Friday, July 10, 2009

Walking Around the Campground

Today I walked around the campground – slowly, and I thought about how different it was now than it was at campmeeting time. Then it was the hot, humid days of mid-summer. Children were playing everywhere. Families were having huge lunches on picnic tables. There was laughter and singing and people sitting in the shade. The smells of food being prepared drifted out from the tents, and the whole place was alive with noise. Much different today. I am the only person I have seen so far. The only people sounds are those made by an occasional passing car; otherwise, it’s quiet today. I hear the breeze, the crunch of dry leaves under my feet, and the sound of my own voice inside my head. It’s little errie and a bit unnerving – like being alone in a hospital waiting room. Even though there’s no one around for you to disturb, you sit very quietly, and if you walk, you walk with soft, careful steps. I suppose it’s out of respect, or what some might call reverence.

In any case, as I walked those familiar spaces around the arbor, it was with slow and studied steps. I noticed things – a gum wrapper, a bluejay feather, the plastic toys left behind in a sandbox – and I remembered . . .

I remembered Katie and her newly discovered cousins running about in the twilight catching lightening bugs, just as I had done with my own cousins almost fifty years before. And when Elizabeth called her in, I already knew what she would say – “Not yet! Please Mommy, not yet! They don’t have to go in yet. Let me stay out ‘till they have to go in. Wait! I see another one – over there – no there - over there. Yeah!” Was it Katie or was it I who answered? Had it really been almost 50 years? Was Rick really dead from a ruptured blood vessel in his esophagus? Did Terry really drop out of school, join the army, and go off to Panama and get married? And had Robert, the youngest of our group, really been disabled for years with mysterious siezures that the doctors still can’t explain? Had I really grown up and forgotten what it was like to run and play with cousins in the magic of a mid-summer twilight? “Let her stay out for a while,” I answered on her behalf. “She’ll be in soon enough.”

I continued to walk. There was her favorite sliding board and the big swing where I pushed and pushed and pushed some more until my tendonitis flared up and I had to stop, and right there was the hand-hewn pew where she stood, in the fullness of her four years, and told the congregation of several hundred about how her beloved Grandma Pauline had gone up to heaven to be with Jesus. And I remembered writing somewhere that of all the places on earth, here on this campground is where I feel the most at home and the closest to heaven, because this is where Grandma Pauline lives in my memory. I stopped near one of the park benches and became aware of the fact that my face was wet with tears. I wiped my eyes with my shirt sleeve and looked around. I was well across the campground from our tent – ‘way over in the Waxhaw corner. We have friends over there, of course. Katie made them for us at Bojangles. And then, just for a moment, I saw Miss Judy waving at Katie. But that moment had taken place several months ago. The only things waving today were the leaves.

On one of our walks around the campground during campmeeting, Katie and I had noted that Tent #18 was in need of some repair, and as I walked I noted with satisfaction that the old tent had since been torn down and that the corners had already been laid out for a new cabin. As I walked on, it occured to me that a place in time like the campground can only exist in one of two states – either it’s growing or it’s dying. Unpainted, rundown, and seldom used cabins are symptomatic of a tendency toward death, while new cabins, new roofs, new porches and picnic tables are signs of health and growth. Underneath a huge, old pen oak, I stopped and said a prayer for those precious signs of life:

“Lord, please bless these and all other efforts to keep this special place alive, because if you don’t, Katie’s will be the last generation to know about it. A-men.”

I turned and headed back across the campground. The arbor filled my vision. There was talk of a new roof for the arbor; money was being set aside. It would be a major undertaking, but it would guarantee the existence of the arbor for another forty or fifty years – until Katie was my age and I was gone.

I slowly circled the ancient structure once again. Tent #65 would be warm and dry and nearly perfect for writing; however, it occurred to me that I had no idea what I’d write about. That thought had only partially dissolved away, when another took it’s place, and I said aloud, though only to myself, “Why not the campground – just walking around the campground?”

Dean Greene
October 7, 2006

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Pleasant Grove Campmeeting 2009

After a long winter’s nap, the Pleasant Grove Campground has woken up and is returning to life. A new tent is being framed up on the Waxhaw side. Several old, diseased trees have been removed, and several new ones have been planted. Someone has added a nice screened back porch to their tent, and another has added vinyl siding, giving their tent an entirely new look. Lots of work has been going on inside of several tents, and recent work on the well has resulted in the best water supply that we’ve had in years.

The Pleasant Grove church building has been recently scraped and repainted, and it looks great – like a picture postcard. And we hear that there will likely be a new roof on the little church very soon. And the new roof on the arbor, that was shining in the sun like a new penny last year, after a year of weathering, has made itself completely at home and looks as if it could have been there forever.

