Students slept under the stars this weekend on their solos. With classes in full swing and semester projects underway in Art, Sustainability, and Environmental Issues, students have worked hard and encountered numerous challenges. Amidst the buzzing energy at Chewonki, it can be hard to find a quiet moment to relax, reflect on recent experiences, and think intentionally about the future. Olivia and MJ took time to write in their journals during their solos.
After Paul, my advisor, dropped me off at my site yesterday, I spent a good hour finding a place for my tarp. I chose a nice open spot near the marsh, but last night was pretty chilly. I bundled up in long johns, sweats, two pairs of thick socks, a fleece, a neck-warmer, a hat, gloves, and a fleece onesie over it all. I tucked my clothes for the next day into my sleeping bag, wrapped myself in my blanket, and tried to fall asleep. It was most likely around 6pm.
I came out here expecting to have an epiphany about something, anything. I have a few things on my mind, but sometimes it’s nice not to think about anything at all. This is officially the longest stretch of time I’ve ever been alone, but it’s not the furthest into the wilderness I’ve ever been. I woke up to the sound of an airplane this morning, and I can hear Route 1 from where I’m sitting.
I’m on a rock by the marsh watching the tide go out. The water level has already sunk quite a lot since I first sat down and started writing. I think one of the coolest things about Chewonki is that I can walk through the forest and identify the plants around me. I’m sitting under an apple tree (was it planted?). I am in a stand of red oak, balsam fir, and white spruce, and can see the marsh grasses Spartina alternaflora and Spartina patens. Down the coast, I can make out white pine.
Another amazing aspect of Chewonki is that we ask questions like “why?” and “how?” How did this apple tree get here? Was it part of an orchard for someone who owned the land? It’s crazy to think how insignificant we are compared to the world. A logger’s work doesn’t pay off during a lifetime. So then why are we here? We don’t provide a significant food source for any species. Why were humans the species to develop as we did? Why does it matter if we die today, tomorrow, next year, or 100 years from now? Who knows. Could it be that the meaning of life is solely to be happy? We want time with the people we love, doing the things we love?
a little after 4pm
I am now under my tarp, allowing the day to come to an end. This morning I got up soon after the sun rose and went to raise my flag. I spent most of the day sitting peacefully on my rock on the edge of the marsh, writing and reading. It’s nice to get away from everything for a while. I finished Into the Wild and I’m enthralled. Sometimes I think Chris McCandless had the right idea. I would never want to abandon my family like Chris did, but I like his ideas of living off the land.”
– Olivia Cameron, Seattle WA
“Night time. The sun has set and the moon risen. With no light other than that of the moon, I voyaged to the edge of the water, down the hill, and watched. Some sort of bright luminescence, close to the color of tonight’s moon, and close to the size of tonight’s sighting of Jupiter. But it appeared near the moon. Very near. And then traveled quickly away, taking maybe ten minutes, traveling near the horizon opposite me, and getting much smaller on the way. Until it disappeared. I sang a song I made up as I went, to the moon, about how little we really are, and no one would actually care if anyone else died, but no two people are alike, yet none are different.
I wish I had brought something to write (the song) on, but I didn’t so it’s just the same. The reflection of the moon moves silently with the incoming marsh. I watched the height while it raised two feet. The ducks called out in response to my song. I wonder who else heard.
Now time for a feast of cheese cubes, Ritz crackers, and celery sticks. Carrots too.
Dark of night. No longer bright enough to cast shadows. I woke up to something approaching me in the darkness. I could hear it trudging over, then when it was close enough there were light moans. I couldn’t see, but I tried to make noise to get it away…I rummaged frantically for my headlamp, found it after a bit and drove it away. Now there’s something else.
20 minutes later
I’m back. And breathing heavy. It was a porcupine I think. The whole time. I talked to him. Told him I needed to sleep. Broke down a tree. Ran him off. It’s cold out. I was shivering. I’m sitting here in my tarp tent. I just want to sleep. I have no idea what time it is. The sounds get amplified here in the woods.”
“When I look up a little bit I see red oak leaves. I heard a squirrel up in the branches, so I turned around. My squirrel was black and white and right above my head. He began pecking away madly at a branch. His beak was about as long as his head, feathers gleaming like snow in the sunlight. My squirrel was a hairy woodpecker. Here comes some white breasted nuthatches. They’re beautiful.
The reflection of the trees on the glassy water is just that. An identical reflection. Am I the reflection of something? What is “REAL” anyways?!”
“Final day. Sunrise.
The cut down south-west looks as it did last night, at sunset, but above the trees across me are not grey/blue/purple. But yellow, leaking slowly into a misty blue overhead. The marsh is close to high tide. Not like yesterday morning, it’s already receded a few feet, but it’s close. There’s a thick layer of mist covering the whole thing. I tried to take pictures, but cameras are so innacurate at capturing what the eye can. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe I’m not really seeing what’s there…creepy…anywhoo. It’s stunning. The mist moves with the flow of the water, which is slightly circular in nature. A large black bird flew by. Soundless. Smelless. If I hadn’t been down there at that moment, I would have missed him.
Oh! I just heard a squirrel trampling through leaves and it reminded me. Last night, I had a squirrel making noises, and trampling around and squeaking – talking rather – in the back door I made of balsam fir and white pine branches. I woke up once more to squirrels, but that’s probably just because I’m not used to getting so much sleep as I have been out here – going to bed and rising almost at the same time as the sun. It’s a genuine experience.”
– MJ (Maggy) Johnson, Portland ME