The Last Days of Summer
Fall is a lovely time of the year. It is also bittersweet, like a flower moments past its prime—still beautiful in all its glory but with a foreshadowing of decay not quite visible, made manifest only by an almost imperceptible curling around the outer edges.
Fall is a time of harvest—a time to reap the bounty of the summer season. Fall is a time of preparation for the coming winter months. Fall is a time for reflection and evaluation.
So here I am. The summer season is over for this year. Sundance, for the most part, has been wrapped up, labeled, and packed away until next August. The day is wet and the skies are gray.
Ahead of us: strategic planning, staff analysis, meetings, reports, the Block Party, World AIDS Day, the Film Festival, publishing deadlines—the business of CAMP Rehoboth.
As a diversion I look back at the photos I took during the summer. There are not as many as usual, but I pull a few favorites and contemplate for a time writing a photo essay.
Then I remember.
Today is the actual day of my anniversary. Sundance was the party. Today was the day we always set aside for the two of us. I am incapable of evaluating the summer without taking into account Steve’s absence—that void that I attempted to fill all summer by working seven days a week and pushing myself into an exhausted sleep every night.
I’ve long said that our success at CAMP Rehoboth over the years was not our skill but our persistence, and that just might be the way I made it through the season—by not giving up—step by step, day by day.
What I do know on this most bittersweet of all days is that we have done some good work over the months since Steve passed away. Most impressive to me is that the production of Letters from CAMP Rehoboth is no longer something that lives only inside my head. The magazine has been analyzed, documented, and properly staffed. I am deeply grateful to our brilliant friend Sondra Arkin who continues to serve behind the scenes as Transition Consultant, taking on much of my former volunteer work in communications so that I can do my work as Interim Executive Director. Her efforts along with those of Mary Beth Ramsey, Fay Jacobs, Tricia Massella, Marj Shannon, Monica Parr, and Barb Ralph—as well as all of our advertisers and writers—have made Letters a better communications tool. All of it now resides in the cloud, enabling staff to work from multiple locations and with far more flexibility than ever before.
Over the past few months our almost year-long strategic planning process continued, with most of the summer taken up with information gathering in the form of individual interviews and small forums led by our DANA consultant Sheila Bravo. At the same time, a complete staff analysis is also in progress to properly account for all paid and unpaid positions and resources needed to support our work.
I certainly can’t, at this point, predict the final outcome of all this planning and hard work. But in the end, I’m confident we will have a well-crafted plan for the future of CAMP Rehoboth.
Since 1997, the history of CAMP Rehoboth has been archived on our website as each issue of Letters was added online. Granted, some of those earlier years are not in great shape, and don’t seem to have weathered the more recent website redesigns as well as the newer pages, but most of the information is still intact—even if some of the spacing and punctuation is not. In contemplating our history on this day of our 40th anniversary, I searched our website for Steve’s column and September, knowing that I would find his thoughts regarding both this time of year and the aftermath of Sundance. 9/11 is there of course, and so are remembrances of past Sundance successes—especially in the years before the recession when auction prices soared and so did our profits.
In September of 2004, his words seemed particularly fitting. He began by marveling over the success of Sundance that year (which I believe was our all-time high), and then stating: “At the same time, our beloved dog Sam got sick and went into the hospital and died. That’s what life is, joy and pain all wrapped up together—the highs and the lows, success and failure, abundance and loss. I am thankful to be living in a generous, loving, and caring community that supports us through both the good times and the bad.”
I echo those words today, knowing all the more the truth of finding joy even when pain and grief are overwhelming. There will never be any doubt in my mind about the loving nature of this community we call home.
So yes, today is bittersweet. We’ve had a great success with Sundance, but Steve’s loss is still very much with me—and with our organization. On a whim, I went all the way back to Steve’s column in the 1997 issue of Letters—the first one online—and discovered this passage written in CAMP Rehoboth’s seventh year:
“Remember that song with the line: ‘my head is in a spin, my feet won’t touch the ground?’ That’s the way I have felt after this past summer. Now, however, there is a little breathing space between deadlines, and there is more time for me to think about the direction CAMP Rehoboth needs to move in the next few years. More and more in conversations around the CAMP office we find ourselves talking about the need to develop into a Community Center. This summer Murray even suggested a retreat center, and we’ve laughingly talked about a retirement center for years, only the older we get the less we seem to laugh about it. Some things remain only dreams; others become the stuff of which the future is made. Of course we have to keep in mind the first rule of Sussex County—all in good time. It’s taken us seven years to get to this point. I wonder where the next seven years will take us?”
Well, we know the answer to that question now, but, of course, it’s time to ask it all over again.
Where will the next seven years take us?
All in good time, my friends, all in good time.▼
Murray Archibald is an artist, CAMP Rehoboth Co-Founder, and longtime President of the CAMP Rehoboth Board of Directors. He is currently serving as CAMP Rehoboth Interim Executive Director and Editor in Chief of Letters from CAMP Rehoboth. Email Murray.