Liralen Li (liralen) wrote,
Liralen Li

Into the Woods

I spent the entire weekend at La Foret, a UCC-supported retreat out in the Black Forest just west of Colorado Springs. It was an all-family retreat, so it included nearly anyone wanted to go, and was headed by Luke, our new pastor.

The Graff-Fryes also did a lot of the organization for the camp, including the schedule, content, and running the show. It was a very nice weekend, though the cabin beds, as usual, left a little to be desired so far as comfort was concerned. I really enjoyed lots of small aspects for the entire trip, not the least of which was sleeping the entire way there and the entire way back. *laughs*

The car pulled the way there and back, with a whole other family and Orion as company, so both Jet and John were well entertained for both parts, even as I snored.

In many ways, the retreats are more about getting know each other as a community, then they are about learning something specific in Scripture or practice. Having the meals together, doing activities together, and just playing together really were all for that specific goal. The camp has a really excellent food service, with plenty of food that has enough options to accommodate most needs, and a few frills that really excite the kids and my own sense of choice. Always having a salad bar for lunch and dinner, offering cinnamon toast for breakfast, and offering hot cocoa and machine made lattes for drinks in addition to the usual display were all small touches that just made everything nicer.

One chunk of Saturday was getting to know each other and Luke, including doing several icebreakers. In the afternoon we had a Mexican Posada, where everyone followed Mary and Joseph to four different inns and listened as they were denied rooms at all but the last. Singing Christmas carols in the middle of September was a new experience for me, but the various messages from the innkeepers made me think quite a bit about how the poor and desperate are greeted in all kinds of situations. I love that the founding family of Christianity could be a poster child for the homeless and the foreign, they didn't belong in Bethlehem, and were obviously different than the local populace.

The very end of the journey, we ended up at the Ponderosa Lodge, where we were doing most of the group activities. And strung up between the balconies was an enormous piñata! The kids had a great time beating it up to get candy, bouncy balls, pencils, and glow sticks. Part of the tradition, it turns out, and it was great fun to watch as they all took their best shot.

There was a very traditional vesper service that evening, very Catholic in nature, but without any sermon, just prayer and song. The whole thing was also sent in the chapel, which is a traditional Adobe building covered in paintings of saints in the animal icons of the day. It was really difficult for me to get rid of my suspicions with regards to traditional services and traditional wording, then I think I might've found it very soothing if the "fear" of God hadn't been invoked so frequently. I still have difficulty with that translation, since the word in the original language are also the basis for "awe" and "venerate" and "respect".

I will admit, however, that the sunset from the chapel on Pike's Peak was utterly gorgeous. All the colors of fire between Earth and sky, and laid on top of them the shadows of the mountains layered from aubergine to palest lavender.

I had absolutely no trouble with the fire pit, s'mores, and stars at night. I stayed up with Tony, John, Charlie, and Steve to watch the fire burn down. At the very end, Steve spread all the coals out across the fire pit to hasten their cooling. In the glowing coals were like lava across the black field of shadow. The light rippled with every breeze, as the coals got more oxygen to burn just a little brighter. When they were just pinpricks of red I saw something I'd never seen before, which was each coal would catch fire, but burned so hot that the each had a blue halo. The bright blue light glow and flicker and then blow out leaving just the red heart of the coal in the blackness, until another breath of wind brought it back to life.

I was tired enough to sleep, some, even on the hard bed. In the morning brought two moving meditations. The first was the bird walk with the entire group of people and a couple of birders who are able to identify all sorts of birds by their sounds, the way they flew, and their physical aspects. That was really fun. Second included going to the Labyrinth. The main difference between a labyrinth and a maze is that, with a labyrinth, there are no choices about which way to go. There's only one way in, and usually that is the same way out. The maze you can get lost, but with a labyrinth you can't.

The Labyrinth at La Foret is a meditation circle, all laid out in stone. There are lots of Ponderosa pine trees interspersed between the paths, and half the fun is actually stopping at each one to smell them. I smell of strawberry, vanilla, and butterscotch, and it turns out that there is a protective chemical substance that the trees give off. It turns out that differing levels of the chemical make for the different scents of the bark. I had known that, and it turns out that the Albert's Squirrel only lives on the Ponderosa pines which have a low level of that chemical. These black-furred, tuft eared, very bold squirrels are also known as Sqwabbits by camp goers. There also featured predominantly on the T-shirts, water bottles, and paraphernalia of the camp store.

Luke's Sunday service was very straightforward and involves walking over to the labyrinth, doing it, and then dispersing without a formal benediction, which amused me. After packing everything in the cabin, we had lunch, and then headed back home.

I feel more grounded having gone away for a few days. My hands are actually not doing all that well, and my eyes still bothering me, but at a lower level than they were at the very beginning of fall.

This morning, getting to the bus stop, it really felt like fall. The morning air was crisp and cool. Leaves were falling from the crabapple trees when the kids were climbing them and shaking them free. The sunlight felt warm on my face and skin. I've been spending a little too much time indoors, I need to get out more often. The walks would probably help, so long as they're not in the morning when the pollens are too high. For some reason follows always when my eyes go crazy on me, I don't want to encourage that anymore than I have to.

We're settling in to Jet's new routines and schedule. He has an extra science class at the end of Mondays, has Spanish before school starts on Wednesday, and handbell choir before school on Fridays. The really great thing is that John is getting up with Jet on those mornings to get him to school, so I can actually sleep in late if I so choose. Two other things that Jet now does on a regular basis is watch One Piece, usually three episodes in the morning and two at night. We've also been playing Wallace and Grommet for the PS2 most afternoons. The game is pretty difficult, but Jet has been very patient both with me and with himself in the playing of it. He also seems to understand the phenomenon of rising tempers when the game itself gets frustrating. It's an interesting lesson to experience.

Livejournal was acting up this morning, so am posting at Dreamwidth and we'll see if the echo post works this time. *laughs*
Tags: camping, fall, ucc

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