Most students come to Chewonki expecting to have a spiritual awakening or a life-affirming epiphany beneath the Eastern White Pines. For those eager students, solos seemed to be the pinnacle of that journey of self-discovery. And so two weeks ago we paraded into the woods, yellow dry packs on our backs and hope and introspection in our hearts.
Among the trees and rocks and rain, I certainly didn’t make any major self-discoveries. Instead, I tried desperately to tie some knots and then ate some gorp and slept. As did many of my friends—Maeve, from Wiscasset, had a shocking realization, as we were sitting around a fire recapping the weekend, that she had in fact slept from four in the afternoon to six-thirty the next night. But this didn’t seem bad or a waste; instead, I actually found myself wishing that I had slept as much as she. The most significant part of solos, the most important reminder and discovery to me, was simply returning – that basic moment of excitement in which we met everyone all over again, then sat around a fire and compared how much we’d slept.
That fact seems to get glossed over in the hype of Chewonki’s (although undeniably extraordinary) wilderness trips, farm, and transformative properties—the friends you make. It’s so fun and comforting to be constantly surrounded by 42 people you call your friends. The re-meet, coming in from the cold (ok, just rain) of the wilderness is a starkly wonderful reminder of that. And with your friends, you do such a range of interesting things every single day, from hiking to making fairy houses to having dance parties to making hand salve to planting tomatoes, that it’s always exciting to re-meet and tell stories at the end of the day.
Last week, for OAP some of us went canoeing at the waterfront for the first time. We paddled out to a little island across the water and clambered out to explore. Led by the always energetic Matthias and Reis, we raced through the woods and emerged on mudflats on the other side. We ran and crawled through the mud back to our canoes, but soon Tucker managed to tip his canoe in a muddy canal. We all yelled his name, and then, once he had managed to remedy the situation, eventually got back on the water, him just muddier for the trip back. As we stepped back on the dock, it struck me that this was a Thursday—at home, I’d have just gotten home from school and would have been quickly doing some homework before heading to babysitting. Instead, I was in a canoe, in beautiful and still Maine waters, along with my suddenly very muddy friends.
Then, back to the Wallace, to re-meet our less muddy (for that hour) friends.
I’m also grateful for the even more mundane and frequent times, when my cabin blasts music while we shower or when we lie out on the quad all together. Every moment, even just agonizing over homework, feels more special when surrounded by your friends.
A few weeks ago the semester dressed up in wacky clothes, loaded on to the buses, and drove across the rural roads to a rollerblading rink. Spirits and knee socks were high. I had never rollerbladed before, but from where I was on the floor everyone looked great. When we’re off campus we move as a unified pack, and rollerblading was no exception—
people held hands and skated, laughing, falling, and skinning knees all the way. A skating middle schooler asked me where we were all from, and once I told her, she said “wow, it seems like you’re all just such good friends.”
It’s true, and it’s something that’s clearly apparent—here at Chewonki, we are all such good friends. And I think that that is something that will last with me for longer even than all of the new experiences I’ve had here, such as camping and snowshoeing and chopping wood (badly). I’m grateful and excited for those things, blood blisters aside, but I’m even more affected by the pure, unadulterated friendship all around. I didn’t have any epiphanies over solos, but as we reunited I did remember—and this is a reminder I will take home with me— how sacred and important and affective friendship is.
Lyra and friends on science field trip.
Around the dinner table the other day we were planning a grand cross-country road trip. We realized that we could go through almost the whole country, hitting every region, and stay with people. In short, Chewonki has given to us a network of friends, all over the country, so that now we can be freeloaders– and that’s something to truly be grateful for. We’ll be away from each other far too soon, but just as after each adventure at Chewonki, we’ll re-meet, and again in those reunions, have that same reminder of the importance of friendship.
-Lyra Fuchs, Hastings High School, NY