This weekend was the second annual SLU Nature Retreat, offered by Campus Ministry of course, at the Reis Biological Station near Steelville, MO. I worked this retreat last year, and I just couldn't wait to go on it again. I worked support staff this year and last, which basically meant cooking and cleanup, so I interacted less with the students than other staff members, but nice to not have the pressure of preparing a speech or leading a small group. My friend and co-worker Laura Buck organizes this retreat, and just does a fantastic job. Friday I got up WAY too early to go buy all the food, then loaded it all up for the folks who were going out early. The students and the rest of the staff met at 3:00 to catch a school bus out to the retreat site, but I brought a van with some more odds and ends, and I got to ride out alone, which made for a wonderful 2 hours of quiet. That night we put out hot dogs and all the fixings for everyone (see photo below), and had some introductory activities, including a marvelous reflection involving stargazing and the reading of a couple of the chapters from the end of the Book of Job, where God outlines the grandeur of creation.
The next morning was a talk by Dr. Tobias Winright, one of the theology profs at SLU and one of my profs, followed by our major activity of the day, a canoe ride down the Huzzah River. The water was great, cool but not too cold, shallow enough that at points we had to carry our canoes, while at other places we could jump in from some of the little bluffs along the bank (see below). We were all pretty wiped out after that, so we had an hour or so of quiet for journaling/nap time/whatever before forging ahead. Dinner that night was fajitas, and the students who were assigned to me for that meal worked like troopers, and the outcome was that it was a truly memorable meal. The other support staff person, Patrick Devney, was a real rock star with keeping up with it all and making sure there was enough of everything. That night was caramel apples (a total mess to make, but wow, were they good) and s'mores around the camp fire. I was on for night prayer, so I kept it simple and read them Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree, one of my favorite stories, and let the story speak for itself.
Sunday was pancakes and sausage, which was lots of fun, another talk, and then mass with Fr. Joe Fortier, SJ, who did a great homily on our place in the created world, followed by lasagna for our final meal. We got out by 1:30 and home by around 4:00, by which point I was pretty wiped out, so I came home to hide for a while. All that cooking took me back to my short-order days in high school, and how much I enjoyed juggling all the different pots and pans.
I know I have to put out a birthday post, so more soon...