It’s only been four days since the end of our Camp-OUT at Russet House Farm, and already the heat rising off the pavement of the city feels suffocating… I’m pining to be back in the fresh air and good company of the farm! To ease my urban woes, I thought I’d share some memories and photos from our second annual Generous Space Camp-OUT.
Just like last year, we gathered at Brian Walsh & Sylvia Keesmaat’s farm near Lindsay, ON. They welcomed forty-five of us from the Generous Space Community with their characteristic hospitality, remarking, “When you have something as good as this land, you can’t keep it all to yourself.”
Half of our Camp-OUT participants were returning from last year, and the other half were new to the Camp-OUT; for some, this was the very first foray into our quirky community. The initial awkwardness faded quickly in the chill atmosphere as people quickly got to know and feel comfortable with one another.
We pitched our tents all around Brian & Sylvia’s lush garden, and gathered under a large main tent for delicious meals, board games, and long conversations.
In the afternoons, we cooled off by swimming in nearby Balsam Lake, enjoying the backyard hospitality of some of Brian & Sylvia’s friends whose cottage is on the lakefront. Even the dogs found the water refreshing!
Back on the farm, we became well acquainted with exactly what the pigs, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, would and wouldn’t eat (they ate almost everything!), and had many opportunities to say hi to Tabitha the roaming chicken. Some of us learned how to hand-pollinate melon plants, and others participated in the daily task of moving the cattle clockwise from one section of the pasture to another so they could graze it like a very slow revolving lawnmower. All of us got a taste of life off the grid, foregoing access to phone chargers and electric light, and sustainably returning our own contributions to their soil via the sawdust toilets!
Due to the dry conditions, we were not able to have campfires this summer, but we improvised by singing around gas lanterns, roasting marshmallows over beeswax tealight candles, and sitting in the dark discussing the complexities of sexual ethics long past bedtime.
Sylvia and Brian, who are currently co-authoring a commentary on the book of Romans, shared some of their insights with us at our evening gatherings under the big tent. They spoke of lament, the groaning of God’s Creation, and the verbal and nonverbal ways we participate with all of creation in pleading and waiting for God’s kingdom to come in the face of ongoing violence against fellow humans and against our shared planet. On the final evening, as the rain fell softly on the tent above us, we shared our own personal griefs and hopes with one another, and carried them together to the Table in our closing celebration of communion.
There are many moments I will remember from this weekend… looking up in awe at the stars, so many more than we can see in light-polluted Toronto… watching the sun set in bright pinks and oranges behind the greenhouse… seeing ducklings hatch… the brief scare of a grease fire in the BBQ… witnessing one transwoman spend hours doing a younger trans teen’s makeup… mourning with one camper who had just received a heartbreaking response from his grandparents to his coming out… singing Backstreet Boys songs around the “campfire”… watching allies show love in practical ways by hauling water (and full toilet buckets!) and cooking for us… feeling pride when I saw people take risks to be authentically themselves and open up to the oasis of love that is our community.
In the words of one camper who identifies as a non-believer, “I got to experience what family was all about, no matter what side of the theological fence one was on. I got to see my family grow with more people, and become stronger in our differences. I got to experience the joys and sorrows that we all carry. I got to see my family become something else, that I don’t think words can quite grasp. But most of all, I got to experience something that I had never truly believed could exist: Unconditional acceptance of who each one of us is.”
We hope you’ll plan on joining us next summer back at the farm!