Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Update 8

To Charlie, Mary, Tweeter, Gert, Marie, and Jeannette
To Misha, Chris, Lisl, Andrew, Grandfather Ray, Emily, Leah, Nathan, Linda, Lynne, Noah Elbers, Nate, Tom, Hans, and Lu
To everyone who stopped to talk to us and help us along the way
To our families
To all our friends back home...


Adam, Conor, Everett, Josia, Malcolm, Michal, Noah, Willie and I have arrived at the beautiful Northwoods Stewardship Center in East Charleston. Together, we skied and hiked almost the whole length of Vermont!

Lisl drove to meet us from Kroka. It only took her 3 hours of driving while the last two and a half months of our lives have been wrapped up in preparing for and moving slow and steady and long towards reaching this place. It was a bit of a shock to think But she felt our shock and was excited by it! She reminded us that people just don’t do what we just did anymore, and to look back at the very beginning. We aren’t the same anymore and it is noticeable and good.

(She also told me I had a beard.)
I’ve really missed Lisl and I wish she could be staying with us longer, but she is being pulled in many different directions and so she can’t. Her daughter is getting married and that makes all of us here very happy, and we will be sure to learn all we can from her now, and appreciate all of her jokes. I love her jokes because it makes it so clear that she enjoys spending time with us. I also hope that I can talk to her about the weather as much as possible before she says goodbye again because she is incredible and knows so much.

It meant a lot to finish our Winter Expedition in our Small Group Solos. We did not do everything perfectly, or the way that we were supposed to, but we had a handle on every step along our way. If we had tried to do this at the start we might have floundered and died, or at least come crawling back to the teachers all embarrassed.

We knew what we were doing out there. An expert would laugh, but I am being honest. I could go out there by myself and do a good job of it too.

The Solo Groups were
Everett, Josia & Michal
Adam, Noah & Willie
Conor, Dean & Malcolm

I have asked each group to write about the experience, and I will tell you about mine.

Walking and sweating hard underneath the full hot sun, going up the final road of the Winter Expedition, I was charging around every corner looking for NorthWoods’ sign. I felt like I’d been headed there for years & that if I didn’t move fast enough it would disappear.

When I finally saw it I ran right to it and put my palm up against it, then did a little dance while Malcolm & Conor caught up. They didn’t know what I was doing but I didn’t really care. We had made it! I had made it!

And then, once we made it up the NorthWoods’ driveway and made it through the trails and made it into the meadow, it was time to make our home.

Nate taught last year’s Semester alongside Lu, and this year he walked with Andrew to follow behind us on our Small Group Solos. Now that those were finished, he was there to drive camp set-up.

We thinned the forest, we limbed the trees we cut and stripped them of their bark one by one. We lashed the poles and drove them together, forcing them up into the air, and we dug holes for their feet so that they would stay in place. We pounded stakes into the ground and we lashed those to the poles to make them stand up straight and strong. We harvested boughs from trees that NorthWoods had already felled, and walked them back because they were far out into the trails from our sunny meadow. We did this five times over as so to end up with five different tents. One for the boys to sleep in, one for the girls, one for the teachers and one for our guest teacher, and one for cooking and eating and working inside. The last one is named Honey Hollow, and was sewn by another Semester. It looks like a whale because we set up tarp that extends out far in front, like a long powerful spine and wide straight ribs to protect us inside. Many of our poles came from Semesters before us, but many did not. All the work came from us and this is truly our home, not someone else’s.

At the same time, it is clearly NorthWoods’ gift and we are so grateful to be welcome here. Whenever we have been working in their Center, or I have been lucky enough to have to wait inside for the drinking water jug to fill or the laundry to finish, I have been browsing all of their displays and books. They have stuffed birds and owls and even a fisher cat and a salmon! I love looking at them close up, and reading small bits of Last Child in the Woods.

After we finished building our new home and making it both beautiful and comfortable, we had to say goodbye to two people. Nate had to leave and that was sad because there is so much more to learn from him, and there isn’t much time to do so. He reminded me to listen to the birds and shared what he remembered about the stars at night. He talked about making clothes from animal skins and even from cedar. He did not talk about when he lived without metal, but we know that he did, and I hope that I get another chance to ask him about it.

But Andrew had to leave too. We have had a lot of different teachers, all switching out at different times and coming back now and then, but he has always been there. He has been our friend as well as our teacher, and we all love the way he laughs with us. We all shared what we appreciated about Andrew on the night before he left and I told him that he reminded me of the poem that he chose when we all had to memorize poems. He is a Do-Something-Man.  It was great to live with someone who is like that, a goal for me, but also not so far away that my goal seems overwhelming. His story about almost singlehandedly revitalizing the Boy Scouts at his school from a group of five to a group of forty-five is something that I like to think about. I hope that I follow my interests as well as Andrew does, and I’m looking forward to seeing him again soon.

I have not talked about Lu yet, and it feels like it is time. Lu is our rock. She may not agree that she is our rock, but she is. I can always be frank and honest with her about how I am feeling and she will always be frank and honest back. She is incredibly close within our group, in a different but similar way that Andrew is. Lu is like, but more than, a big sister who has a better handle on everything we are doing. I really appreciate that. We have created a family here and she’s been a major driving force behind it. Lu has also come to me and showed me different ways in which I can grow, and I need those. Her reading voice is the perfect thing to listen to when you are about to go to bed. There is much more to write about Lu, but we are not saying goodbye to her and so some of it can be saved.

