Archive for October, 2007

Moonshadows

October 26, 2007

4am in the morning the rooster crowed. I woke and went outside the cabin. The grass was damp and cold. I looked up, directly over the trees, my eyes drawn to the brightest moon I have ever seen.

Full, large, and shining in the night sky. I looked around me and there were distinct shadows cast by the clothesline, maypole, trees and me. No wonder the rooster thought it was dawn.

In the chill air I was struck by the clarity and beauty of things. Little colour, but near light as day. Life seemed simple and pure.

Cat Stevens sings about Moonshadows. To me the song is about gratitude and acceptance:

I ever lose my eyes
If my colours all run dry
yes, if I ever lose my eyes
oh if …
I won’t have to cry no more.

It’s a calm and gentle acceptance of suffering and loss. It also implicitly conveys gratitude for what we do have, in a pure clear way like the shadows cast by the moon, darkness against darkness. This verse though is the one that struck me the most:

Did it take long to find me
I ask the faithful light
Ooh did it take long to find me
And are you going to stay the night

To me the faithful light is like the inner light, perhaps cooler and less distant that sunlight. Sunlight either is, or isn’t. Dark and light are more distinct during the day. The ‘faithful light’ is more tolerant, dark and light coexist, merging at the edges. That’s like suffering, gratitude and love. They’re all part of the same life.

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Walking in the light

October 13, 2007

The theme of JYF camp this year was ‘Walking in the light’. We did a lot of activities focused around understanding our Quaker values in the modern world of technology, fashion and media. We didn’t do very much that was explicitly focused on matters of the spirit. I did make a big effort to make sure we had Meeting for Worship every day though (we did miss one).

I was never quite sure whether the JYFs got something out of Meeting, or were bored or annoyed by it. Because JYF (and YF) Meetings for Worship have much less spoken Ministry it can be harder sometimes to sense the feeling of the Meeting. Near the end of the camp we had Meeting for Worship outside. We sat on chairs on the grass, in the sun, with the warm wind blowing and the birds singing.

Later that day I found a poem on a couch, written anonymously, and left for people to read. It was as follows:

I walk in late.
The worship has started without me.
I get looks from people.
I can feel the thoughts.

My mind begins to wander among my
memories, picking up conversations, thoughts
jokes, relationships, people who I didn’t
know existed or had forgotten.

I remeet with my past.
I feel as if I’m walking along
a road, with neon lights (similar
to last night’s throwies…)
and I’m trying to pick the best one.

Ironic, because when you think of
someone during M4W, it’s called
‘holding someone in the light’!

If you choose to keep your
eyes open, you see the people
The couples, the bored ones,
The ones that stay silent
and sit perfectly still.

If you close your eyes,
you see you.
You take a trip
inside yourself and however
cheesy that sounds it’s
true.

We are all so different
But I see now why
We are the same.

Reading this brought tears to my eyes. It validated all the effort I had put into creating a time for worship during the camp, it made it all seem worthwhile.

I later learned that it was Pearl who had written this. She read it in the concert on the last night. I publish it here with her permission, and thank her deeply for making me feel that the spiritual aspects of the camp were appreciated. It meant a lot to me.

Journey’s end

October 6, 2007

We did it! Responsible for twenty two 13-16 year olds for a week. No one got hurt, no one got lost, and now they’re all home safely. It was exhausting, exhilarating, and at times very moving. It’s taken me nearly a week to recover and as I’ve slowly gotten my body, mind and spirit back to a state of normality I’ve been thinking about why I took this on.

JYF camps were a hugely important part of my teenage years. They were a place to be truly myself, to be accepted for exactly who I was. They were a time of forging new friendships, of falling in the first semblances of love, and of being acknowledge as a person in my own right rather than a ‘child’ or a ‘teenager’.

I want my children to be able to experience this. That’s what first set me on the path of organising a YF camp three years ago, and what motivated me to volunteer to organise this JYF camp. I wanted the community to be strong so they’d have a positive experience when they were old enough to go. I wanted to give something back, to carry on the work of people like Angela Brusse who started JYF camps in New Zealand so many years ago.

That would have been enough, but what I got in return was so much more. Organising and running this camp was a transformative experience. It reinforced my sense of confidence in my leadership abilities. It deepened my admiration and respect for the tireless energy and consummate skill of my partner Bridget, who single handedly coordinated incredible food for 28 people, ran four sessions, and had time to make friends with the JYFs and be there for those that needed her. It took my relationship with the other YF leaders to a different level, and my most heartfelt thanks go to Thomas, Mirjam, Melody and Johnny for sharing this path, and making the camp the incredible experience that it was.

Then there’s the JYFs. I have never met such a beautiful, caring, talented and loving group of young people. They included each other right from the start. No one was left out, everyone was accepted. They constantly bewildered me with their combination of extraordinary insights, humour and intelligence, and their sometimes complete lack of peripheral attention and ability to notice what needed doing in a practical sense. My thanks to those of them that did notice, especially to Luke, Rogan and Daniel for doing the fires in the morning, and to Briar-Rose for always being there when I was exhausted and just needed a hand.

It felt to me like an enormous privilege being allowed to create this environment for them. I found that whenever I trusted them, included them in the decision making, and assumed that they’d act responsibly, they did. Perhaps the greatest surprise for me was that for most of the time I forgot there was such an age gap. They so completely accepted all six of us leaders as peers rather than authority figures. It felt a lot like YF camp, and I sense there’s the possibility that as they grow, some of them will become my lifelong friends.

The theme of the camp was “walking in the light”. I felt like this happened. Not by what we discussed, or the activities we did, but by the way we were able to live together, in joy, love and harmony. I feel richly blessed by this experience, and I will carry the memory of it with me forever.