Resilience… A Vespers for these times…

November 1, 2020


Hark the Vesper bell is pealing,

O’er the meadow soft and green.

Nearer now and nearer stealing

Soft it breaks upon my ears.

Jubilate, Jubilate, Jubilate, Amen. Jubilate, jubilate, jubilate, Amen.

First few words:

            On a walk with a good friend last week, an idea floated past that was wonderful to catch!  She and a few friends, in their preparations for the time change at the end of this week and the arrival of the darker and colder time of the year here in Vermont, decided to meet up outside once each week to do something they could only do in the winter time.  They decided to call their group Camp Resilience!  What a terrific phrase!  Resilience is the ability to manage the ups and downs, the ins and outs of life while still keeping a steady focus on hope, goodness, kindness and well-being.  These past months and likely a few more still ahead will challenge us all to find our ability to be resilient.  Perhaps Camp Resilience can become a part of your winter life!  Camp Betsey Cox people, as a result of our time together at camp, have a head start on how to imagine and plan out your own Camp Resilience!

SING: “Here We Have Gathered”, a favorite Vespers song

Here we have gathered, gathered side by side.

Circle of kinship, come and step inside.

May all who seek here find a kindly word.

May all who speak here feel they can be heard.

Sing now together, this our heart’s own song.

Here we have gathered, called to celebrate

Days of our lifetimes, matters small and great.

We of all ages, women, children, men,

Infants and sages, as we give we gain.

Sing now in friendship this our heart’s own song.

Life has its battles, sorrows and regrets

But in the shadows, let us not forget.

We who now gather, know each other’s pain.

Kindness can heal us, as we give we gain.

Sing now in friendship, this our heart’s own song.

A Poem: Mary Oliver, of course.  For each of us in the camp community, and probably for everyone, being out and about in the natural world helps strengthen our resilience.  Here is Mary Oliver’s poetic comment on just that:

When I am among the trees

When I am among the trees,

especially the willows and the honey locust,

equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,

they give off such hints of gladness.

I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,

in which I have goodness, and discernment,

and never hurry through the world

but walk slowly and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves

and call out, “Stay awhile.”

The light flows from their branches.

And they call again “It’s simple,” they say,

“and you too have come

into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled

with light and to shine.”

A Comment: Think of all the trees you’ve enjoyed at camp, probably without thinking deeply about them!  What’s your favorite camp tree?  Maybe one outside your cabin?  How about the birches in the birch grove?  Or maybe the tree in which our tree house resides.  There’s an old tree on which the Stop and Go sign rests.  In your minds eye, take a minute to revisit the camp trees and feel the resilience begin to seep right into your core.

 If we were sitting amidst the birches at the birch grove where we often are for Vespers during camp, we would do an activity to see whether everyone knows the names of our camp trees.  Give it a try here!  See if you know these trees of ours!  Answers at the end of Vespers.

An Old Song about Trees:” The Ash Grove”

The ash grove, how graceful,

How plainly ‘tis speaking.

The harp through it playing

Has language for me.

Whenever the light from its branches is playing

A host of kind faces is smiling at me.

The friends of my childhood

Again are before me.

Each step wakes a memory

As freely I roam.

With soft whispers laden its leaves rustle o’er me.

The ash grove, the ash grove, alone is my home.

Another Comment: We have ash trees at camp.  Many of them.  In Vermont as is the case around New England, the ash trees are threatened by an invasive beetle.  Thankfully our forest manager, Mike Fallis (yes!  Dad to Celia and partner to Amy Clapp!), of Limbwalker Tree Service  is watching our ash trees and has ideas about how to save those about which we care deeply.

A Story: ” Moonstruck: The True Story of the Cow Who Jumped Over the Moon”, by Gennifer Choldenko.Way back in 1997 someone gave this wonderful story to camp.  Since then it has been an annual treat for us all to hear it at Vespers.  It’s a story about persistence, courage and, of course, resilience.  Within the text are other clues about how to discover your own resilience even in the face of life’s challenges.  Here is the story, written by Gennifer Choldenko.

“Mother Goose….what a bag of feathers she is.  She makes it sound so easy.  Nine hundred forty-one pounds of cow meat, not counting the udder, catapults 240,000 miles to jump over the moon—and what does that old goose woman write?  One lousy line—not even a whole poem.  I know for a fact the cow was hurt by it, but who am I to say?  I’m just an old brown horse.  Only THEN I was a young brown horse.  Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself.  I want to tell you the whole story.

First of all, you may not know this, but we horses jump over the moon on a regular basis.  Every night at least one of us makes the trip. I don’t want to make it sound easy or anything, but we all do it.  We can handle it.  We’re built for it.  We begin training from a very early age.

