9:15-9:57 PM is probably my favorite time of day at Chewonki. At the end of study hours I put up my books, grab my jacket and a blanket, and run to the lower fields to star gaze. No, technically it isn’t star gazing. It’s sky gazing. Even when the sky’s completely blanketed with charcoal clouds or the ground’s one giant puddle from the rain earlier in the day, there’s a group of people down there laughing and shivering and trying to squeeze as many people as possible under one tiny blanket. No one really knows anything about astronomy, so our conversations about the stars never get any more sophisticated than “Wait, is that the big dipper?” “Hey, that really bright one over there, is that a planet?” and the most common- “Look! Shooting star!” which is always followed by the happy nods of whoever saw it and the exasperated sighs of the people who missed it. Once Katie (one of the teaching fellows) convinced my friend Kristen that their was a constellation named Seamus the Mime, and she said it was four random bright stars that made a box. Kristen completely fell for it, and it took us several minutes to stop laughing and breathe normally again.
The stars here really are amazing- on clear nights the entire sky is speckled with thousands of twinkling stars and the cloudy swirls of the Milky Way. But that’s not what I think about when I’m walking down to the field every night. In fact when I’m lying there my eyes usually drift closed after a few minutes, no matter how bright the sky is. I like it just as well lying on the field listening to everyone’s quiet breathing and the occasional stupid joke that sends us all into hysterics. I feel just as safe and comfortable lying there on the cold, damp field with people I’ve only known for a little over a month as I would in my own warm bed at home. After long days full of studying and talking and working, coming together at the same time every night just to be together and not have to think too hard about how to act and what to say is like saying goodnight to your family before bed. Every night after we sprint back to our cabins to brush our teeth before check-in time, I get into bed tired from the run and the busy day, but I fall asleep happy and warm and with a clear head.
-Claire Pendergrast, Atlanta, GA