The campground now has a website at, and for those of you on Facebook, there is a campmeeting group with nearly 200 members at Pleasant Grove Campmeeting, Mineral Springs, NC. All of these changes, improvements, and beginnings are signs of health, and we are extremely thankful for each of them. Youth Camp was three weeks ago, Vacation Bible School was two weeks ago, and Campmeeting 2009 is less than two weeks away. Right now, before we get too deep into planning meals, inviting friends, and moving in, is the perfect time to pause for a few minutes and consider what Campmeeting means to us.

I recall when our tent was being built a few years ago, how surprised I was at the number of people who pulled over, rolled down the windows of their cars, and asked what the place was? (And they didn’t all have New York accents either; many of them were local folks.) But when I laid down my hammer, paintbrush, or whatever and walked over to the car to talk, it was their turn to be surprised. They would listen like children as I told about how the folks first came there in 1829 to have a campmeeting, because there wasn’t enough water at the site they had been using, how that first campmeeting was held under a real brush arbor, and the people who came thought the place was so beautiful that they began to call it Pleasant Grove and decided to build a permanent camp there. Their eyes would get wide when I’d tell them that in those early days there would be five services a day and that the last one would sometimes continue until midnight, and their look of surprise would sometimes change to downright disbelief when I’d tell them that those campmeetings lasted for two weeks, that the preachers came in from all around on horseback, and that many of the people brought their livestock along with them.

I’d tell them how there used to be over 200 tents in two rings, but that now there was only one ring with 89 tents, and I’d always end my little seminar by giving them the dates of the upcoming Campmeeting and inviting them to attend. “You know which tent’s ours” I’d say, “and you’re always welcome to stop by and have a piece of cake after the service.”

I suppose that having found something special, it’s natural to want to share it, and that’s the way I feel about the Campmeeting at Pleasant Grove. Oh, by the way, Campmeeting 2009 starts with the 11 o’clock service on Sunday morning, July 19th and goes through the 6:00 PM service on Big Sunday, July 26th. Services will be held each evening through the week at 8:00 PM and Monday through Friday mornings at 10:30 AM. Rev. Rosemary Brown (Sun – Wed) and Rev. Talbot Davis (Thurs – Sat), both of whom are gifted speakers with incredibly strong messages, will be leading the evening services, and the morning services will each feature a different preacher from the surrounding area. You can get additional information about Campmeeting 2009 and see pictures from Campmeeting 2008 at the website mentioned above, so check it out. Pick some services to attend, and come on over. Come early and walk the grounds. Sit in the shade under those ancient oak trees. Visit with your neighbors. Pitch a game of horseshoes if you feel like it or maybe just have a bowl of ice-cream at the stand. Have a great time, but don’t miss the service, for it is there that you will come to understand why the Campmeeting has endured – how it has lasted through wars and depressions and the passing of generations – and how, through it all, that “old, old story” has remained as close and as warm and alive as a hug from a child, a clear summer day, or the next beat of your heart.

Yes, I do love to tell the story. It’s too good not to share, and it’s ‘way too important to miss, so I’ll see you there.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Please Remember

I don’t suppose that Katie’s any worse about it than most kids, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t bad. It simply means that she’s just medium terrible. However, in one way she may be actually be worse than most. While virtually all kids will ask the same question over and over, most kids, I believe, will let it rest and move on to something else after they get the answer they want. But not Katie. She will continue right along asking the same question every few minutes until someone finally says, “If you ask that one more time, I’ll change my mind, and the answer will be ‘No’.” After that, she’ll normally wait at least half an hour before running the risk of asking again.

One of Katie’s favorite activities is eating out. Fortunately that’s something that Elizabeth and I also enjoy, and we’re often able to use it as an incentive for Katie. Of course she’ll continue to ask whether we intend to go, even while we’re in the car on the way to the restaurant. Well in any case, breakfast out on Friday is a long-standing reward for good cooperation during the week, and quite understandably, Katie has come to view it as something of an entitlement program. However recently, due to scheduling issues, we missed a couple of Friday breakfasts. This fact was not in the least overlooked by Katie. On Saturday she launched a pre-emptive barrage of questions, in an all-out effort to make sure that two weeks didn’t turn into three. Well, by about Tuesday, we’d had all we could stand.

Elizabeth actually had the conversation with Katie, and I haven’t seen the transcript, so I’m not exactly sure what was said, but it was effective, and the questions about Friday stopped immediately. Then Thursday evening as I was driving Katie to karate practice, she looked at me through the rear-view mirror and began:

“Daddy, when you’re talking with Mommy this evening, I need you to remember that I’m supposed to be going out to eat on Fridays for breakfast and remember that we’ve already missed two Fridays, and remember that I really like those Friday breakfasts, and Daddy, please remember that I didn’t ask.”

For the record: On the morning of Friday, June 19, Katie, Elizabeth, and I had breakfast together at the Flying Biscuit in the Stonecrest shopping center. I was still laughing.