If an experience is truly special, there can be no harder thing than to describe it. In a lot of ways, Maine Coast Semester can be described in a list of what makes it up. Of farm chores and cabin life, of solos and wilderness trips. Those would all suffice to explain the exterior of such a deep experience, but they wouldn’t depict it at its core. Every day, for the past 80 days I have spent at Chewonki, I have opened my journal before bed each night, and reflected on the day that just passed, attempting to catch the heart of what makes Chewonki what it is. As I look down at a blank page, I aim to fill it with a list of three things that happened to me in the last 24 hours, happy or sad. And although it seems like I could never describe the true essence of what Chewonki is to me, I can think of no better way to try than to share some of what I’ve written.
9/3/16 “Tonight was our first coffee house. It was one of my favorite hours of the semester thus far (all three days of it, at least). The whole experience was so cozy, so supportive and warm, such an incredible showing of what a strong community this is.”
9/14/16 “I went to the docks tonight and watched the most magnificent sunset. I am in awe of how beautiful it is here.”
10/4/16 “It shouldn’t have been that important, but at lunch we had pumpkin chocolate chip cookies that were so good it was life changing.”
10/11/16 “Today for science field trip we went to the Chewonki salt marsh, which was a huge expanse of mud. I got dramatically stuck for 30 minutes, and had to be pulled out by Becca and Pete by my armpits. I then proceeded to fall into the mud another two or three times, until it covered my entire body. I have never had so much fun.”
10/26/16 “Today we started farm chores, and although it was difficult to get up, it was the most satisfying and fulfilling way to start my morning.”
10/30/16, 6:33 am (on solo) “As I peek outside my tarp and look out to the water, I can see that some light is beginning to glow. I think I want to go stand by the water and watch the sunrise. I don’t want to waste this chance.”
9/1/16 “This place is nothing short of magic.”
I did this exercise every night out of joy for what I got to spent my days doing, but also out of fear that one day I would lose the little things. That I wouldn’t remember the dessert we had at lunch, or the funny thing that happened on science field trip. Each point in this book will bring me back to a moment, will flood me with a feeling, will preserve a little bit of Chewonki, but the more time I spend in this magical place, the more I realize that a journal is not what will remind me what Chewonki is. I will remember Chewonki every time I stand up to speak in front of people and don’t feel nervous at all, because being Plato before meals prepared me for this. I will remember Chewonki every time I am taking a walk and notice a leaf or a bunch of needles, and pick it up to examine it, because Chewonki has made me genuinely interested in the nature that surround me. I will remember Chewonki every time I am supported from afar by the new family of 43 that I have made over the past four months, friendships that span not just the country, but the world. Most importantly, I will remember Chewonki every time I am able to pick myself up a little sooner, look at something a little more critically, and love myself and others a little more easily. I will be able to remember Chewonki because I will carry my experience here with me every day for the rest of my life. But as far as being able to remember, I guess my journal won’t hurt either.
Lily, Montclair High School, NJ