Vespers for these times…

November 30,2020


Hark, the vesper bell is pealing,

O’er the meadow soft and green.

Nearer now and nearer stealing,

Soft it breaks upon my ear.

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

 First Words: November.  A month in which our thoughts turn to gratitude and we have the opportunity to offer thanks to the people and the events that made a positive difference in our lives over the past year.  This year, it’s easy for thoughts of thanks to get jumbled up, tossed around with so much change and adversity.  And yet….looking deeper, there is “yes”. There is much to be grateful for.

 There’s a grace we sing at camp, but only on rainy days!  You may not realize that!  Many summers ago, a camper commented that every time we sang this particular grace, the skies would open up and the rains would fall…in torrents!  Since she made that observation, we second-guess fate and sing it only on rainy days.  Today it is not raining.  Yet.  But camp is not in session, either.  It feels quite safe to sing it out!

 Sing: “The Johnny Appleseed Grace”, edited for camp use.

The Earth is good to me,

And so I thank the Earth,

For giving me the things I need,

The sun and the rain and the appleseed.

The Earth is good to me.

A Poem: Joy Harjo is the United States Poet Laureate, the first Native American to hold that honor.  She is a member of the Muscogee Nation, a tribe located in Oklahoma.  This poem calls us all to recall and name, at this time of gratitude and Thanksgiving, core natural elements that are present for our taking, in each of our lives.

 Remember, by Joy Harjo

 Remember the sky that you were born under,

know each of the star’s stories.

Remember the moon, know who she is.  I met her

in a bar once in Iowa City.

Remember the sun’s birth at dawn, that is the

strongest point of time.  Remember sundown

and the giving away to night.

Remember your birth, how your mother struggled

to give you form and breath.  You are evidence of

her life, and her mother’s, and hers.

Remember your father.  He is your life also.

Remember the earth whose skin you are:

red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth

brown, earth, we are earth.

Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their

tribes, their families, their histories, too.  Talk to them,

listen to them.  They are alive poems.

Remember the wind.  Remember her voice.  She knows the

origin of this universe.  I heard her singing Kiowa war

dance songs at the corner of Fourth and Central once.

Remember that you are all people and that all people are you.

Remember that you are this universe and that this universe is


Remember that all is in motion, is growing is you.

Remember that language comes from this.

Remember the dance that language is, that life is.


Sing:  “Morning has broken”, words by Eleanor Farjeon, sung by Cat Stevens

Morning has broken, like the first morning.

Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird.

Praise for the singing, praise for the morning.

Praise for them springing fresh from the word.

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning.

Born of the one light Eden saw play.

Praise with elation, praise every morning,

Earth’s recreation of the new day.

 Camp places for which we are all thankful, in any season. Do you know each and every one?  Answers to be found at the end of this Vespers.

Sing: “You can close your eyes”,  by James Taylor  This beautiful song reminds us of the parts of life that continue on and on, regardless of circumstances.

 Well, the sun is slowly sinking down,

But the moon is rising.

And this old world must still be spinning ‘round,

And I still love you.

So close your eyes,

You can close your eyes, it’s alright.

I don’t know no love songs,

And I can’t sing the blues anymore.

But I can sing this song,

And you can sing this song, when I’m gone.

Well, I know there’s gonna be another day.

And we’re gonna have a good time.

Nobody’s gonna take this time away.

You can stay as long as you want.

So close your eyes,

You can close your eyes, it’s alright.

I don’t know no love songs,

And I can’t sing the blues anymore.

But I can sing this song,

And you can sing this song, when I’m gone.

An activity for any month, any time: Have you ever made a Gratitude Tree?  It’s a perfect camp activity!  You cut the shape of a tree, complete with branches and a trunk.  Make it substantial!  There’s a lot to be grateful for!  Then cut some leaf shapes.  Pick a month, any month will do since November is now over.  Daily, record something you are thankful for on each leaf and attach them to your tree.  Watch how your tree develops and hang it up in a place where you can see it each and every day—a reminder of the blessings you enjoy!

 Here’s a picture of the Gratitude Tree Priya, Amara and Zora Byrom have been building for two seasons now.  It will give you a good idea of how to proceed!  And… will be a good reminder of the things great and small for which we can be grateful.  If you make a Gratitude Tree, take a photo and send it to Devri for posting in the Bubbler.  Why not??!

