Timberrrr!- Making Space for 2021

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I can’t say I am a big fan of cutting down trees, but sometimes it opens up new possibilities. I was always dismayed when I would walk the campus with the “tree man” identifying maples, oaks and basswoods that were “danger trees,” those that threatened buildings or well-travelled paths. We always had a few that we knew should come down, but invariably he would point to the crown of a seemingly healthy tree and pronounce, “See that one. It’s dying.” After a few cycles of this, I finally settled on the retort I had been looking for all along. I said, “Wait, aren’t ALL these trees dying?” That kept him quiet for some time as he contemplated on how to proceed.

The trees we took yesterday weren’t dead, but they were dying. The trunks were starting to soften, and not all the upper branches leafed out in the spring as they should. They weren’t “danger trees”, in the classic sense of the word, but oddly enough as I saw them come down and Logger Dan and Jarid started to buck them up, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief, and no small sense of purpose.

We took these trees to make way for an outdoor crafts tent for this summer and also a place for tent aside the dining hall that will be large enough to accommodate outdoor dining for all campers this summer. After what I have described to friends and family as an overwhelming sense of inertia in the latest stage of this pandemic it was good to see something accomplished. We have been doing lots, but the satisfaction that comes with getting things done have been a bit elusive. This simple act of clearing space- for the possible, the probable, and the shelter- gave us all a bit of a lift. We felt just a little closer to making Camp Mishawaka ready for the arrival of campers.

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I was on a Zoom with my cohort of MN camp directors when Logger Dan and Jarid took the trees, and as much as I enjoy helping in these projects, I didn’t lift a finger this time. And yet, somehow, I felt grateful to be part of this shared effort. There are many folks working to prepare for summer. As I was brainstorming with other directors on the best and safest way to get kids to camp, our crew was busy making sure they had a safe, sheltered place to learn and grow once they arrived.

There are still plenty of healthy trees here at Camp, and we have since found a new “tree man” to help us assess those that pose the most danger. This spring the maples will give sap for syrup. The basswoods will sprout their enormous shade-giving leaves, and the canopy they provide will continue to give shade (the good kind!) to all who venture north. And these trees we took yesterday are already on the pile to be cut and split into sauna and campfire wood. Their contribution to our efforts here will continue!

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