Read Will’s first reflection on Cedar Campus here.


The shore of Prentiss Bay touches the volleyball court now, the water level increased from climate change or maybe just all the snow from winter. It seeps into the sand from shore to boardwalk, leaving it constantly damp. The swingset I swung on three years ago, the one I lost a toenail on when I was ten years old, sits swingless on the edge of the woods. But the lodge still smells like must, sand, and popcorn; the bedframes in my room are the same I slept on when I was five; Adirondack chairs still line the porch, and the adults still spend most of the day in them with a book or a friend while the kids play in the sand or run around in the field. For the most part, Cedar Campus remains largely the same as when I was born, a fact many of us—who have grown from infants to adults, from adults to elders; who have gained families; who have lost loved ones—marvel at. We like to gather and let the memories consume us.


When my nephew and I share a hammock, cocooned inside it, he says, “Look at the wind pushin’. It’s pushin’ the hammock.” We watch the fabric ripple around us.

“That’s God’s breath,” I say. “Did you know that? Every time you feel the wind, that’s God blowing you a kiss.”

“Is God really real?” he says, four years old.

“I think so.”

“I think he’s just stories in the Bible.”

“Why do you think?”

“I dunno.”

I pull him closer and tell him I love him, overcome by something. We go back to worrying about lava spiders and lava geese while the wind keeps pushing us, rippling around us, hovering over the waters, moving in the tree branches above. My nephew rests his sun-kissed face on my shoulder while we talk. I feel his warmth. Smell his skin. He seems so animate and holy against me.


My grandpa and I share a room in the lodge—a first for both of us. When I walk into our room after midnight, and the floor creaks loud beneath footsteps I do my best to keep gentle, I see him curled up on his side in the bottom bunk. Waves lap the shore outside our window. He reveals to me later that he thought the waves were the sounds of my breath, at first, and he worried about how heavy it sounded. His breath is so quiet I can barely hear it.

I’ve never seen him sleeping in a bed before. The sight is startling, and I feel bad, like I shouldn’t keep looking down at him from my bunk. My grandma not being down there with him seems strange, though she lived separately in a memory care unit for the past several years. Her death last week lingers on him anyways, her absence like a depressed shape in a mattress where she used to sleep beside him.


“Now I can say that I have an uncle in the north,” says one of the campers. She sits on my shoulders. I feel crumbs from her s’more falling onto my head. “I don’t have any family in the north but now I can say that I do.” She finishes her s’more and runs her hands, sticky with marshmallow, through my hair.

I lower her to the ground to sit on my lap. Now my new niece grips my cheeks and looks me in the eyes, saying, “I love you more than my brothers. Well, they love you, too, but I love you more than them. I know more about you.” Then she opens her mouth, brings it to my face, and breaths onto my nose. Once. Twice. She giggles and burrows her head into my neck, young with love so easily given.

How I came to be the object of so many little campers’ affection is beyond me. One day, without warning, they saw me, jumped on me, hugged me, and that was that. I remember doing the same with older campers, wanting them and being jealous of them. It was an immediate sensation, and took little more than them being kind enough to tolerate me for the adoration to last. I trailed my sister’s and brother’s groups around camp from the Owl’s Nest to Wharfside, just wanting, until they had “big kid stuff” to do. That moment always hurt.

I hurt my nephew similarly when I tell him I can’t play in the sand anymore. He stands with his arms at his side and his chin dimpling beneath a quivering lower lip.

“He’s just tired,” my sister says to me.


“Cedar Grace,” sung before mealtime:

The pleasant trees and silver, rippling waters,
the flow’rs and clouds, the un-dimmed, sunlit sky
and bread by thee, our gracious Father, given,
We thankful take of thy so rich supply.
And bread by thee, our gracious Father, given,
We thankful take from thy so rich supply.


  1. Dianne Marx

    Thank you, Will. That was just beautiful.

    • Margaret Klatt

      You have a gift for writing. It was fun to capture through photographs children sitting on your shoulders. You were actually being the hands and feet of Jesus!

  2. Deb (Palmer) Tiefert

    I was a “big kid” at Cedar when you, Will, were little. You were a very lovable little guy. Sounds like you still are as you describe so many youngers seeking your attention. Thank you for your writing of Cedar. Though I haven’t been to Cedar for the better part of 20 years, your words make me feel like it was yesterday. It is truly a place that will always hold a piece of me.

  3. Sandy Flanigan Zull

    I am smiling. Well said indeed. I am “ensconced” in the coffee shop in Cedarville. 🙂

  4. Marcia

    Beautiful, Will! So glad you could be there and grateful for these words.

  5. Michelle Radke

    Love this! You write beautifully! I’m glad to have shared in some sand play with you and your team. It was a blast and a pleasure to meet you and your sweet family.

  6. Mary Beth Lundgren

    Will, So good to spend some time with you and your family in this lovely place called Cedar Campus. Thanks for your post. As usual, your words are beautiful and bring back fond memories of our times there. Blessings to you…

  7. Bradley McGuffey

    Will, thank you for the memories, friend and brother. I’m proud to be able to supply both the rippling hammock and the loving little girl for this post. Thank you for being “Uncle Willy” for the entire camp. It was a true pleasure getting to talk to you all grown up now. I hope to do it again next year.

  8. Floyd "Roger" Strayer

    Hi Will, we have never met and I have never physically been to Cedar Campus. However, I belive I would recognize many areas of the campus from the story you have told. You inherited your mothers gift of description and story telling. I look forward to reading your books one day.

    Keep sharing your thoughts, the world needs to hear them!

  9. Julie

    I have read your post a couple of times just so I can feel like I am at Cedar again. My kids and I have all randomly stared at one time or another in the past few weeks that we wish we were back at Cedar. You capture the ethos of the place in words as well as a beautiful photograph does in image. Would you write more so I can be transported again? Thank you!


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