November. Somehow, by some nettlesome and coy slip of Mother Nature dearest, it has arrived. The long summer days, dripping with warmth and soft, enduring light, have faded, replaced by naked trees and stars before dinner. We are no longer asked what we would like to gain and achieve from our time on the coast of Maine, but rather how we have grown, what we have gained and achieved, and how we will carry these things forward, as we prepare to depart. We always knew it would be a semester, a season to live and learn and cherish before returning to the homes that bore as here. There was always an end, a goal and a time and close. But that stuff was for the future! Suddenly, this future is not so far away.
Yesterday, at our weekly school meeting, we ventured out to Hoyts Point to discuss just this. We sat in a circle (a formation that has become more than second-nature to us) and took turns listening and sharing our thoughts on coming to an end. I stayed quiet. I let my classmates musings sink deep, let their victories and hopes and paths and memories wash over me, and I wondered: what had I achieved? How had I grown?
It is not hard to see all that I have received from my life here on Chewonki Neck, and hopefully I few things I have given. I have traded masks of makeup and skin-tight jeans for dirty Levi’s and my mother’s old Carhartt jacket. I have risen early, when the sky was still thick with darkness and celestial spatterings, and gathered hay and grain and carried irksome buckets, water spilling the whole way, for the horse that I tended to. I have broken eggs (intentionally) and shaken bottles filled with milk so that the fat would settle. I have watched sunrises, plural, and learned how some are purple and pink and still and others burn triumphantly. I have talked to trees and learned their names and skin and leaves, have etched their likeness into books, and decided that Birch is my favorite. (Or maybe Maple.) I have grown to know forty-one students as my friends, and also my teachers and farmers and Outdoor Classroom leaders alike. I have learned how to live with peers, how to live in a cabin with five other girls, how to support and bolster, and also how to be supported. I have learned that fall in New England is truly beautiful beyond compare.
I have gained so much from being a member of Maine Coast Semester 55; it is not a question of that. But rather, it is a question of how to form something coherent, how to bring together the eggs and the trees and the teenagers into something that I can carry with me as I go back home and onward. Perhaps, though, that is something that I will work out later. Perhaps for now, I should take these things, these mornings and encounters and truths, and see where they lead me. When I was young, I used to be the girl too scared of bugs to step outside my door; on my solo two weeks ago, I did not even set up a tarp, wanting nothing to divide me from the salt marsh hay and the nocturnal winds and the rain. I have learned so much from being here at Chewonki. I have learned how to love the world I am in, how to embrace it with fervency and care, how to be a member of a whole, greater body of people, and how to have a voice of my own. As the final weeks approach, I hope to sink my teeth deep into every moment of existing here, in this home I have found in these people and this place. And as an end draws near, I know with full faith that though I will leave, this home is one that will stay with me always.
-Louisa Carey, Hastings High School, NY