What is serendipity and what does it have to do with the Council Ring?
By Pati Egan
What does the Council Ring have to do with the word serendipity? First, we need to define the word. According to the dictionary it means the “faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for” (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/serendipity). How does this tie in to our Council Ring?
Since 1960, campers, staff, and volunteers have walked down to the Council Ring every Thursday night. Yes, you read that right – since 1960! Camp’s first summer was 1959, but the Lodge Ceremony was not held at that site. It was held in the Grotto.
While researching this story, I spoke with a remarkable priest, Fr. Leo Hayes. He was one of the administrators at Camp in 1959. I sought him out because two volunteers who were at Camp that first summer – Jim Shively and Marge (Vail) Downey – did not think the ceremony was held in the Council Ring that first summer. They are correct. Fr. Leo found the current Council Ring quite by accident! He recalls walking around, finding this spot, and thinking this is where the Lodge Ceremony needs to be held! He found a valuable place not sought for. The site was perfect and has been since that point forward.
One can only imagine Fr. Leo looking down at the Council Ring and seeing the space full of campers. Camp only had four units when fate led him to this spot. There was plenty of room for everyone. By 1964, there were seven units and seating was getting a little tight. No one ever considered moving the location – even when Camp grew to 12 units. Seating got creative, and campers sat on this big rock.
This picture only shows one unit on the rock, but by the 1980s, two units were seated there. It should be noted that campers did not bring backpacks down to the Council Ring. No one had them to bring!
While looking at these pictures of the empty Council Ring, it doesn’t feel like a “ring,” but when you are sitting in the Council Ring, it seems to take on a circular shape.
The location of the fire pit has remained basically in the same spot since 1960. Even though hard rains have washed out the remnants of past fires, I like to think that a few ashes remain from the original fire and the fires from the last 64 years.
It’s remarkable, when you think about it, that when a camper enters the Council Ring today, they are walking in the past footsteps of 64 years of campers. Their mom, dad, grandma, or grandpa might have walked into this same area and felt the same magical feeling campers feel today.
The Council Ring is a tight fit. It always has been, but there is no better place in Camp to hold the ceremony. There is something mystical about entering the Council Ring that can’t be described in words, just emotions.
Most campers don’t see the Council Ring in the day time. It is a totally different experience than seeing it at night. The next time you are down at Camp visit the Council Ring. Sit down and let the past ceremonies come in. Listen for the sounds of thousands of campers hearing their names called by the Four Winds and accepting the arrow to begin their journey toward becoming a Lodge Member. Listen for the drumbeats of 64 years of ceremonies, see the dancers and the speakers from the past. Let your imagination run wild! You are in an historical place! Yes, it is a tight fit, but it connects you to the past in ways you never thought possible. There is no better place to hold our ceremony than right here. Thank you, Fr. Leo, serendipity certainly drew you to the site of our Council Ring.
Pictures provided by Suzy Munn Mahoney and Cindy Gregory Heintz.
Click here to learn more about Camp Ondessonk’s history.