Joy of ‘entanglement’


alumna speaks at forum

Jenna Liechty Martin '07

Bluffton alumna shares the joy of our ‘entanglement’ with each other, nature

For 2007 graduate Jenna Liechty Martin, living a life of wholeness and joy is only possible in community, a community not just comprised of people.  

“There’s no such thing as living our best lives without cultivating healthy and just relationships with the land and soil we inhabit, because without land and soil there’s no life to be lived,” Liechty Martin, explained during her Nov. 19 Forum presentation at Bluffton University.

Liechty Martin, executive director of Camp Friedenswald, shared “Why Living My Best Life Depends on You: Camp as a Place of Interconnection and Joy.” The presentation supported Bluffton’s 2019-20 Civic Engagement Theme, “Living Our Best Lives.” Drawing inspiration from the Book of Genesis to the writing of environmentalist Wendell Berry, Liechty Martin discussed how camp is a place for people to connect with each other, the natural world and God.

“People sometimes ask what we’re doing to increase [cell phone] coverage, and the answer is, sometimes to their dismay, nothing,” explained Liechty Martin. “During our summer youth camps, we ask campers to either keep their phones at home or turn them in during the check-in process.”

This allows for both barrier-free interactions around dining hall tables and the ability to connect with nature without the impulse to capture it through the lens of a screen.

“In disconnecting from technology, camp helps us connect – or entangle – with the particular place, the actual soil beneath our feet and the life that emerges from it,” said Liechty Martin. “Camp provides an entanglement with this earth that we don’t experience on paved walkways, in air conditioned homes and sanitized spaces.”

Along with disconnecting from devices, Liechty Martin explained another way to connect at camp is to literally get dirty. At Camp Friedenswald, a popular way to do this is by going on a swamp hike and taking a plunge in the swamp “muck.” Activities like these, she said, connect us to the earth and wake us up to joy.

“Joy is the moment that I’m no longer alienated from you or the beaver in the fen or Sandhill crane overhead…” Liechty Martin said.

To provide a clear example of the connectedness of both people and creation, Liechty Martin shared about a butterfly called the Mitchell’s satyr that scientists have been monitoring at Camp Friedenswald. The numbers are dropping, and that’s a concern because the butterfly is described as an ecological canary in a coal mine.

“It’s an indicator that we have a problem,” said Liechty Martin. “A problem with our clean, fresh water supply that all of life is dependent upon.”

Upon returning to Bluffton, Liechty Martin was reminded that she, like many Bluffton graduates, pinned a green ribbon on her robe at graduation. By signing a pledge and wearing the ribbon, Liechty Martin made a commitment to be mindful of the impact she has on earth, including butterflies like the Mitchell’s satyr, which many people have never heard of.

Now, Camp Friedenswald is teaming up with the Toledo Zoo in an effort to increase the Mitchell’s satyr population since, as Liechty Martin explains, “its existence is entangled in our own existence.”