Poems by Shel Silverstein

Shel Silverstein’s poems delight each group of campers, summer after summer!  We are all thankful for his insights, humor and wisdom!  Here are a few quotes from a favorite few!

 “Listen to the mustn’ts, child.  Listen to the don’ts.  Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts.  Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me….Anything can happen child.  Anything can be.”

“How many slams in an old screen door?  Depends how loud you shut it.  How many slices in a bread? Depends how thin you cut it.  How much good inside a day?  Depends how good you live ‘em.  How much love inside a friend?  Depends how much you give ‘em.”

“If you are a dreamer come in.

If you are a dreamer a wisher a liar

A hoper a pray-er a magic-bean-buyer

If you’re a pretender come sit by my fire

For we have some flax golden tales to spin

Come in! Come in!”

“Do a loony-goony dance

‘Cross the kitchen floor,

Put something silly in the world

That ain’t been there before.”

“My skin is kind of sort of brownish pinkish yellowish white.  My eyes are greyish blueish green, but I’m told they look orange in the night.  My hair is reddish blondish brown, but its silver when its wet, and all the colors I am inside have not been invented yet.”

“It’s hot!

I can’t get cool,

I’ve drunk a quart of lemonade.

I think I’ll take my shoes off

And sit around in the shade.

 It’s HOT!

My back is sticky.

The sweat rolls down my chin.

I think I’ll take my clothes off

And sit around in my skin.

 It’s HOT!

I’ve tried with ‘lectric fans,

And pools and ice cream cones.

I think I’ll take my skin off

And sit around in my bones.


Sing: “Tzena”—a favorite camp round.  We are all thankful for the amazing sounds we can make when we sing rounds!   Teach this to someone you are with for this Vespers!  They will be thankful you did!

Tzena, tzena, tzena, tzena

Can’t you hear the music playing in the village square?

Tzena, tzena, tzena, tzena

Can’t you hear the music playing in the village square?

Tzena, tzena, join the celebration

There’ll be people there from every nation.

Soon we’ll all be dancing in the sunlight.

Dancing in the village square.

Tzena, tzena, tzena, tzena, tzena

Tzena, tzena, tzena, tzena, tzena, tzena

Tzena, tzena tzena, tzena, tzena

All the world’s in love with tzena, tzena!

A few more words: The unique situations that we are living through this particular November require that we think more deeply about what we are truly thankful/grateful for.  A number of the usual things we offer thanks for are either unavailable or significantly different this year.   Joy Harjo helps us dig deeper.  She reminds us to be grateful for the natural elements that make up the world in which we live.  Thanks to and for Joy Harjo!

 Imagination can take us from Joy Harjo’s inspiration to a less typical list of ideas for which we can all be thankful:

  •  Shouldn’t we be thankful that we do not know everything there is to know!  Acknowledging that, we can be thoroughly excited about learning new things, about meeting new people with ideas that might be different….intriguing….fun!  Be grateful for not knowing all there is to know!
  •  Could we be thankful for not knowing EXACTLY what will be happening tomorrow, or even later today?  Camp is perfect for teaching us that this is a really good thing to be thankful for!  People who are thankful for not knowing EXACTLY what will be happening tomorrow are flexible and eager for whatever new experience is around the corner!  For these people, life is always intriguing!  Be thankful that you don’t know what tomorrow will bring!
  • Another thought: be thankful for the fact that change can always happen, that WILL always happen.  Change allows us to embrace new opportunities that lie ahead.  Change allows us to work on and correct situations that need adjusting.  Change makes the future exciting and possible.  Be grateful for change!
  •  Thanks, too, can be offered for each person’s ability to reach out to know and help others.  Doing so brings meaning to our lives and for sure, new friends.  Be thankful that you can be a positive force in this universe of ours!

 Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan is a change-maker in her country.   She must lead her life offering thanks for all four of the points made above.  She honored each of those points in a favorite camp book, often read at Vespers.   THE SANDWICH SWAP  is about two girls who are classmates together in a typical elementary school .  You would recognize the schedule for their day.  School work occupied the morning and afternoon with lunch and recess (hopefully a nice long one!) happening mid day.

Queen Rania introduces us to the two girls: Lily and Salma.  They have a wonderful friendship going until…..lunch!  Different from most Betsey Cox campers who look forward to a different meal each and every lunch time, with, remember, a lavish salad bar to enjoy, Lily and Salma each bring the same meal in their lunch boxes each school day.  With one difference.  Lily’s sandwich is always peanut butter and jelly on white bread while Salma’s is always hummus on a pita bread.  Should there be a problem?

