On the first night in the forest, I was alone, swallowed whole by darkness. But it wasn’t a forbidding darkness. It was soft, it was hushed, it was safe. The trees swayed above me, dark silhouettes on a sky the color of dreams. I woke up in the early morning. The warm glow reflecting off the water was a lie, I was chilled to the bone. There was sea smoke wandering across the surface of the water, wandering like the ghosts of dreams that can barely be remembered.
I am a fan of being alone. I ride the bus alone, I walk the halls of my school at home alone, I read books alone, I take myself out to dinner. I am completely content being alone. I learned more about myself than I ever thought I would while I was in the forest. Before I came to Chewonki, I didn’t think it was important to love myself. To love my hands, which allow me to make art, to write in my tiny, round handwriting, to zip up my sleeping bag at night, to flip the pages of my favorite books. To love my eyes, which allow me to observe and to revel in the beauty of a night that seems as though it has an impossible amount of stars or a silver morning with fog that pools in the dips of mountains. To love my mind, which comes up with these words and feelings and allows me to wonder about everything and anything. But when you are alone, and there is no one there to tell you that you are loved, you have to tell yourself. This place has taught me how to love everything and everyone, including myself. We find it easier to suffer self-loathing as a reaction to our aloneness than attempting to conquer our fears. And when I do have to go home, in just two and a half short weeks, I will remind myself that aloneness does not mean loneliness. I will remind myself that I am capable. I am resilient.
On the second night in the forest, I was once again swallowed whole by darkness. The sunset was on the opposite side of the neck from where I was, and I could only see the sky growing gradually darker, darker, darker still. I used to be afraid of the darkness. I’m not afraid of too many things, but I am afraid of leaving this place. I think love remembers where it’s been encountered. It leaves an early morning glow, it leaves a silver mist that hangs low in the forest, it leaves a few more stars in the sky. Maybe that’s why, when the stars shine at night, it seems like an impossible, an infinite, an unreal amount. A star for every person that has encountered love in this place.
Mt. Desert Island High School, Maine