By Lorne Field
Before I was old enough to attend camp I would ride to Orkney Springs with my family to take my brother Mark to Saint George’s and my sisters Cindy and Malinda to Choir Camp (now M.A.D. camp). I learned how to swim in the pool at the Orkney Springs Campground (long since closed). It was the late 1970s. My parents would show me around after we dropped off my siblings at camp. One afternoon we drove to the top of Spring Mountain to visit the cross. Yes, my dad drove our massive Chevy Caprice station wagon with faux wood panels to the top of the mountain. You could do that in those days.
The cross was cool and scary. It would sway as one climbed up the springy wooden stairs to the platform. The view of the valley was unobscured then – the trees had not grown as tall as they are now. What a view it was. However, I was more impressed by what I saw under the cross – countless rocks shaped like sea shells. Huh? My dad explained that the mountains were formed when North America and Africa collided millions of years ago. The ocean floor between the continents was thrust upward and the layers of sediment and the all stuff in them rose with it. Today you can find the fossilized remains of ancient marine scallops, worms and snails on top of the mountain. My six year old mind was blown.
Conversation and camaraderie distracted us from the perceived threat of lions, tigers and bears. The chatter dimmed over time and everyone nodded off – except me. I stared out into the blackness of the forest for a long time. I was just about to doze off when I spotted specks of greenish-blue light dotting the ground. I was wide awake again.
With a great deal of trepidation I reached out from under the tarp and started to pick at the soil. With every uprooted chunk of earth came scraps of glowing wood. “Oh, great,” I thought. I’m not going to be mauled by a bear in the middle of the night but I am going to meet my demise by sleeping on contaminated, radioactive ground. I leaped out of my sleeping bag and ran over to the staff tarp. “Why is the ground glowing?” I asked. They explained that we were not camping in a nuclear wasteland and that I had just unearthed “fox fire” root. Certain kinds of fungi found in decaying wood glow when they are exposed to air. It is one of many different kinds of bioluminescence. My ten year old mind was blown again.
Shrine Mont Camps transform kids in innumerable ways. Every camper probably has a flash bulb memory that stands out from his or her experience on the Mountain. These are my earliest memories of Shrine Mont, though I have many more. God’s awesome power was revealed to me through the mystery and discovery of his Creation. Saint George’s teaches kids that they are part of the Body of Christ and bound by God’s love to everything he created. That lesson still resonates with me today in my professional and family life. So every time I give a pollution-prevention talk or take my son fishing, I am thankful that Shrine Mont blew my mind wide open. I’m sure I won’t be the last.
Spreading the good news of Shrine Mont Camps into the Valley of the World.
The View from the Mountain is written by a rotating cast of staff writers and contributors.