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Thompson Island report: phoning it in

A little more about our church retreat on Thompson Island. Whatever the challenges of getting there, and eating and sleeping while there, it was lovely to be in a place where even the view out the bathroom window is worth photographing.

the view out a bathroom window: lawn, ocean, boats

relaxing sights for handwashing

Unfortunately, though I brought my camera along (of course) various other concerns kept me from remembering to have it with me most of the time. So most of the photos here are from my substandard phone camera; but they're sufficient at least to illustrate this over-long account that's probably only of interest to me and Harvey. You've been warned!

My adventure started at 3:30, when Leah and the boys picked me up at work.We drove to Cambridge, where we left the car at church and walked to the Red Line at Porter Square. That was a leisurely stroll, but by the time we detrained at Downtown Crossing I was feeling the press of time and I led the family on a desperate march over the hill and down to Long Wharf. We got there five minutes before we were supposed to and joined the happy—though chilly—throng milling about. Then onto the boat, where we admired the sunset as we waited for departure.

Harvey looking aft towards the pink sky over Logan Airport

sailor's delight

The voyage was Harvey's favorite part of the whole thing, and he's supposed to be working on a story about it, so I'll leave that to him; I do want to point out how wonderful it was, given Zion's love for the ball moon, that for most of the outward track that moon was leading us on.

Harvey and a friend looking forward as we steam towards the moon

moonward bound

When we got to the island we packed into the dining hall for a hasty dinner, then got set up in our little dorm room and went to bed. There were activities we could have joined—oh, there were activities!—but after 9:00 we turn into pumpkins, so we turned in instead. It was lovely to be inside on a very chilly night, and having three twin beds for the five of us made it extra warm and cozy—especially when the heater came on and blasted dry heat at us most of the night.

In the morning when Harvey and Zion woke up I took them and Lijah—who Leah had already been watching for some time—down to the shore while we waited for breakfast to open.

the boys on the gravel beach

early exploration

While the weekend was a retreat for most of the adults, many of the adults came with kids and those kids had to be entertained. I volunteered to help out, so after breakfast I found myself leading a group of eleven of them—including Harvey and Zion—on a series of outdoor adventure stations. Usually with those church kids I'm the one doing all the planning work, so it was nice to be able to follow someone else's directions; especially when the directions were basically, "go to these locations and have fun". Our first spot was the beach, where the kids threw stones.

Zion throwing a rock into the water

it's pretty much what you do

They also started building a bridge across the stream draining the salt pond, which was flowing high and fast; only two of them got their feet wet.

Next we moved to a "make-your-own obstacle course", where the kids used planks and various other found objects to enhance a small existing adventure play area.

kids moving a 2x8 plank into position

all hands working together

As well as challenging themselves with feats of balance and daring—"you can do the whole obstacle course? How about hopping on one foot?!"—they were also delighted to be able to smash up some (already slightly broken) chairs they found lying around. Lijah joined us for the fun; he couldn't smash, but he could climb!

Lijah climbing up a board on our home-made obstacle course

rising to the challenge

For our last stop the kids were supposed to pair up and take turns either blindfolded or serving as a guide dog. Tiring, not all of them were into it; somewhat surprisingly, Harvey was one of the more enthusiastic participants.

Harvey, blindfolded, being led by a friend

leading the blind

The non-participating kids played around on the pair of former Outward Bound boats set up on the lawn; before long the rest of the group joined them.

kids chilling on one of the grounded boats

high and dry

When things evolved into a shooting war (well, apple throwing anyways) between boys and girls I called a halt, and we headed up to the dining hall for lunch.

Parents were meant to pick the kids up from there, but most of them were having awesome spiritual and/or community-building experiences and didn't want to rush back too quickly. Recognizing that the dining hall might not survive the active energy of 35 kids once they were done eating, I brought my group out to make leaf piles to jump in. Everyone else soon followed, and somehow the bigger kids located a half-dozen rakes, so it was real.

Lijah watching the big kids make a leaf pile

it's fun because they don't have to do it

Next up on the day's agenda was a concert. Kids were welcome, but I couldn't bear to miss any outdoor time, and the boys felt the same. So did some of the other kids, and we put together an expedition back to the beach. The tide was lower, and between that and the work the other two groups put in after us the bridge was passable, with care. That opened up delightful new areas for exploration!

Zion gingerly crossing the bridge of rocks accross the stream on the beach

carefully now..

Harvey, Zion, and their friends found all sorts of treasures: shells, rusted metal bits, bricks, glass; even some crab traps, something else to throw.

Harvey throwing a crab trap into the salt pond

traps away

Free of the tyranny of a schedule, we hung out at the beach for quite some time, until dinner called us back to the buildings (I'll take that kind of tyranny any day!). After dinner the kids wrestled outside on the dark lawn for a bit before we all went in together for a final worship and prayer session. It was a little loud and distracted back in the family section, but with everyone starting to hit extreme tiredness the kids finally settled down a little bit, still happy to be together.

in the dark: Harvey chatting with a friend, Zion looking sleepy

the cool kids

Then we all rolled on down the path to the dock and back onto the boat. The return trip felt much quicker than the voyage out, and before long we were walking back to the Red Line; this time, happily, with friends who were going the same way. It's good that we had them along, because otherwise we might not have made it. Also the stroller was essential.

Zion asleep, leaning to the side in the umbrella stroller

wiped out

Ferry, walk, train, walk, car... we finally made it back home at 10:30. It was a good time for most of us—Leah will share her own feelings a little later, I believe—but we're in no hurry to do it again soon. Adventures closer to home for the next couple weeks, please!

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