unwinding, the old-fashioned way

Last week the Solem-David family returned to the shores of Hood Canal for our annual visit to the Eliot Institute at Seabeck.  This is a gathering of Unitarian Universalists (also anyone else who is interested), drawing people predominently from the Pacific Northwest.  In the four years we’ve attended, people have come from Michigan, California and other places.  We’ve also drawn attendees from other denominations interested in learning about what UU’s are all about.

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The Eliot Institute consists of four camps each year.  The Seabeck Christian Conference Center on Hood Canal in Washington hosts two summer sessions and one winter session.  The Naramata Center on the shores of Lake Okanagan in British Columbia hosts an additional  summer session.

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The best way to describe Eliot is as a diverse intentional community.  Many types of individuals and families attend the camp.  There are traditional families, same-sex couples and parents, and people of all ages.  It is not unusual to see three generations from a family attend.

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Each of the camps has a morning adult program that focuses on a guest speaker, and associated small group discussions.  There are children, youth, and young adult programs that run concurrently.

Afternoons are filled with sports, board and card games, swimming, tie-dying, and enjoying the company of good friends. 

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The July camp at Seabeck includes a nightly singalong, featuring many camp songs you’ve heard, and others you’ll never hear anywhere else.

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My usual rhythm at the camp is to ship the kids off to their morning program, and then enjoy a nice run or bike ride during the morning lecture before heading to a small group discussion.  This year was different however, as I’d volunteered to help out with the middle-school kid’s program, which turned out to be a lot of fun!

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We spent mornings playing games like "Murder" (a card game in which you have to discover who the "killer" is), Capture the Flag, and Blob Tag.  The group also did a trust exercise in which the counselors and some of the kids led the others around the camp (and over many obstacles) while blindfolded.  The kids also put together a worship service, featuring a dramatization of The Frog Prince Continued.  One evening during the week, I helped to make pizzas for their sleepover, which included a late-night walk in the woods looking for the elusive Seabeck carnivorous bear.

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Rachel reports that the preschool kids spent time doing crafts and playing outside.  She also enjoyed running around with her friends, playing in the water and getting badges for her swimming bracelet, and learning how to weave ‘gimp’.

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Kayla tells me that she spent her time building paddleboats, planes, and launching rockets made of 2 liter soda bottles, water, and kitty litter into space!  She also enjoyed meeting friends (new and old), weaving gimp, and doing the polar bear swim.

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Kris spent her time catching up on sleep, running and riding her bike through the surrounding countryside, and tie-dying shirts for her appreciative family members.

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I enjoyed reconnecting with friends we see each year, playing games, and working with some talented and interesting kids.  And as always I came away feeling inspired by the generous spirit present in the community.

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