Charlie Lowell, an alumna of Maine Coast Semester 58, worked as a summer farm assistant at Chewonki this past season. She wrote this essay about her experience. Charlie attends Andover High School in Andover, Massachusetts.
Most days, I wake up before the sun rises. I roll gently from bed into dirty Carhartts and boots covered in the imprint of yesterday’s work and stumble softly towards the barn, still, but teeming with the projects of the day unfolding. Almost without speaking, I slip seamlessly into the rhythm of pre-dawn farm chores: tending to the livestock, filling grain buckets, and carting milk pails and eggs towards their next destinations. Words are unnecessary in these moments of early daylight. There is a fullness to the quiet through which we move; a weight that we each hold, connecting our actions to each other and to this space. We understand the work that must be done and move through it with intention and understanding.
At the break of day, I watch my hands. Soil settles in my fingerprints; it is inescapable, permanent, deeply pressed under my fingernails and in the grooves of my palms. I’m almost proud of this–the calloused firmness of my hands and fingers, the certainty with which they move. It is a reminder of the way I have lived for the past 10 weeks and a guarantee that I won’t easily forget what I have learned.
My time at Chewonki as a semester student led me immediately to the sloping pastures and rich soil of the Salt Marsh Farm, where I discovered a space of meaningful, engaged work, connection to the land, communal awareness, and appreciation for life itself. After my semester, I returned with dedication and curiosity to these rolling hills and wide garden beds to work on the farm for the summer. Within the crew of six equally invigorated, passionate farmers, I found energy and beauty pulsing in the air and earth around me.
We work intimately with life: seeding, tilling, plowing, cultivating, hilling, weeding, thinning, harvesting. We pull, shift, and shape, all hands and heart and earth, and life works with us. It folds against our palms. Some days, I can almost feel it beating there between my outstretched hands.
These days, my hands are more to me than I ever thought they could be. My palms carry with them both life and death, giving way to more life and death again. From my hands come zucchini, broccoli, carrots and tat soi, basil, chard, snap peas and tomatoes, strawberries, asparagus, summer squash, parsley. The list goes on. I find solace in these cycles of life and death, strength in the intention of my actions, connection to the land through which I move and joy in the work of a long, hot day. It is this that I crave most in the world: solace, strength, connection, joy. At Chewonki, I have found it time and time again, and each discovery leaves me craving more.
These days, I wake up before the sun rises. I tumble from bed and gently move outside, into the cool air and crystalline glint of September’s early morning sun. If I breathe deeply and close my eyes, I can recall the weight of sunlight and work and soft earth. I watch my hands, and although they no longer bear the marks of the farm, I know their potential.