At Chewonki, home comes to mean more than where you keep your toothbrush and lay your head. Home is about relationships. Home is stoking your wood stove in the middle of the night to promise your cabin mates a warm wake-up. Home is taking a walk with a teacher who cares about you. Home is food that fuels hard work. For some, home is a little spot in the woods that welcomes you as you are – just you, alone.
In the first week of the semester students embarked on a quest for their phenology site – one spot away from the built environment to visit and observe over the course of fifteen weeks. (In case you’re rubbing your head: the OED defines phenology as “the study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena, especially in relation to climate and plant and animal life.”)
Each student has a different relationship with their site. For some, phenology is a chance to sit quietly and simply open eyes and ears. Others draw, paint, or photograph the change they observe as the seasons turn. Some students never sit down; they turn over each rock and log, dig down into the soil, follow a warbler in the trees above as it darts from branch to branch, or chatter back at the resident red squirrel. Below, Ella reflects on her phenology experience.
The beauty of phenology is that you don’t “have” to do anything. I have learned equally as much about myself as I have of the natural world surrounding me. I enjoy the peacefulness of just sitting on this rock — laying in the crevice between its folds. I enjoy staring into the face of the red squirrel which never ceases to visit me. I enjoy watching the wormers in the distance seemingly hack at the ground and converse in chipper tones. I willingly and lovingly accept change. Change in the trees, the weather, the birds, the rock, and me. My perspective has greatly changed from the first time I sat in this very place. I can look at both nature and myself with respect, appreciation, love, understanding, and inquisition, and I am grateful for that change. My phenology spot has also never ceased to support me. I’ve come, not only for the usual Saturday morning hour, and simply cried. I’ve sat here and laughed, or just lay staring peacefully. Regardless of my feelings, the snug mold in the crevice seems to perfectly hug my body, reminding me that I’ve found a place where I belong. I am forever grateful for this alone time.
– Ella Driscoll, Somerville, MA