Saints & Poets

“…I can’t. I can’t go on. It goes so fast. We don’t have time to look at one another. I didn’t realize. So all that was going on and we never noticed… Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it–every,every minute?”

“No. …The saints and poets, maybe they do some.”
-Our Town, Thornton Wilder, 1937

It’s that awkward time between day and night. Peaceful. Probably my favorite time of day. You can see fine without the street lights still, but they’ve come on just the same. I sit down on the porch steps outside of Captain Webb and listen to the cicadas. They’re singing like there’s no tomorrow.

“…I can’t. I can’t go on. It goes so fast. We don’t have time to look at one another. I didn’t realize. So all that was going on and we never noticed… Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it–every,every minute?”

“No. …The saints and poets, maybe they do some.”

-Our Town, Thornton Wilder, 1937

Right now, I’m sitting in the A/V office at Jumonville, surrounded by computer screens and enough video tapes to make a public library jealous. They’re all videos of camps, or most of them, but that’s beside the point. Alex’s iPod is plugged into the speakers and playing on low volume. It’d be louder, but it’s being drowned out by the two air conditioning units. My arch-nemesis, the Lacie 5Big network storage device, is turned off. And that’s how it will stay until I get around to calling tech support. Yeah, I’ve given up. Their stupid web site instructions for resetting the **** thing are useless. But let’s drop that.

Alex is sitting across from me staring in a very bored way at a screen. It’s Friday, at the end of a week with a lot of maintenance for adventure staff like me. My little sister came to camp, but she got sick Thursday morning and had to go home Thursday night.

I open the door to go downstairs. It’s 8:30 at night, but outside the A/V room, it’s still gotta be 90 degrees. Then I head into the main office. Ashley is sitting at the desk watching the office listening to “Lead Me To The Cross,” the new version that annoys the crap out of me, on K-Love over the internet. It keeps buffering. The song annoys me because of the line “rid me of myself, I belong to You.” I’m pretty sure God wants to HAVE us, not have us be rid of us. The song is spiritual-sounding, but theologically (not to mention logically) incorrect. I change that line when I sing it. …Strike K-Love. It She was playing it from myspace. But I digress. The reason I mentioned that was because, well, our internet here is pretty slow. But what do you expect on a mountaintop in the middle of the woods? We’re blessed to have T1 at all!

The longer I live, the more proofs I find of this fact: there is little inspiration to be found indoors. I go outside. It’s not as hot out here as just outside the A/V room.

It’s that awkward time between day and night. Peaceful. Probably my favorite time of day. You can see fine without the street lights still, but they’ve come on just the same. I sit down on the porch steps outside of Captain Webb and listen to the cicadas. They’re singing like there’s no tomorrow. Continue reading “Saints & Poets”


The cabin’s name is Pine. I’m sitting on the porch, feet on the steps, feeling the cooling evening air and listening to the rumble of the occasional cars and motorcycles driving up and down Jumonville Road, the sounds of children’s voices in the distance, and the crickets and birds chirping in the woods. The air is fresh and clean-smelling, and moving slowly with the smallest bit of a chill in it. To my left, the sky is a rich shade of blue, and to my right, I can see for miles off of the mountain. The horizon line is all but obscured by the thick humidity, but where the earth embraces the sky through the green trees, almost black in the dusk, near where the sun is setting, I can see the large hills in the miles of Southwestern Pennsylvanian landscape. The ground is a dark shade of blue, and the sky above is a color I can’t describe that’s a gorgeous mix of blue and gray and reddish at the top. Almost purple-gray, but a very dark purple. Above that, the whispy clouds reflect purple and orange, and glow pink and white, giving way to a blue that is nearly white that fades to another blue above my head that is darker.

The street lights are coming on, one by one. I hear David Orr inside of Pine, playing a soft and breezy song on his guitar, a song I don’t recognize, but like. Now David’s singing mixes with the children’s voices, the crickets’ and birds’ song, the glorious but unassuming sunset that has now changed to a shade of orange-pink, and all join together in a sweet and mellow song of praise to their creator. And I am happy. Not excited-happy, but happy in a deeper way. Contented, perhaps, would be a better word.

The scent of a wood fire drifts across my nose as my fingers tap the keyboard of my netbook. A loud siren announces a fire somewhere in Uniontown. Inside, Mike Nuss is wondering where I’m at.

“Out here,” I yell.

“He’s outside,” Craig tells him. Mike stands beside me on the small concrete porch and admires the sunset.

“Yeah. I’ve been trying to capture it with words,” I say. Mike looks for a little longer, then goes back inside. I hear Craig suggest that our Taco Bell run should happen soon because the dining room there closes at ten. The back screen door of Pine bangs itself shut. I think Mike went out. And David Orr starts playing “How Great is Our God.”

