In the days leading to my solo, I was anxious and apprehensive about what I would make of this experience and what this experience would make of me. Everyone who I have met that has attended Chewonki as a semester student told me how amazing and life-changing his or her solo was. All I worried about was living up to these very high expectations. I was nervous about almost everything, especially the packing list. What was I going to do all day? What if it rained? Questions ran through my head like students running off the docks for Saturday morning polar bears.
The packing/equipment/food list included:
-Neon orange hat (so we weren’t hunted by local Mainers!)
-Necklace with an attached whistle
-Roll of Ritz crackers
-Bag of gorp (peanuts, raisins, M&Ms, and Chex cereal)
-3 small carrots and celery sticks
-2 granola bars (homemade!)
-10 cheese cubes
-Gallon of water
During classes on Friday I could hardly focus. How could Steve expect us to do trigonometry? How could Paul expect us to discuss the pros and cons of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide? How could James and Pete expect us to learn about stream ecology? As soon as the bell rang for our final group meeting before what Steve called “giving Chewonki Neck a neck massage” I was frozen with panic. Ann gave a farewell speech and soon I was on my way to my solo spot with my adviser Amy. I lugged my bright yellow dry bag and tarp set through the Chewonki woods until we arrived at Club Point. Once there, Amy walked me around to show me my boundaries, gave me a chocolate truffle, and hugged me before I was on my own… alone in the woods.
Reflecting back on my 48 hours alone in the woods this past weekend, it already seems like forever ago. 2 days—48 hours, 2880 minutes, 8 tide cycles—seemed so painfully long in the moment but now just seems like a blink of the eye. This could possibly be because I did not bring a watch with me, perhaps the scariest part of my solo. For the first time and my life, and I think I can speak for all of Semester 51, I was alone with myself—truly alone, with no other possible distractions between myself and I. In my sixteen years of life, I have never been alone until just this past weekend, which is quite frightening. Why is that whenever I find myself alone I feel it necessary to find someone to keep me company? Weird how questions like that now have answers.
Another “for the first time in my life” moment for me was that I was not looking for what was next. I was not planning out what work I had to do during study hours, what I was going to do during my free period, what kind of tea I was going to have with breakfast, or what time I had to wake my cabin up to arrive on time to morning meeting. All I thought about was living in the moment, the present time (whatever time it was, I did not know). I eventually came to the conclusion that you can never live in the moment until you don’t know what the moment is.
Time was definitely something I thought about a lot. I realized that every single morning and every single night the sun rises and sets and that I had never taken the time out of my day to witness the magnificent transition from day to night and night to day. I realized that we, as humans, are so dependent on time that some people do not know that we can depend on the Sun and tides for the time. I realized this firsthand, as I stooped so low as to calculate the time by figuring out that if I started my handwarmers at sunrise and then lasted for 7 hours that at that time it would be around 2 in the afternoon. I realized that I am scared of time: time I have left at Chewonki, the future, and how to live my life to the fullest before it is over. I realized that in my free time I really enjoy doing art, something that I was actually self-conscious about before. I actually drew on my white shoes into a full Chewonki design!
Now, thinking back on my solo experience, I am completely baffled. I have tried explaining my weekend to my parents, my siblings, my grandma, my friends, even Amy and I am still speechless with a loss of words. It sounds absolutely crazy to the outside world that all 42 Chewonki semester students spent this past weekend alone in the woods. But were we really alone? Every time I got in my sleeping bag to find that it was wet with last night’s rain, I thought: Everyone is getting into their wet sleeping bag too. When I was cold and reached for my hat only to find out that I had accidently shrunk it in the dryer, I panicked. Then, I realized that for our safety we were given neon orange hats and my fear dissipated. The togetherness of our aloneness was comforting. We were all alone in the dark, cold, wet, windy, dense woods—but all alone together.
-Elizabeth Rovit, Milburn Highschool, Short Hills, NJ