THERE is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal.
-George Gordon, Lord Byron, from Childe Harolde
Last Friday we ‘went to the woods’ to begin our two-day solos out on Chewonki Neck. Feelings of excitement and anxiety blanketed the campus as we prepared for departure. It had seemed as if the weekend would never come, but now that it was here, were we ready? Forty-eight hours suddenly appeared an eternity – how was one to occupy oneself alone in the wilderness? Equipped with only a sleeping bag, journals, clothes, and a bag of GORP, I set off into the woods, said goodbye to my advisor, and began to familiarize myself with my new home. My cabin was replaced by a tarp, my cabin-mates by dozens of friendly red squirrels. (I still have not determined who is the louder of the two.) Instead of checking my watch, I measured time by the position of the sun and the movement of the tides. This gave time a curiously mutable quality; at times the hours seemed to extend far beyond their sixty minutes, and then…where had the afternoon gone?! I was surprised to discover how obsessive I am about knowing the time. After the first night, however, I embraced the unknowing and allowed myself to do whatever it was I felt like doing, without worry of how long it might take. It was incredibly liberating to exist independently of a set time schedule.
Writing, thinking, and observing became my primary activities. I reflected about my Chewonki experience, asking myself how it had changed me. What had I learned about myself over the last couple of months and what did it mean for my future? It sounds incredibly self-absorbed as I recount it, but the process was enlightening. It is so rare today, with all of the distractions and expectations of the modern world, to simply sit and think about the world and our place in it. AP tests, college admissions, t.v. shows…they seem much less significant when you are alone in the woods.
Spending some quality time with Nature was an additional bonus. Although the weather may not have been as balmy as I prefer, I appreciated with new eyes common sightings, such as the bark on trees and the flying of geese. At first I would gaze at my surroundings and see nothing out of the ordinary. Then, after an indeterminate amount of time (but for our purposes, let’s just say thirty minutes), I would suddenly see so many signs of life, signs of life that I had entirely overlooked. It makes me wonder how many other things I am missing. What all could we see if we opened ourselves up to the world and paid attention to our surroundings?
As with many Chewonki experiences, solo weekend passed incredibly quickly. I was struck by how loud everything seemed upon my return to campus. It was great to see everyone else though, and to share all of our unique solo experiences and epiphanies. I would have happily remained within the woods another day or two, however, I will readily admit, it was nice to have running water. But I look forward to trying the solo experience again someday (perhaps during warmer weather).
-Kathryn Currier, Charlotte, NC