I spent much of my time this summer walking the grounds of Timberlake. I saw my staff teaching our campers how to keep their cabins clean (never as clean as I like!), I took in the faces of the campers as they went about the day, and I watched the inflatable swans floating on the waterfront. I’ve been able to walk the grounds in every season, luxuriating in the changing leaves of the fall, marveling at how small the camp looks when covered in snow, and anticipating the green brilliance of new growth in the spring. Of course, the magic of Timberlake is brewed in the summer, through the laughter that courses through these grounds while our campers are here.

I’m hyper-aware that my role as Director is that of a caretaker to our entire community, holding the light of Timberlake for all those here now, those yet to come, and all those that have come before us in our 80 years of existence. Timberlake constantly reminds me of this in a myriad of ways:

  • We sing songs that we read from decades-old song cards, written by someone who thought those particular songs embodied the TL spirit;
  • We live in cabins that were built by campers. Alumni will return and point to a particular board, and say, “I put in that nail right there;”
  • We have signage and cabin plaques that are decades old, with names proudly written to remind us, today, that others were here before us;
  • We walk trails that were chosen for us, designed to create the space we inhabit, not from a grandmaster plan, but simply, as the community evolved;
  • I have staff who were my own campers at one point, and I am a couple of years out from having their campers start to work with us – I’m almost a TL-grandpa!

I spend a lot of time thinking about the structures – how did we build such large structures with such simple tools? Could we do it again? How do we fight the energy of our Senior Lodgers who seem to not want to do anything at all (which is totally developmentally appropriate)?

The answer, of course, is simple – we call them to greatness.

Last summer, as our youngest campers packed out for trips, we led the older ones on a very special tour of TL. Our staff walked with the senior lodgers and pointed out all the structures they worked on when they, themselves, were campers. We wound our way to the old council fire area by Lumberjack’s cabin, where we had a giant fire waiting, and we gathered around and read Kahlil Gibran’s “On Work.” In this piece, we find our keystone phrase: “Work is love made visible.” As a group and individually, we wrote down our giant goals for the final week to hang in the lodge, and we burned in the fire the things that are holding us back from achieving them. Finally, we had an evening silent meeting around that big, beautiful fire.

We left ready to leave our marks.

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