One foot in front of the other, quietly padding through the forest. The chickadees and cardinals call through the canopy as the snow drifts through the air landing on my face. Our laughter carries through the trees and up into the sky, carefree and purely joyful. We talk for hours wandering over the land we have come to call home. The eastern hemlocks and red spruce frame the path as we run with joy over Chewonki Neck. Although our time at Chewonki was shortened, there was no shortage of walking. Wandering through the woods with no destination or time frame was one of the best parts of my days on the Neck. Whether it was walking down to Hoyts with the moon sparkling on the freshly fallen snow, or a trek to The Point in the late afternoon with the sun’s warm rays streaming through the trees, I always felt at home.
I grew to know the woods of Chewonki Neck like the back of my hand – the fastest way to get to Pinky Point or the best location to watch the sunset or where to stargaze. These bits of knowledge helped me make the most out of my experience at Maine Coast Semester. I attribute these carefree wanderings to the beginnings of my closest friendships. Rather than sitting around on our phones like I commonly do with my friends at home, we ran through the snow covered forest, often stopping to start a snowball fight or stare in amazement at the beautiful ice formations on the rocks. We would walk down to the waterfront after classes and have honest, meaningful conversations while exploring the landscape around us. Experiencing the wonders of the natural world together strengthened these new friendships and made me feel closer to the place I was living in.
Now being back at home in Vermont, it’s hard not to think about all the walks we are missing out on; all of the meandering trails blooming with tender green buds and delicate flowers on the forest floor; the ice melting to uncover mounds of emerald seaweed at the edge of the lapping ocean; or the wind blowing through the newly grown leaves as we saunter through the woods. These missed opportunities make me grateful for the many walks I did experience while at Chewonki and make me appreciate walking in Vermont. Now more than ever, getting outside is one of the only ways I can relax. Every opportunity I get, I rush to get out and spend some time in the woods that surround my house. Walking in the nearby trails will never be as magical as the forests of Chewonki, but it still gives me a connection to my home. If I close my eyes it almost feels as if I am back on the Neck: the tall reaching red oaks standing around me while I laugh with my friends, our voices traveling through the trees. Although I can’t be with my fellow semester mates at Chewonki during this troubling time, walking makes me feel just a bit closer to the gorgeous landscape and people I miss greatly.