Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy..."

"...Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy
Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry
Sunshine on the water looks so lovely
Sunshine almost always makes me high

If I had a day that I could give you
Id give to you a day just like today
If I had a song that I could sing for you
Id sing a song to make you feel this way..."

-     John Denver

Oh there were so many days at camp this summer I would give you, if I could, my darling daughter.  Each day with moments of "sunshine on my shoulder" that made me happy...and could make me cry. 

There were the mornings that dawned clear, and almost cold, under skies the color of a mountain bluebird's breast feathers.  Mornings when counselors, gathering for the Staff Inspirational at 6:25, could see their breath in front of them as they spoke of God's sustaining love, and could hear horses whinnying for breakfast as we joined in a closing prayer of benediction on the day.  Then silently, a ragtag army of spiritual thought-leaders shuffled their way back to cabins in pajamas, running clothes, and Sherpa hats, for a precious 30 minutes of Bible study before waking campers up.

There were breakfasts in the Lodge.  Steaming serving dishes piled high with applesauce pancakes and rashers of veggie bacon (they had the "real" stuff too...but I just pretended it wasn't really there).  Campers, eager for the day's adventures, jostled for position at the toast bar and giggled over steaming cups of hot cocoa or hot apple cider.  Later they would stop by my cabin to talk about how they could prayerfully support their own growing courage and faith, but at breakfast it was all about cereal and bagels.

I would give you a moment on Valerie Lawn under the searing Colorado sun just after the rafting bus pulled out of the turn circle...a stack of big blue rafts bobbing on the trailer...the promise of a day on the Arkansas River and sun-kissed shoulders.  I would let you sit on my porch and listen to the quiet that really isn't quiet at all.  The burbling of my little brook that carries water from higher on the mountain past my cabin, over the rock wall and down to Valerie Lake.  The buzz and thrum of hummingbirds visiting the mountain flowers that tumble from pots across my porch and the feeder hanging from a cross beam.  The whisper of aspen leaves, pine needles, and tall yarrow in the breeze.  I would give you a front row seat to a mountain symphony more remarkable, to me, than anything written by man or machine.

I would offer you a window on my version of heaven on earth.  The view from Crowsnest porch after programs are back on property and campers and staff have showered, dressed for the evening's activities and are reassembling on Valerie Lawn.  Girls, pink-cheeked with sun-washed hair laughing, reading mail or talking by the lake, and boys tossing Frisbees across the lawn or strumming guitars from within the folds of hammocks hanging on their porches.

Would you like a slice of "Alone with Your Thoughts"...the silence of 100 teens spread out in Crazy Creeks and Adirondack chairs as evening twilight turns to soft dusk and the sound of fish breaking the surface of Valerie Lake is all that interrupts the quiet of their listening for God's voice in their lives. 

I would gladly give you the joy of a theme dance.  The happiness of hearing the floorboards in the Lodge pounding with campers dancing to "Jai Ho" or "Thriller"...yes, it's back.   Counselors indistinguishable from campers as favorite songs are played and dancers leap from card games in the dining room to rush for the dance floor together. 

I would love to sit with you at the weekly testimony meeting and share in the joy of hearing about fears overcome, doubts dismissed, and obstacles surmounted.  To see one friend comfort another when after sharing a particularly meaningful healing, tears flood the heart.  Or to hear the sound of a lodge full of teens eager to sing their favorite hymns with mingled reverence and joy.  To see the signals of love run from "eye to eye" as experiences are shared that touched others with inspiration and awe.

I would find great joy in standing with you at the fence during the end of session rodeo and whooping with encouragement as riders navigate barrels, poles, and the keyhole on horses that have long since ceased to be vehicles of adventure and have become loved dancing partners...camper and horse choreographed by Spirit to a song of Soul.

And the final banquet.  Parents and campers, couselors and camp directors, guests and visitors all sharing in a feast of love and celebration for all that has been overcome, discovered, revealed, resurrected of our best most amazing selves in fellowship and service.   To hold your hand as we remember when you received your 3-year carabiner, your 5-year silver pendant with the Five Fingers in bas relief, your 10-year blanket embroidered with "A/U" and the camp logo you know as well as your own name, or the night I received my beloved painting of the Collegiate Peaks by artist Brooks Anderson.

But most of all, what I want to share with you is what happens every session at the end of the night. Just before campers are sent back to cabins for a final night of sleeping in their bunks and hearing the giggles, tears, and sighs from their friends beds as they doze off, we gather them on the floor of Valerie Lodge for the most beautiful tradition of all. The singing of "Whither". It is our lullaby of love on their last night. It is a reminder that wherever they go, God is leading them, holding their hand, loving them all along the way. The text is from Psalms 139 and it is "low, sad, and sweet". We sit on the stairs of the stage holding candles and we sing them home. We pray the words and music swirl around them, enter their hearts, carry them, comfort them, inspire them. We hum the last verse before we blow out the candles and sitting together in the dark, Aaron (the Camp Director) sends them off to bed with a benediction of love and promise. It is the sunshine of living love descending on their lives. And it always makes me cry.

Yes, if I had a day that I could give you, I'd give to you a day just like any one of these days.

"...Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy
Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry
Sunshine on the water looks so lovely
Sunshine almost always makes me high
Sunshine almost all the time makes me high..."

I know why John Denver wrote this song...it is the feel of Rocky Mountain sunshine on my shoulders that reminds me that I am home again.  There is no other feeling like it.  It is as warm as the hand of God at your back telling you, "Go ahead, you can do it...you can do anything with Me by your side."  And you can...we can...no, we did.

We found our best most amazingly courageous, generous, selfless selves in this place where the sunshine on your shoulders makes you happy, and sunshine in your eyes can make you cry....with gratitude and joy,

Kate Robertson, CS

[photo credit: Emily Alexadra Conroyd 2009]


  1. Anonymous10:06 AM

    You brought it all back in vivid accuracy. Thank you!
    Much love,

  2. Anonymous6:54 PM

    Thank you so much for taking me to camp today with your post and for all your posts this summer that have helped me feel more at home, safer, and not so far away here in Costa Rica. There have been moments during this adventure where I have indeed found my best "camp" self. Pura Vida! -Maria