A Dream for Jaxson
A few years ago, we got a call from Leslie Pohl. Karen went to grad school with Carol, Leslie’s mom, and during those grad school years and following, we usually had Thanksgiving up at Camp. Carol would come with Leslie, who was just a sparkling teenager back then.
Now Leslie is a firefighter and an EMT up in Washington State. She was calling to ask not if but when were we going to do Thanksgiving at Camp, because she was coming: her memories of those gatherings around the table, the fellowship of work in the kitchen and surely the cavalcade of pies, were so strong and so positive, she was ready to come down with her Mom all the way from Washington.
We wanted to do Turkey Day in the canyon, but were a little busy: no problem she said—I’ll take the lead on cooking, if that would help make it happen. It sure would, and it did, and she brought her hunky boyfriend with her, continuing a tradition of women bringing their men up the mountains to see if they have what it takes.
He did, they did, and a year or so later they came back for yet another Turkey Day, this time with Leslie leading the cooking while balancing young Jaxson on her hip. It was a fine meal, and a perfect example of a vision for Sturtevant—let’s call it a dream for Jaxson.
The Dream is simple: to bring people and resources together in such a way that Sturtevant will be there ready, open and welcoming for Jaxon’s grandson to come up for Thanksgiving in November of 2065. That will be when most of us here are probably dead and gone. So really this is a legacy project: an effort to take what we have all found to be of value, a unique and often transformative experience, and to bequeath that to the future, far beyond ourselves. It is so that when he is a father, Jaxson can call up the manager, and say “Where do I sign up my family for Thanksgiving?” It will be to link those values we have found to be true in the past and our past, and connect them to the future, so that Jaxson’s son and grandson will have access to what is timeless.
The trick of course is that what is timeless has to become present in time; is has to be embodied in chronological time, over and over again. That’s what the hike up the canyon and being at Sturtevant are: they are the embodiment, the literal and psycho-spiritual environment in which we ourselves become embodied. It is not possible to come to Sturtevant without becoming intimately, acutely, and sometimes painfully aware of our bodies: we are awakened to our incarnation, the reality that this is what I am, a creature in the midst of creation. And once I am awakened, once I am connected with reality, then I begin to understand my relationship to this created order, to others and to all that are present and real in the world; then from that I begin to explore and understand and how to live in this created order in a way that is respectful, mutually sustainable and even joyful.
A tall order for a few ramshackle buildings. Yet our own visceral and social experiences have convinced us that this is what is possible, this is what happens when we put our boots on the trail and go to Camp (it really is the journey plus the destination together.) Fundamentally, while we enjoy and benefit from this, it is not for us: it has always been a gift to us, with the purpose that we share that gift, just as it was first shared with us. Somebody at some point in the past either invited us to Camp, or the mountains themselves called to us, and we discovered Sturtevant as a place where the experience of the outdoors is concentrated and amplified by our sharing the experience with others.
So our purpose, our vision, is to do for others what has been done for us: to care for this gift in such a way that others might also receive it. It is a simple and universal truth and a marker of those who have been touched by enlightenment: to wish for others what you wish for yourself. We wish the Sturtevant experience for Jaxson’s grandson, and all his family and friends and neighbors.
From Dreaming to Doing
Having extolled the virtues of reality, we cannot ignore the reality of Sturtevant: in practical terms, it is fragile. Sturtevant has always been and always will be at risk: one of the early stories about Wilbur himself was his rushing back into camp through a smoking canyon as fire threatened the site and its guests. Sturtevant’s location is both its strength and weakness: its isolation in the wilderness means it is a preciously unique retreat, but it is also always under threat of possible fire, seasonally destructive rains, and debris flows. The slower processes of decay (termites, rust, etc.) are constantly eroding the infrastructure; and only diligence and luck have kept vandalism to minimum thus far.
Yet these are only the physical risks: one of the earliest threats to Sturtevant’s Camp was the federal government seeking to revoke Wilbur’s permit to operate. With the help of the community, he was able to prevail. Today, the probability of closure has always been at the door, entirely dependent upon the fiscal capacity and corporate willingness of the UMC to keep the doors open and staff the Camp. We came to the brink of that probability this October: only the generosity of a motivated donor has converted the probability of closure into a future with possibilities.
Which brings us around to the real…issues. Not problems to be fixed, or even threats to be avoided. Better to think in terms of possibilities to be realized and multiplied. So let the operative question for Jaxson’s dream be, “What do we want more of?”
- We want more people who share in this dream, specifically,
- We want more people supporting, contributing to and spreading this dream.
- We want more people having the Sturtevant experience.
- We want more kids and young people discovering the Sturtevant experience.
- We want more of a future for Sturtevant than just the next budget year.
Absent the inflow of each of these, the day will surely come again when the UMC will good cause to close the Camp. That would make it much more difficult to realize Jaxson’s dream.
So the next set of questions becomes: what do we need more of so that we have more of these things listed above? It is important to keep these questions in the right sequence: we don’t want a renovated bathhouse just to have a different, nicer bathhouse; we want an upgraded bathhouse so that people who come to Camp have such a positive, welcoming experience of the Camp that they want to return—and bring their friends with them. We don’t want a healthy endowment fund just to keep the buildings in good condition; we want an endowment fund so that the Camp can continue to welcome people to a positive, even transformative experience.
Making the shift from dreaming to doing will mean taking these and other questions and insights as they emerge, and begin working out specific, detailed answers; then looking at resources and scheduling to realize those answers. That work begins now.