“Hey Neta!” I flip around on the scaffolding as I hear my name called. For a moment, I think I’ve done something wrong, but I am even more disappointed in myself when I look to see that it is merely my classmate Rains holding his hands next to his head like a moose, smugly grinning in satisfaction. I sigh, laugh/scold myself under my breath, and bend over to touch the ground. “MOOOOOOOOSE” I yell. Amused that I have not learned to be more vigilant by now after weeks of playing this ongoing game, I quickly turn and look back up the roof of the barn.
Reis, one of the facilities crew here, was dispatching old solar panels that would be replaced by new, larger and more efficient ones to power Chewonki in the coming decades. He slid them down to Orville, another facilities crew member, and Fiona, our sustainability teacher, who would hand them to Rains and I on the scaffolding. We’d rotate the 100 pound panel 90 degrees, and hand it to Belle and Grace on the next platform where they would load it onto a truck which would take them to be recycled. We worked like a well-oiled machine, deeming ourselves “The Dream Team” because we took down 24 panels in 40 minutes when it was supposed to take 2 hours. Standing on the roof up there, sun shining as if in assent of our project, I felt more fulfilled than I have in a long time.
For those 40 fleeting minutes, nothing else mattered in the entire world except the people there and the task at hand. We talked, played, and joked our way to the completion of an environmentally and communally beneficial job. There, I found something in myself that I did not expect to find – by dismantling solar panels on that roof that was only 20 feet high but felt like it was touching the clouds. It was something that I’ve felt before at points but never fully registered in my fast moving life back home. As I closed my eyes and took deep breaths of the brisk March air, my happiness, satisfaction, and determination were completely impenetrable. Using my hands to contribute to the community that was so much bigger than myself in a setting where I felt untouchable was a new feeling. Chewonki has been full of these moments, small experiences where you would never expect to find something out about yourself but inevitably do. In the scheme of my life, that work program was minuscule in time but enormous in impact, and something I’ll never forget. I finished exhaling, opened my eyes, smiled, and grabbed the next panel that Rains and I would lift, glide, and transfer down to our eagerly waiting friends below.
Neta, Concord Academy, MA