But I am saying goodbye as Scribe.

Writing these updates has been very difficult and stressful at times, but it has always felt more than amazing to be that voice for our Semester. I am incredibly and impossibly proud to be completing my job knowing that it has been a job well done. I am so happy to be a part of this. I hope that you have all enjoyed our Story as I have written it. I wrote these updates to share this experience with all of you. I wanted to share as loudly as I could.

Thank you so much for listening.

The Scribe
Dean C.

Small Group Solo
Days were full of sun, sweat, singing, mud, fog, magical cedar bogs, and interesting people.
The first day was full of gifts. Maple sap quenched thirst, burl-laden trees enticed creativity, patches of snow scattered the trail making skiing possible one last time, and a hidden camp by a rushing stream fulfilled all our needs.
The second was magical. We set off into an enchanted cedar bog. The trail, thinly covered by snow, disappeared into rising mist, cool and a wonderful eerie on our bare morning arms. The sun beat down as we dragged sweaty, muddy feet through cornfield after cornfield, across and up over little trickles of meltwater edged by deep mud, ever grateful for our mudboots. We crossed the bridge in Barton mid-afternoon, and promptly turned onto an incorrect old snowmobile trail, which brought us upon half a deer hide (which Everett took), and into a sunshower, breaking the heat wave. As the sky cleared, on rainbow turned into two, which became another half rainbow as well. It was spectacular.
The third day was hard, and our intensity and determination as we hiked up and over the mountain in the growing dark, discovering mental and physical limits, made it awesome. The rush of emotions, so intensely real and so completely fulfilling and perfect made me feel so absolutely satisfied and proud and successful. It brought the lessons and effort and work of the entire expedition around again, to a sort of resting place in my heart and soul. It was truly beautiful. The setting sun on our left as we squelched our way down the hill on the wide dirt road, listening to the sounds of the song birds and feeling the perfect cool summer evening air on our skins, our heads soaking up the love and triumph in the air.
And the fourth day was just fun, full of adventure of a minor sort, but exhilarating and inspiring nonetheless. We stopped at the bottom of the driveway and had a picnic, then set off for the rest of our lives, barefoot and grinning.
- Josia

Willie, Noah, and Adam set out one day and began their quest. They carried nothing but the clothes on their back, extra clothing, more food than necessary, some pots, a tent-tarp, a fire screen, some maps, and a guitar. They were searching for the mysterious North Woods, a stewardship center in East Charleston. Along the way, the trio left excerpts from The Autobiography of Fredrick by Willie C.
They obtained enlightening knowledge from their water sources, but more than anything, hydration. In the land of Barton, Willie, Noah, and Adam purchased a bundle of supplies that became the night’s feast. The next day, Noah fought off the terrible beasts of the Robin’s Roost. On the final day, Adam prepared a brunch and purified himself prior to entry into Northwoods. The journey was complete.
- Willie

Malcolm, Dean, and I were the last group to depart Heartbeet, were a full day behind the group at one point, but managed to make it to Northwoods on time and in good spirits.
Our main challenge was the unseasonal heat and the need to stay hydrated. Luckily, we were able to get water from many people along the way. The people we met really helped make our solo memorable.
We helped a woman, Barb, move some furniture for an hour because she was moving. We learned about her family. She and her husband adopted three kids. When she heard what we were doing, she asked us if our families were wealthy. This question was unexpected and made me realize how fortunate I am to be here, doing this. Barb was very friendly and helped me gain a new perspective, as I had never considered my family to be wealthy. Our service earned us a free meal from their restaurant.
Our time spent helping Barb and eating put us a little behind. It took us till nightfall on the windy snowmobile trail to reach Lake Willoughby. We decided to hike into the night until we got too tired.
Just before leaving the town by the lake, the trail passed the Robin’s Roost bar and restaurant. We needed water and wanted to get food with our remaining money, so we went in. We sat at the bar and quickly entered into a friendly conversation with the bartender (Kiah), a local (Johnny), and an out-of-stater (Eric), who they called a white-plater. He had a white license plate from Mass. They were very interested in what we were doing and argued over what direction we should take, even though we knew we were staying on the trail. Johnny bought us a pizza, Eric bought us a trail map, and Kiah gave us some food on the house as well as some of her own snacks. We never seemed to be allowed to pay for things. We spent a great hour there and then went on our way.
We hiked by headlamp until 11:30 or so, earlier than we planned, and slept just to the side of the trail. That night hike was a blast and I’m so glad that we did it. We were very tired the next day, but it was well worth it.
We met many other people and I wish I could mention them all. Our small group solo was a very empowering experience – we became aware of our ability to travel and set camp, and live without the help of teachers. We realized just how much we had learned and grown, and we had a lot of fun.
- Conor

1 comment:

  1. YAY, you made the long journey north! And are still able to go around in bare feet and sandals in March--fairly amazing. You all deserve to be very proud of your successes.

    In some ways, it must feel like the winter has flown by, but we're sure you'll never forget the changes you've gone through. Glad to hear the New Englanders helped you all along the way. Be sure to go back and visit places you've been later in life, like lovely Lake Willoughby.

    Here's hoping your mud season is short! Your families are so looking forward to seeing you on the visitng weekend. Love to Everett and aloha to all from Maui...