Life in Community

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Life in Community

Is Anything Worth It?

September 8, 2015 by

It occurred to me suddenly that if the surreality of the situation had not killed me yet, then neither would the cold. Probably. Although I wasn’t so sure that hadn’t already happened, everything around me was so other-worldly.

Why else would it be so light at 5:00 in the morning? Why else would I be lying in the grass wrapped in a scratchy, bright blue blanket? Why else would there be three humped and shapeless forms around me in the grass? And why a cold, dead fire in the iron ring, mere feet from my head?

Recollection came. Slowly. That exhilarating climb to the summit of Giant Mountain in the almost-ethereal Adirondacks. The breakneck pace we maintained on the descent, the steep downward angle thrusting my toes into the front of my sneakers until I was convinced my feet would emerge with toes looking like a row of stomped milk cartons. The Volleyball tournaments, the thirty-foot leaps into the frigid waters of Platte Clove stream, and the scrambling up again, when grabbing the wrong root or sapling could warrant a dangerous slide back down the forested precipice. The meals cooked over an open fire, and late nights of skits and folk songs.

This was camping.

a group of young people at Giant's summitSome of our group on the summit of Giant. That’s me, second from left.

Our youth group of around forty young people from the Fox Hill Bruderhof had been relieved of our various duties back home, and sent on a three-day camping trip in the Adirondack and Catskill mountains, leaving at 4:00am in a pounding, torrential rain through which we plunged to load and board the bus. Leaving behind our desks, day care assignments, kitchen duties, and construction jobs, we spent Friday, Saturday, and Sunday reveling in the freedom of nature and youth. We climbed mountains, relaxed around beautiful lakes, cooked camp-craft meals, and washed our dishes in boiled lake water.

young people fording a mountain stream on the way down off of Giant mountain

Now, back at my desk this morning, I am assigned to read the proofs of a new book. It’s a collection of readings from the Russian great, Leo Tolstoy. I realize that I have left one important part out of my narrative. There needs to be a hermit. No story is complete without one, so how about one who lives in a small brush-hut at the summit of Giant and asks of the climbers, "Why?" and "What for?"

Only, in our case, the hermit was an elderly man and his wife who met us just as we were starting up the mountain. Having just come down from the “Nubble,” a point half way up Giant’s three-mile, near-vertical ascent, he aptly counter-queried the question put to him by a fellow hiker, “Is it worth it?” with, “Well, is anything worth it?”

Well…

a view of the surrounding Adirondack peaks from Giant mountain

For me, the worst part of camping has always been the nights. The coldness, itchiness, and discomfort of going to sleep are secondary in their undesirability only to the frigid dampness which wakes you. I’ve come to love the evenings on camping trips, and to dread the nights.

With all the activity of the days, however, sleep became something unavoidable, and by the second night out, I had reached stupor state.

There comes a point, when sitting around a campfire, the chill of the night eclipsed by the fire’s ambient heat – after the unaccustomed exposure to fresh mountain air and the ache of seldom-used muscles – when contentment thicker than the Adirondack mountain mist settles down deep. I knew, as I sat there by the fire, other girls bedding down around me for the night and someone playing a guitar softly nearby, that I was sinking. Even if I had cared, I doubt if I could have roused myself from the enshrouding fog.

But I hadn’t cared.

a serene mountain lake part-way up Giant mountain

And that’s how I found myself, at 5:00 that Sunday morning. The birds seemed to have taken up the life that the fire had relinquished to the night, and the nocturnal mists were lifting. And it was cold. Like, really cold. And, if the cold didn’t already do the trick, the snoring coming from nearby sure did.

I lurched up, pulling the blanket tighter around myself, and stumbled towards the tent to find a sleeping bag where I could attempt to warm myself and finish my night in relative civilization.

Was it worth it?

Well, is anything worth it?

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About the author

Melinda Goodwin

Melinda Goodwin

Melinda is the current webmaster of Bruderhof.com, social media manager, and a weekly vlogger.

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  • Ohhhh.... seen this image, with so many friendly faces.... young friends that make me remember and celebrate the bless of smiles, companionship and a incredible summer at Fox Hill, cooking, talking, singing and being blessed by the undeserved gift of community. Miss you all young friends.... thnx Melinda for this share.... we, as a family, loved it.

    Claudio Oliver