When my alarm goes off, my eyes open wide. In only 20 minutes, I’ll be jumping into the freezing ocean in the middle of October. I whisper to my cabin mate, “Hey, wake up…it’s time for the polar bear dip.” She opens her eyes slowly and then says, “Wait… What’s happening?” After a quick reminder of where we are going and why we chose to do this at the ungodly hour of 6:45 on a Saturday morning, she hops out of bed and we start mentally preparing ourselves for the bitter cold. We zip up our winter coats over our bathing suits and meet everyone for morning health check. I look around and see all the barely awake semester students, dragging their feet to get to the daily temperature check. Once we are all good to go, we start walking down to the waterfront. The wet grass is a rude reminder that soon my whole body will be as numb as my ankles, but grudgingly, I move forward. I am determined to do this. As we walk down the steps and I take off my coat, I have an urge to turn back and go to the warm cabin, but I will not! I step in the water and wow it’s cold. Shivers run down my spine, the hairs on my body stick up and my teeth chatter. With a countdown and a groan, I dunk my head in the water, coming up screaming and rushing to run out of the water. I give a thumbs up to the camera and I’m still smiling after the flash, realizing then that I’d been smiling this whole time.
“Good morning Maren!” Hannah says as she walks by my tarp. My cabin and our two cabin parents are on our 5-day wilderness trip right now, and so far I’m having a lot of fun. Last night we all sat around the fire, and Zachary debuted his ‘Mac and Cheese’ song for us. The stars were so bright and beautiful. Relaxing by the warm fire was so nice after a full day of canoeing, laughing and singing, and I was so tired that I almost fell asleep at 8:30! My hammock was very cold last night, and I think maybe I should put on a 6th layer and another pair of socks for my next sleep. As I hop out of bed, I look down at my wet socks from the Saint Croix River, and notice something a little different. I pick up a single sock and it’s ROCK HARD. Now it’s time for the shoes. First off, the laces are sticking straight up in the air. This has to be a joke. My paddling sneakers are as solid as my water bottle. That’s when I see that everyone’s shoes are frozen as well, and we all burst out laughing. Once we start laughing, we can’t stop and as we are going over our inside jokes from the past few days, someone pulls out a camera and says, “Everyone smile! WITH THE SHOES!” We try to be stone faced for the photo, holding all our frozen items in the air, but as soon as the flash went off, we burst out laughing again.
Rainy Walk, Heavy Pack
For Outdoor Leadership weekend, I am on the second encampment which means that instead of a gorgeous sunny day in the middle of October, I will be starting a fire in wind and rain. That morning, I felt a surge of confidence. I put on my rain jacket and braided my hair, ready for a day of chaos. The whole day was cold and wet, but in Chewonki fashion, we made our own fun. We slid down the boardwalk in our boots, laughing all the way to the barn and got into our group, ready to head to Red Pines. Only one girl from my cabin was in my encampment group, so I found myself talking to several people I hadn’t gotten the chance to talk to before. We all had giant yellow packs weighing us down, and many pieces of group gear to go with them. The rain had cleared, but the leaves on the ground were so wet that I almost slipped and fell on my face for what wouldn’t have been the first time. As we all laughed and struggled to hold the water jug, pickle barrel and wanagen, I called out, “Wait! Let’s take a photo!” and everyone ran to smile for the flash of the camera.
While I may not be at Chewonki forever, these memories are ones that I always want to save; I don’t have a photo for everything, but I have just enough to remind me how special this place is, and the semester is only halfway through.
Maren Lawee, The Spence School, New York, NY