I woke up this morning thinking about rites. Rites of passage; rites of spring. Rites.
I was thinking about Brush Ranch Camps--a perfect place nestled in the canyon along the Pecos River near Tererro, New Mexico. I spent my summers there from 1992-1994 and then a few blissful weeks of Family Camp in the years following. To me, Brush Ranch is a sacred space. A place where I learned so much about myself. A place where --over hikes and conversations I encountered many rites among the pinon and blue skies.
Merriam Webster helps me with the true definition of rite: (1) a prescribed form or manner governing the words or actions for a ceremony or (2) a ceremonial act or action. I thought about the actions of camp and what it would be like to go back: to take the 7 am walk from South Baxter across the Bridge and up the steep road to the Barn; or the hike to Brush Ranch Rock. Favorite of all was the evening hike to Hogsback. Like Madeleine, 60 girls all in a row would hike up for about an hour to the Top of the World. I have the picture in my office. We would coordinate a screaming message to our friends down at Boys' Camp. When that didn't satisfy us we called down to camp on the radio exclaiming our victory. After the peak, we quietly found our way down with bobbling flashlights. It was a beautiful sight...dancing lights along switchbacks and the quiet murmur of friends talking. I was only allowed to lead this hike once or twice...as I had the habit of wanting to stay at the top just a little too long. This put us walking back though Boys' Camp a few minutes after lights out. The counselors loved us.
My memories of this place are crisp. I believe the places where we encounter and experience rites never leave us. We remember moments of stress, too--and crossing over into a new existence or way of thinking can certainly have its stressful moments. Those who worked at a camp for children know its bliss and know its challenges. 16-hour days. Encounters with homesick campers, rebellious campers, highly-enthusiastic campers. Encounters with homesick counselors...you see the patterns. But I loved it all. When a group of people come together and truly commit to a common purpose the results can be nothing less than magical. We were chosen from stacks of applications to be there--and we knew we were lucky. I drew sunflowers all over my cover letter (looking back I think, really?) and it made the difference. (Young readers: there's a lesson there). It was hard work, but work I would go back to in a heartbeat. I left Brush Ranch with new confidence. Mountains do that to you. And good friends. Rites. The ceremonies that sculpt us.
And now in my favorite season, we get to experience the Rites of Spring. Pear trees in bloom, new song from the birds, wind and sprout. Picnics, The Arboretum. Nature in a new suit. Find your rites and celebrate them...before you know it they will be the places we go in our memories.