I made space in my morning schedule to head over to Chewonki in time to welcome the kids back to civilization. I arrived a bit early, and was able to sit alone at the waterfront, watching the outgoing tide carry the water of Montsweag Bay to the ocean. It felt familiar yet odd to be here again, just two weeks since my own group landed in the same spot. The last time I was here I smelled like wood smoke, sunscreen and saltwater. My feet were wet and muddy, and my arms both tired and strengthened from a week of loading and paddling canoes. This time I was fresh out of the shower and dressed in my "teacher clothes," khakis with a button down shirt and sensible black shoes. I walked over to the fleet of upside down canoes and ran my hand along their hulls. The scratches and dings on the boats hinted at stories about the places they had been, and the people they had carried.
|Photo © Lawrence Kovacs|
I self-consciously pulled my iPhone out of my pocket to check my email. While I was out on course two weeks ago, my phone stayed at home. As I answered messages, one of the Chewonki instructors from my trip, Bryce, came walking down the path toward me. I was happy to have an excuse to put my phone away and to have the chance to share some nice stories about our 8th graders. Reflecting on the overall success of this endeavor, Bryce's observations were the same as mine; nearly every single student returning from FLOW has been ecstatically positive about the experience.
The first wave of canoes glided gracefully into view, and I listened to the happy banter that accompanied them. People were singing, talking, laughing, and occasionally chanting a short cheer in unison. I wondered which group this was coming in, and at first I thought they might be from another school. With everyone bundled up, sprigs of uncombed hair protruding from their hats and hoods, I had difficulty recognizing familiar faces. But then I thought maybe there was something else about the kids that had changed, something less tangible. Perhaps they were carrying themselves a little differently. Stronger. More confident. More connected to each other. More relaxed. Less distracted. More focused. More joyful.
It wasn't long before I had to leave, but I was delighted by what I saw. The kids barely noticed me as they got right to work unloading boats and hauling gear up the hill to be washed and put away. Students gleefully helped each other shoulder loads and pull canoes from the water, smiling and joking as they worked. This sort of cooperation doesn't just happen. It is the result of living, learning and adventuring together in beautiful places.