 Well…no…of course not.  Having personal food favorites as well as having favorites that belong to one’s culture are both acceptable patterns.  But somehow  (maybe recess wasn’t long enough or lunch was too long!), the girls’ lunch choices become a topic of wide-spread lunch-time conversation.  There was a group of kids who made disparaging remarks about Salma’s hummus.  What on earth was that “stuff” in the pita?  And why is the bread round and clearly whole-wheat?  Noses were turned up.  For her part, Salma made it clear that she thought the idea of a person spreading fruit on top of a nut spread and on white bread to boot, was a terrible choice.

 Sadly, the conversation around the lunch table lasted too long and eventually, could you believe, a food fight took place.  Parts of Lily’s PB and J sandwich landed on top of a few people’s heads.  Hummus squeezed out of Salma’s pita pocket when another kid stepped on the remnants of her sandwich that had somehow landed on the floor.

 It was a good thing that this particular lunchroom had a supervisor who bravely stepped in midst flying PB and J and slippery pita/hummus.  Of course, all participants had to be held accountable for the mess, but after that had been cleaned up and apologies were made, a further conversation happened.

 The supervisor asked Lily if she had ever tasted hummus in a pita pocket.  Had Salma ever tried PB and J?  Regrettably, neither girl had ever thought to do so.  The very next day, both girls were asked to sit together and to share half their sandwich with the other girl (once her close friend!).  And of course, because Queen Rania likes stories that have a happy ending, both girls found that each other’s sandwiches were actually delightful taste treats!  A very happy ending.

Of course, Queen Rania wrote this story in order to make the point that one never knows what lies beyond one’s own background and culture.  As a progressive woman, Queen Rania studied outside her own country (Palestine) and learned a lot about differences between people and the exciting results of getting to know them.  And so, the reader of THE SANDWICH SWAP knows that Lily and Salma will continue to be friends, better friends, in fact, now that they begin to learn something about each other’s cultures, including what very interesting food choices are part of those cultures. 

Camp Betsey Cox is magical in part because life in a cabin of 8 girls and two to three staff means that each cabin member will easily have the chance to learn deeply about the others.  We are lucky at camp to have campers and staff from around our country and from around the world.  As in the story, food plays into our growth!  We have chefs who either come from other countries (Remember Promprey’s curry and Theary’s chicken soy sauce?) or they love multi-cultural cuisine!  (Diana’s breakfast French-toast casserole, for example).  Activities are planned and managed by people from so many unique cultures!  Do you remember….were you there?.. when Lilian Tshabalala chanted a South African myth on the dock at Candlelighting?  Chills of delight washed through the crowd as we learned some magic from Africa. 

 On your Gratitude Tree, should you actually make one or just think about what your leaves would say, should definitely include being thankful that:

  •   you can be a life-long learner, thankful for the possibility of something new to learn most days!
  •  you can look forward to change and be thankful that you have the ability to welcome it and to see the opportunities when it happens.
  •  you know how to be flexible enough to make change yourself!
  •  you realize that giving help to others will allow you to feel gratitude even as you give others of yourself.

Be grateful for last week’s turkey dinner, for the loved ones around your Zoom Thanksgiving, for all the natural-world phenomena that Joy Harjo calls to our attention, for the friends you care for, etc., etc..  But don’t forget to be very thankful, too, for the deeper, sometimes risky elements listed above. 

Sing:  “Come ye thankful people come”,  old hymn, sung for you by Priya, Amara and Zora Byrom, one camper, one day camper and one future camper!   Listen once and then again and sing with them!

Thanksgiving song.2020

Come ye thankful people, come.

Sing a song of harvest home.

All is safely gathered in,

‘Ere the winter storms begin.

Earth our mother doth provide,

For our needs to be supplied.

Come to Earth’s own table come.

Sing a song of harvest home.

Final Words:

“I thank You God for most this amazing

Day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees

And a blue true dream of sky’ and for everything

Which is natural which is infinite which is yes.”

                                             -ee cummings



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

Camp places we are thankful for: the birch grove, board walk from the upper level to the Woodshop, garden shed, Killington’s porch, the stump at the center of the Labyrinth, the Library, Pond path, Upper Meadow, the view from the driveway, Blueberry Hill Hotel.






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