Sun, Sea, and Stars – Skywatching at Chewonki

One of my favorite things about being at Chewonki is observing the sky.

On stormy mornings, it turns a shade of orange that is just shy of the sun’s color. On sunny days, the blue becomes ubiquitous, reflecting on my friends’ faces and arcing boldly across the sky. In the pink dusk, clouds float lazily. We pause dinnertime announcements to watch the sun go down. Best of all, I think, is the great expanse of the night-time stars. 

Where I’m from, it’s difficult to see the stars because of all the light pollution on the ground. But here, where the campus is darkened after nine-forty, the moon guides us. During the week, when we are back in our cabins by ten, we pause on our walks to and from the showers to take in the breathtaking architecture of the night sky. We lay down on the picnic tables and point out constellations, smiling in great awe of the expanse of the universe. Then, of course, we sprint back to our cabins to make check-in. We sit on the steps of our cabins and smile in quiet appreciation– there are never too many stars to love.

On the weekends, though, when check-in is at eleven, it is even better. My cabin and I gather snacks, blankets, and headlamps; we sign out, and we head down to the waterfront. The sky is, somehow, even bigger down there. We spread our blankets on the upper docks and curl up together–my head on my friend’s belly, her legs hanging over the edge of the bridge. We are silent for a moment, as we always are at the start of these things, eyes wide and wondering at the great Maine sky. The stars are bright tonight and I want to wrap my arms around them–around the moons, the planets, my friends: the sky itself. 

Then, the air warms. A sweet, salty breeze off the ocean blows a story onto my friend’s lips; she tells us about her hometown. We turn these topics over, discussing where we’re from and where we’re going, alongside cracking inside jokes that pull deep laughs from my belly. The conversation dives into scary stories and we huddle tighter–the deep woods, in all of its beauty during the day, turns into a creeping darkness. We ward it off with our laughs. 

I love the sky here because of how wide, how generous, how constant it is. The sunrise brings us together in the morning for breakfast; the stars draw us together at night for those conversations that can’t quite form in the light. It is getting colder now, but that doesn’t stop us from heading out to watch our stars.

Caitlin Vella, Peddie School, Hightstown, NJ

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