,
  Only the empty nests are left behind,
  And pipings of the quail among the sheaves. 

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 

Coastal Huckleberries, the best part of camp.
Coming back to Outdoor School reminds me of the harvests I have reaped from my own past experiences and the harvests I hope I am sowing now. I come back to camp because being a part of a community that really works feels so warm and loving. A good camp community is one where every person is working to make sure that every other person is succeeding and growing. Camp is a community pressure cooker, where we go from strangers to bosom buddies in the matter of a few days and where life long relationships begin. As a teenager, I met caring adults at camp who were able to identify strengths I didn't know I had and grow towards a wholeness I wasn't sure I could achieve. As I looked back over the evaluations my supervisors wrote and felt both intense gratitude and awe at how insightful they were. 

As I complete this week's round of counselor evals I hope that I can be even half as helpful to the teenagers I am working with as my staff supervisors were. I hope that these teen counselors can see a vision of themselves as confident leaders and knowledgeable teachers. I want everyone at camp, the staff, the counselors, the students, the kitchen staff and the teachers to see what a functional community looks like and maybe be able to take that experience into their futures. I want the students and counselors to have good emotional experiences in the woods and beach so they can begin to build a conservationist ethic. I hope that my actions here, and my part of this community, can do what Mother Teresa's words (which are posted in every bathroom at my camp) ask of us:

"Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile."

My camp name and red vest of power
The full Harvest moon found me and my camp co-workers out on the beach for a bonfire. We played tackle catch with a glow in the dark ball, talked about the week and laughed a lot. The tide was exceptionally high (it was a spring tide) and we ended up having to move our active camp fire with our bare hands. The Harvest Moon asks us questions about the fruits of our labors in the physical, emotional and spiritual realms. Coming back to Outdoor School has left me thinking about my harvests this fall, and my hopes for future harvests. I really feel like I am working to make the world a better place when I work at camp. Even when we are at our silliest... or maybe mostly when we are at our silliest.

What are your harvests this autumn? What future harvests are you sowing for? Did you get to go to Outdoor School or other camps as a kid or young adult? How is autumn shaping up where you live?

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Harvest Moon 2011: C.S. Lewis on Praise and An Ill Harvest

Harvest Moon 2010: Harvest Moon 

Harvest Moon 2009: The Harvest Moon is New and The Moon When Squirrels Throw Acorns at You (Inexplicably, my most viewed post. Ir has been viewed over 500 times, more than two hundred times more than my second most viewed post. Curiouser and curiouser.)