The sunset’s shades are slipping. It’s now blue, dark pink, light pink, and white-blue. Craig comes out and comments on it. “I like the sky. Cool layers of… white and blue.” Then he goes back inside.

The door opens and closes again, and I feel an elbow on my head. David Orr says that as God’s beautiful, unrepeatable miracle, I also make a great elbow rest, then asks when my free minutes start. “Seven,” I tell him, and pull out my phone. Craig comes back out and sits on the pavement in front of me, staring down the hill and crunching on a lollipop, while David starts talking on the phone.

Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight… The first star just appeared over the treeline, and the lights of Uniontown are starting to twinkle off to the right. Mike joins us outside. “Finish your story, Dave Schell,” Mike says. I hit the save button and we head off to Taco Bell.

How to Clean a Rope

It was a particularly hot day at Jumonville. Tyler, for whatever reason, had decided to use one of her weeks off to help adventure staff. Nate put the two of us to work washing the ropes in the adventure center.

Rope-washing is a tedious task. The ropes run through pulleys that are about thirty feet above the floor. To get them down and back up again without having to climb up the wall, you attach a string to one end of the rope you want to wash, then pull your rope down, replacing the rope with the string so when you’re done, you can tie the string to the rope again and pull the string down and the rope up. At least in theory.

Sometimes the knot between the rope and the string gets stuck at the top and the rope and string part ways. Then you have to do an equipment rescue: climb all the way to the top of the wall to put the rope back where it belongs. And then you do it again, and again, and again – at least twenty-six times.

The real fun in rope-washing, though, is the washing. You feed the rope through a T-shaped rope-washing gizmo. The base of the T attaches to a water hose while the water’s running. That’s where it starts to get fun. I made sure I was the one who started washing the ropes… and then turned the hose on Tyler. She said to stop, and being male, I paid no attention whatever.

We came back to the Adventure center. Tyler was a bit wet. Nate told us we could go change into our swimming clothes if we wanted. We wanted. We scampered back to our respective cabins and changed, then returned to finish the job. I sprayed Tyler, she sprayed me… a little. Not much. I got the impression that she just wanted to finish the job and get it over with. So I did what I do best: I tormented her in an epic, almost-one-way water battle. She turned the hose on me a time or six, but I think I overdid it… this is only my perspective…

After hours of cleaning ropes and laying them down on the adventure center floor to dry, we finally finished and headed for dinner. After all the spraying, I was still mostly dry. I rubbed it in, and Tyler asked Nate for his Nalgene water bottle. Then she emptied most of it on me.

Good times.

Something Strange is going on…

Last night, while I was chatting with my mom on facebook, we were scheming about what I can do so I can come back to college in the spring: Take a job for the week before Christmas with FedEx or UPS; I’m still hoping to pull off getting another loan. I’m seriously contemplating taking a job of some kind to help with the spring semester. Then I realized what was going on: I was plotting, trying to figure out how I can stay at Huntington.

Continue reading “Something Strange is going on…”

The First Step

For your reading pleasure (in case you were interested)… I wrote this for my academic writing and research class. WARNING: Contains no deep theological truths; it’s just good clean fun. I have inserted more paragraphs than were in my AW&R paper.. it makes it more readable.

I was wearing a black Singing Rock brand climbing harness around my waist and thighs. As I waited for James to reach the bottom of the rocks, I barely even noticed the green of the trees around me, the blue of the sky above, or the rumbling from the machinery at the rock quarry across the mountain. All I knew was that Nate had promised I would be safe.

My turn had come. Nate Greenway, who had crew-cut blond hair, was twenty-four, and was my coordinator and my friend, opened the screw-gate on a steel locking carabiner. “Are you right-handed or left?” he asked.

“Right,” I answered nervously. In response to my answer, he folded the thick rope, which ran through two steel anchors that were sunk deep into the rock, to make a bight, or bend, in it. Then he pushed the bight through the wider of two holes in a piece of steel that was called a “Figure Eight” because it resembled the shape of the number eight.

Nate wrapped the bight around the thinner end of the eight and clipped the eight to my harness with the carabiner. “Screw down so you don’t screw up,” he said, reminding me which direction to orient the carabiner.

He closed the screw-gate so the carabiner wouldn’t come open, then started giving me directions. “Take this end of the rope. Hold it in your right hand like this.” He showed me how to hold it. “Don’t switch hands. Put your left hand behind your butt so you’re not tempted to use it. And no matter what happens, don’t let go with your right hand.” I obeyed mechanically.

“Stand there,” he said, “and face me.” He pointed at a spot about a foot from the ledge of the thirty-foot cliff we were standing on. Holding the long end of the rope behind my posterior with my right hand, I turned to face Nate and turned my back to the cliff. “Put your feet square with your shoulders,” Nate said. I squared my feet and spread them a little wider in the tight blue climbing shoes and gripped the rope for dear life. Continue reading “The First Step”