This summer was unlike anything we’d experienced in more than 50 years. Our small corner of the Texas Hill Country was quiet, dormant, and largely unvisited. Chandler Pruitt, our Senior Director of Laity Lodge Youth Camp, said this was the first summer in 30-some years that he didn’t set foot in the Canyon. That was hard. That was real.
As we navigate the realities of COVID-19, we are returning to the Canyon carefully. Deborah and I have been able to stay a few nights and walk the quiet grounds of each camp. Our daughter Katherine visited for much needed respite. For the first 20 summers of Katherine’s life, we lived in the Canyon. So many memories resurfaced during her personal retreat. She revisited every cabin at Singing Hills, which took her back—to camp friends, Roundups, and important markers in her faith journey. She saw the spot where she fell off her bike and skinned her knees on the downhill gravel road, a right of passage. It was “transformational,” she said, to relive these stories of her childhood just as she begins to raise her own family.
Those of us who have had a chance to visit the Canyon lately see a silver lining to the current storm: The Canyon is healing. Spring waters are flowing. Native animals are flourishing. Ferns and grassy shoots are growing around the ladder to Blue Hole.
Individual visits earlier this fall expanded into small groups. We offered staff retreats to Foundation teams as we practiced new safety and health protocols. We enjoyed practicing hospitality with each other and getting folks like Chandler Pruitt back to the place they love so much.
Everyone who returns is fulfilling the urge to retreat that Kathleen Norris explains so well in this issue. The Canyon has been prayed over for decades, and people who retreat there feel the prayers.
As we slowly open up more, visitors to Laity Lodge are fulfilling the urge to retreat, and families will be returning to Headwaters. Soon counselors and campers will retreat again to Echo Valley and Singing Hills in the summer of 2021, followed by Foundation Camp groups and Outdoor School students.
Yes, we are hopeful and optimistic as we plan for a Canyon comeback! As hard as the past few months have been, we are cautiously optimistic about the year ahead. And we can’t wait to see you again in the Canyon, whenever that may be.