It takes me a few seconds to figure out that the insistent beeping in my ears is coming from my watch alarm. I immediately turn it off so none of my cabin mates wake up. Climbing down the ladder past Rachel’s bunk, I quietly get dressed and lace up my running sneakers. I slip out the door and walk to the Wallace Center. The building smells like a delicious mix of pancakes and cider, thanks to the kitchen crew who are already hard at work.
I run past the farm and down the hill to Hoyt’s Point. The point faces north, so as I get to the end the sun is just coming up to my left. It’s low tide, so the salt marsh seems to stretch on forever. I can proudly identify the Spartina Alternaflora, a species of intertidal grass, and I note that the tree I’m leaning up against is a white pine. Yay, natural history! I continue running and loop back out to the road and then down the “goose chase” trails. I go faster on the way back, excited to get to Polar Bear on time.
I run down to the waterfront and meet Willard and six or seven other students. I kick off my mud-encrusted sneakers and grab hands with everyone. “One, two, three…GO!” I am partly pulled and partly jump off of the splintery dock. There is nothing like the second after you jump but before you hit the water, when you’re just stranded in midair: a mix of anticipation, regret, dread, and excitement. Then my feet are submerged and the surface shatters into a million pieces like a broken mirror. Cold water grabs me until my head pops up and I can hear the screams, exclamations, and yelps of my fellow polar bears. We all scramble up the ladder, high-fives are exchanged, and we run back to our cabins to dry off before pancakes.
-Emma Longcope, Portland, ME