Leading up to solos, I knew I had a lot of questions about what the weekend would bring out in me. Would I have a revelation? Would I come back a new person? Would I sleep at all? When applying to Maine Coast Semester, solos were one of the program features I found especially enticing. Solos at Maine Coast Semester are a chance for students to venture beyond the campus and out into the woods to spend 1-2 nights alone. Being from San Francisco, it’s not very often that you have the opportunity to see a sky blanketed in stars, woodpeckers in the forest canopy and the sounds of leaves rustling and tides shifting as you rest your head on your pillow. Going into the weekend, I felt extremely giddy and excited but also uncertain about the unknown, and what would happen while being alone for 24 hours.
On Friday morning as we gathered on the quad to do one last group meeting before walking out to our spots all over the neck, I felt proud. For the past several weeks, almost since arriving at Chewonki, the semester student body has been preparing for solos, which were, as the outdoor skills staff called it, “the last mountain peak in the outdoor skills program.” During these classes, I’ve gained an incredible amount of knowledge about planning and preparing to enjoy outdoor treks and experiences. Just a few of the classes included learning to tie various knots we would need to secure the tarps we would use for shelter on solos, a wilderness medicine and first aid course and learning the 7 Leave No Trace Principles. As we stood in a circle on the quad, we were instructed to hold hands. We then took several steps back until we were no longer holding hands but were still close together. This was meant to show that even though we were going to be spread out all over Chewonki Neck, we were still going to be near each other. I think that this is not only true for solos but for all of the semester. The tight-knit community serves as a 24-hour source of support which is there to push you forward in times of insecurity and vulnerability. This eliminated the fear I had going into the weekend because my classmates and I would be enduring the experience together and I knew we would all come back being able to laugh and exchange stories about our trips.
Solos turned out to be a truly transformative experience. I lay out on the rocks next to the water all day attempting to converse with wildlife, journaling, reading and knitting my first hat. I thought a lot about what I’d accomplished so far over the semester and the hopes I had for the months to come. The water turned a bright gold as the sun sank in the sky and the silhouettes of sandpipers grazed the glassy surface of the water. I was abruptly hit by how truly lucky I was to be out in the woods enjoying this experience, and even bigger than that, being able to come to Chewonki. Not everyone has the chance to learn in such a beautiful place, in a community of incredible people doing things for class like surveying streams and having homework assignments be 30 minutes of birdwatching. In that moment, I was overcome with feelings of self-fulfillment and fully relaxed with the concept of being alone outside. I knew I wasn’t alone because all 44 of my friends were looking out and taking in the same beautiful sunset as me.
-Zoe, Drew School, San Francisco, CA