Solos have been a topic of high anticipation since we first arrived at Chewonki. On the first day, as we sat in a circle and listed the things that we were most excited for in the coming semester, solos were announced multiple times. On the Monday before we left, the semester gathered around a fire at Hoyt’s Point. Encouraged to only speak when we felt moved to, we told each other of our fears of the dark and cold, of boredom or loneliness, as well as our excitement for solitude, for being given the opportunity to commit time to ourselves and “just be” for awhile.
Friday classes hummed with impatience, and at 2:40 pm, we poured onto the paths that led to our respective areas. When I arrived to my spot along the neck, I walked over the stretch several times before setting my tarp down on an appropriate space. The setting of the tarp took time, and by the time I had finished, the sky was already giving way to biting cold and dusk. My tarp was set atop the cliffs in between the marsh and the bay, and I climbed down them to the rocks that stretched into the water to watch the sun recede into the bay. I watched the clouds take several different shapes, and stretch the sky into amber and plum layers before moving beyond my vision. That night I sat below the constellations, and craned my neck against the cold air in an attempt to recognize their forms and names.
I fell asleep quickly, and awoke to clear skies. I walked my stretch of the neck six times, building small fairy houses at the base of trees and into the moss as I went. I sat on the rocks below the cliffs long enough to see the tide go out and return to my feet. Besides this, I had no sense of time, and no obligation to anywhere besides where I sat, so I did exactly that. Never did I wonder what any other student was doing on their solos, or the professions of the people who filled the planes that flew above me. I had become fully committed to sitting. This made the day go quickly, and I found myself again watching the sun descend. The wind had been strong all day, and the clouds thick, thereby smothering a good deal of the brilliance that I had seen during the sunset the night before. But it was beautiful, and I felt an immense sense of calm around me. How amazing that this process happens everyday, that one day spent within this process will remain one of the most vital parts of my high school experience simply because I took the time to address it? That night I experienced the only fear that I would for the entirety of the solo. I heard drum beats, and instantly thought of the Blair Witch Project. But electric guitar sounds soon followed, and I recognized that the source of the music was a house party across the bay. I was then reminded of how close I truly was to civilization, and how safe. This only inspired a desire to one day further my solo experience in some vast wilderness.
I awoke the next morning to see the tide go out. It had been quite a couple of days, and I sat there to think them over. They had been extraordinarily different from what I expected, but there is no way in which I would alter them. When I walked out of the woods, and into Osprey Circle, a group of students who had already returned were standing around a bonfire with blankets and tea; a saxophone was being played in a nearby cabin. My what a school we have.
-Inga Conyngham, The Thacher School, Missoula, MT