Which is just what we were doing when this cow started hanging around.  At first she kept her distance.  And, to be quite honest, we were kind of flattered.  Who doesn’t like an audience?

Then she started trying to get friendly.  Asking dumb questions like, ‘Do you take a running start?’  I mean, come on.  Whoever heard of jumping clear over the moon from a dead standstill?

Every day she was there, cold weather or warm.  As if that weren’t bad enough, she began using our equipment herself.  That’s when I knew I had to have a talk with that cow.  I mean, let’s face it.  Not everyone can be born a horse.  ‘Look kid,’ I said to the cow, ‘you can’t keep doing this.  You’re going to get hurt.  Why don’t you go chew the cud with your cow friends?’  ‘No’ she said, ‘I’m going to jump the moon.’

‘Honey, come on!  You’re a cow.  Take a look at that body of yours….those short little legs, that galumphing stride…’. ‘I don’t care, she said.  ‘I’m going to.  Every night I look up and say to myself, one day I’m going to see what the moon looks like up close.  One day I’m going to jump clear over that moon.’  Now I understood.  This cow was MOONSTRUCK!  There was no use trying to talk sense to her.  ‘Okay, kid’ I said, ‘I’ll give you a shot.  But if you can’t keep up, you’re out.  Is that a deal?’  ‘It’s a deal,’ she said.

I didn’t mention this to the others.  What—I’m going to tell them I recruited a cow for the team?  I figured she wouldn’t last longer than a day or two anyway.  Then we’d be rid of her for good.  Boy, was I wrong.  First thing in the morning there she was.  Last thing at night…..still there.

Every time I’d get ready to tell her to head back to her herd, she’d go and do something really well and I’d have to keep my mouth shut for another day.  After a few months, she was jumping as well as the quarter horses.  Then what could I say?  So that’s how it went for most of the season until we got down to the final part of the training: the Wall.

Some of the horses sweat the nails right out of their shoes when it’s their turn to jump the Wall.  There was no way a cow could clear it, no matter how hard she tried.  But when I told the cow that, she galloped off, all in a huff—and I didn’t see her again until I was setting up flags for the Wall.

Then all of a sudden there she was, thundering toward the Wall her cowbell clanking wildly.  ‘NO!’ I hollered as the cow gathered her legs under her and sprang all the way over the great stone hurdle.  ‘Yes! Yes!’ the horses shouted, stamping their hooves in salute to that black-and-white babe.

After that, I have to tell you, I had to rethink the whole cow thing.  Some years half my horses can’t clear the Wall and here this crazy bovine jumped it first time out.  So that very day I posted a list of the horses who were ready to jump the moon.  And on the list I included the cow.

When the cow found out she’d been chosen, you could hear her mooing from one end of the farm to the other. She was so excited she could hardly keep her mind on schooling those last few days.  But when the night came for her to jump, she was calm and confident, her mind focused on flight.

10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…..BLAST OFF! And she burst forward down the hill.  Faster and faster the cow galloped down the hill.  Faster and faster she went as she gathered her legs under her and rocketed into the night.

Higher and higher the cow flew, careening through space at an incredible speed.  Up and up and up until one two, three all four of her stubby legs soared past that big old moon.  And then around and around and up and over until she’d seen every bit of the moon up close.  And the stars and meteorites and the Milky Way and the Earth…..And then when there was nothing left to see, gently, gently gravity brought her back to Earth again.

Well, I can tell you that when she came back, there wasn’t a dry eye on the whole planet.  Which is why I know for certain that old Mother Goose wasn’t around.  Because if she’d seen that Holstein jump the moon with her own eyes she wouldn’t be wasting her time writing about cats and fiddles and the courtship of dishes and spoons.  She would have written a whole book about that cow.”

Sing: Mr. Moona camp round.  Zoom with a couple camp friends and do it!!

Mr. Moon, Mr. Moon you’re out to soon, the sun is still in the sky.

Go back to your bed and cover up your head and wait ‘til the sun’s gone by.

From out the battered elm tree, the owl’s cry we hear.

And from the distant forest, the cuckoo answers clear.

Cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo.  Cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo.

A Few Words:

On first hearing MOONSTRUCK is a story about one individual’s setting a goal for herself and then working on strategies to meet that goal.  The cow is determined to sail over the moon.  She knows that doing so would be a stretch—that practice would be required.  Lots of practice.  But she has a goal and makes a commitment to reach it!  After a great deal of practice, she earns the chance to go for it!  As night fell, on that chosen night, Gennifer Choldenko writes words that allow us to accompany that cow as she sails up and over, down and around and then back to the enthusiastic others awaiting the chance to offer congratulations.  What a moment!

