The Blue Lake area in central Oregon is my favorite place in the entire world. More than 20 years ago, I used to take kids camping at Blue Lake every summer. Some of the kids were from my church and others from a Bible club at the school where I taught for several years. That was in the really "olden" days when teachers could still ask a student to say a blessing before we went to the cafeteria for lunch, and start a Bible club without a special distribution from the Supreme Court.
This particular Bible club seemed to attract kids that did not fit in well at school; in fact, some were real troublemakers; but the group never turned anyone away. The behavior of a few even improved as a result of their association with the club, and I like to think that we all became better people during those years.
We rode all over the place in my old Volkswagen van and did a lot of fun things together like skating, swimming, camping, and even going to revival meetings which were frequently held in our area at the time …
We called ourselves the God Squad, and even put a bumper sticker with that title on the back of my van. The kids did not care when some at school dubbed them God's Odd Balls. In fact, they felt sorry for the kids who made fun of them because they were not a part of our group.
You're probably wondering what the Bible Club had to do with my summer vacation now, 20 plus years later. Well, be patient with me. I'm getting there.
One day last month, my husband and I took a picnic lunch, our lawn chairs, and books, and went up to Scout Lake, about a mile from Blue Lake, to spend the afternoon. My husband walked around the lake once, before collapsing with his book, but I made it a few more times. One trip around is about 3/4 of a mile.
Anyways, as I was walking along the trail, I began to think about the times I had walked this same trail with the teenagers from the Bible club, all those years before. On one of those trips, Ricky, one of the older boys suggested that we bought to meet at the lake on a particular day every year for the rest of our lives.
Some of them had already graduated from high school and the group was beginning to drift apart. We talked about it for awhile, but decided it would be hard to do, as they would be getting married, raising families, moving all over, etc.
Then he pointed to an old tree off the path and up the hill to the right. "Hey, look at that hole in the tree. We could all come up here anytime we wanted and leave messages for each other in that hole in the tree," he said. We all agreed that it would be an interesting way to keep in touch, and someone changed the subject.
Last month, on my fourth trip around the lake, I noticed the tree again, and Ricky's words came back to me. "I wonder?" I thought. Had the group meant as much to them as it had to me? If so, there bought to be a pile of letters in that hole. But, then, I had never bothered to write so much as one line for the unorthodox mailbox, myself, even though the years of our adventures together had been very special to me.
The hole in the tree was very high, and would be difficult for me to reach. After all, I was 20 years older now, and I had not exactly been a spring chicken back in those days. It would have been difficult even for the kids to reach. Without realizing it, I took several steps off the path.
Several moments passed as I stand there in the eerie, late afternoon silence, staring at the hole in the tree. Then, a bit reluctantly, I stepped back to the path and continued on around the lake. Somehow, holding onto the fantasy of that hole being stuffed full of little notes seemed much more desirable than the probable reality of finding it empty.
Maybe, next year, I'll look.