Finding hints about resilience  in this story may be a little more subtle, but think about these:

  • For sure, setting a goal is the first step in becoming resilient. Setting individual goals, goals for others, goals for your family, your town, your state, your country and your world means that you are likely to become a person of positive impact!  Yahoo!!  And then resilience will support you on the way!
  • It takes courage to take steps towards those goals.  For most of us, courage is right there in our character, but bringing it out is easier when we find other people with similar goals.  Being courageous by yourself is a trait we can study in famous people from history.  Learning about those people and the sacrifices they made and the resilience they demonstrated is important and inspiring.  If you have ever participated in a march, or if you’ve ever stood before others and made a speech about one of your goals, you’ve felt both the easier path of being resilient among others and also your potential to be resilient on your own.  Fortunately  isn’t it likely that when you take a courageous step, you will find others who share your goals and who will join you in the effort to reach them.  And as you work together you’ll find that when circumstances require you to act on your own, you’ll find it easier and easier to do so.
  • To be resilient one also has to learn that setbacks happen (our cow was discouraged by the horse repeatedly until the horse eventually gave up!), but that persistence goes hand and hand with resilience.  Try again!  Imagine a new approach!  Do something you love to do and let happiness re-energize you!  Resilient people have learned to do just that!
  • Celebrate your successes along the way.  Remember that little steps still take you forward!  Celebrations feel good and will inspire you to go for the next step, whether that be large or small.
  •  Stop for a few moments every day and remember the things that give you strength: friends, family, the outdoors, laughter, a fun song, camp, learning, a bird on a tree branch—big and small, these things bring us strength and support our courageous side in continuing forward.

This coming week is a very important week in our country.  We all need to look to our goals, to remember how to be resilient, and to take steps, likely with others, towards those goals.  As we all look to the election, here are some words from a person named Heather Cox Richardson who, in her efforts to meet her goals, writes a daily newsletter about political matters in our country.  Today her letter reminds us all that there are good reasons to look forward, to be resilient in the face of continuing challenges.  Here is what she wrote:

Lots of us are exhausted and discouraged, and after the chaos of the past four years it seems entirely fair to be exhausted…..But on this night of calm before the storm, I am the opposite of discouraged.

            I am excited about our democracy and our future….

  Democracy is rising.  It might not win on Tuesday—no jinxing here!—but if not then, the week after that, or the month after or the year after.  After more than thirty years studying our country’s history, I have come to believe in American democracy with an almost religious faith.

  And then….the future looks wildly exciting, full of different voices, races, religions foods, gender identities, books, ideas, inventions, music, clothing, political identities, perspectives.

 For my part, I don’t expect to like everything that happens in such a fertile world, but I do expect to learn, and grow, and feel privileged to watch the construction of a world that reflects our people at their best.

In terms of our other significant global challenge, we each face the continued challenges of the COVID virus as a species.  On this problem, resilience requires us to deeply understand the importance of caring for others as a strategy for us all to care about ourselves.  Find a mask with snowflakes, mittens, candles, fun things.  Wear it resiliently and know that you are making a difference!  Feel glad to see friends six feet apart!  Notice how much their eyes communicate!  Eyes!  We’ve never noticed them as much.  It will be good to remember that eyes tell us a lot even when we can see faces completely!  Enjoy a small Thanksgiving, enjoy the intimacy of a small set of December holidays.  We will remember the creativity our resilient selves can build for each of these important markers in the year.  Who knows what we will carry forward because we made up some amazingly delightful rituals!  And remember…”all will be well again, I know.”

Sing:  “One Voice”, by the Wailin’ Jennys, a Camp Favorite

This is the sound of one voice.

One spirit, one voice.

The sound of one who has made a choice.

This is the sound of one voice,

This is the sound of one voice.

This is the sound of voices two.

The sound of me singing with you.

Helping each other to make it through.

This is the sound of voices two,

This is the sound of voices two.

This is the sound of voices three.

Singing together in harmony.

Surrendering to the mystery.

This is the sound of voices three,

This is the sound of voices three.

This is the sound of all of us.

Singing with love and the will to trust.

Leave the rest behind, it will turn to dust.

This is the sound of all of us,

This is the sound of all of us.

This is the sound of one voice.

One people, one voice.

A song for every one of us.

This is the sound of one voice,

This is the sound of one voice.

Final Word:

“In the face of adversity, we have a choice.  We can be bitter, or we can be better.  Those words are my North Star.”     -Caryn Sullivan


Jubilate, jubilate, jubilate, Amen. Jubilate, jubilate, jubilate, Amen.

Tree Identification:

A. Ash Leaves

B. Ash Tree

C. Paper Birch

D. Paper Birch leaves

E. Easter Hemlock needles

F. Poplar leaves

G. Poplar Tree

H.  Sugar Maple Leaves

I . White Oak Leaves and seeds

J. White Oak

K.  White Pine Needles

L. White Pine

M. Sugar Maple

N. Easter Hemlock

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