In the spring of 2017, one of our milk cows (Greta) gave birth to a calf (Gilbert). Assistant Farm Manager Hilary Crowell was on hand to record the birth, while Farm Manager Megan Phillips leaned in to give the calf a few helpful tugs:
No one forgets their first summer as a camp counselor. Like the first as a camper, the first summer of counselorhood is a rite of passage, and nobody comes out of it exactly as they went in. Luckily, most adults look back on it as a useful and highly entertaining chapter of growing up.
We have living proof that many young counselors turn out to be normal, even exemplary, adults. Quite a few of Chewonki’s year-round staff are veteran counselors or trip leaders from Chewonki summer programs. Among these are Reis Costello (Facilities) and Matthew Weeks (Traveling Natural History Program).
Reis was a Chewonki camper for two years; then went on a Wilderness Trip (Mariners); next, was a Guide (counselor-in-training); became a full-fledged counselor the following summer; and served in that role for six years. Matt spent six summers as a camper; one as a Guide; and nine as a counselor. These fellows know camp counseling. We sat down with them to find out what they remember about their first summer in the role. Pretty much everything, it turns out. Here are the big take-aways.
Reis and Matt acknowledge that counselors have awesome power. Parents might spend years trying to teach their son to make his bed and fail, but when a counselor makes his own bed, that same boy will make his bed. Counselors are rock stars. Each develops his own style, and each can inspire in his own way. That’s a big responsibility for the counselor, say Matt and Reis, who vividly remember the counselors who made an important impression on them. They can (and do) list the names of every counselor who influenced what kind of counselor they themselves tried to be.
When you become a Chewonki counselor, Matt explains, you suddenly develop “a sense of duty to provide a great experience–giving back to the community that gave so much to you…You want to be a really good, memorable counselor, like the ones you remember.”
Reis’s first experience as a counselor took place in New Hall. He had the only bed set in the middle of the cabin floor. He was surrounded–perhaps flocked is a better word–by 10-year-old Owls. There was nowhere to hide. ”That’s where my real education happened,” says Reis. He says it was valuable preparation for whatever challenges arose in subsequent summers.
Matt got a lesson in homesickness during his first summer as counselor. In his cabin, there was a little seven-week camper who had never been away from home and was suffering from “debilitating homesickness. There’s no fix, no cure for that,” says Matt, “but time. For three weeks, he’d wake me up around 4:00 in the morning and we’d go walking, kicking pine cones, talking about his father, whom he missed incredibly.” It felt like a lot for a young counselor to handle, but Matt’s steady hand and encouragement eventually paid off–and the boy he stumbled onto kayaking, fell in love with it, and the homesickness was gone for good. (In fact, he came back for many summers and became a counselor himself.)
Matt had an epiphany: he discovered that he loved being on stage, at campfire, on the field, or in the cabin. He “loved being a pirate gravedigger, an ancient Greek, the Hunchback of Frog Pond, the Great Ninja.” (You won’t be surprised to learn that Matt became a theater major at Kenyon College.) “I made campfire skits mandatory every week,” he says.
Reis, who appears to nonchalant, discovered that he was “a strict counselor. I surprised myself.” As long as his boys were outside, they could could go nuts. But once inside the cabin, their shared space, he asked for order. (Maybe this was a reaction to the searing summer in New Hall.)
“I totally recommend camp and counseling,” says Matt. He agrees with the common wisdom that camp counseling amounts to training wheels for parenthood (not that he’s a parent yet, but he can imagine).
Reis waxes philosophical as he thinks back on what came from his first summer of counseling and the five that followed. It’s not just the fun of the moment, he says, although that’s great. “There’s a huge reward years later, when you see guys who were your campers, who remember who you are. You share with them specific memories of a special summer. It’s a slow, ongoing payback. I might not see a camper for years and then I do, I recognize them and they recognize me, and it’s amazing.” He enjoyed seeing Noah Stone (Boys Camp, 2003-04) during the Centennial Celebration at Chewonki in 2015. Noah remembered Reis’s bed in the middle of New Hall. “He had his own version of that summer,” chuckles Reis. “He thought it was hilarious.” (Noah went on to become a counselor 2011-2012.)
“Yeah, I would definitely recommend being here. Clearly I love this place.” Reis says being a counselor was “so important to my growing up. In spite of all the craziness. Especially for the craziness.”
Even as a year-round staff member, a counselor still feels a tug at the heart when camp begins.
Matt, an educator for Traveling Natural History Programs, enjoys making presentations to the campers each summer. “It’s fun because I still get to be in touch with camp a little bit,” he says. “I’ve become the Cool Owl Guy. My legend continues.” Reis always enjoys watching camp unfold but notes that he does see things differently now. The Mud Rove, which involves campers rolling around in the rich, black muck of the salt marsh, has slightly less appeal.
Do you known a promising young person who would make a great Chewonki counselor? We are currently seeking staff for the 2017 summer.
The first of our spring lambs began to arrive last night, just in time to welcome our guests for the April 7th Open House. To add to the fun this year, we have installed a live “Lamb Cam” to let all our Chewonki friends check in on the baby lambs from home.
We had a remarkable lunch yesterday, thanks to the Farm & Kitchen staff at Chewonki. “Beet Butter” a delicious rubine-red blend of pureed beets and fresh butter, was served up with warm bread and of course, more beets!
Beets, with their intense color and taste have always lingered on the edge of controversy:
“The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious….
National Poetry Month won’t arrive for a few more weeks, but I’m pretty sure our class has found every reason for the Academy of American Poets to consider making a swap for March.
There is so much ‘seasonal drama’ unfolding this time of year that it seems the poems are almost writing themselves, unfurling on the wind in front of our eyes, as we desperately try to pin them down. In the past two weeks, we’ve witnessed profound weather changes, from warm and balmy (digging in drawers to find buried t-shirts) to blustery and snowing (hello again, long underwear!).
Last Friday found us on an epic ski trek through Alna in full snow gear, and on Monday we were maple sugaring and starting seeds at the farm. The rhythmic ‘drip drip drip’ of sap in the buckets, coffee-colored mud puddles, and the feel of floating down hills on fast skis has us putting pencil to paper to capture these moments. Authoring a picture book and a poetry book this year doesn’t seem too far fetched for our students, as they are churning out about a poem a day right now!
We’re sampling a variety of novels written in poetic verse for Literature Circle, including classics like Love That Dog and Hate That Cat by Sharon Creech, and award winners like Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai, and Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson.
Students are devouring these quick reads and beginning to draw parallels and notice differences between the author’s styles, and how the poems are woven together to create a seamless and detailed story. Similar to way we use mathematical terms or science terms, we are now learning poetry terminology, so we can discuss and analyze specific aspects of poems.
As part of both our science and social studies learning, we have been focused on the history and biology of apples. John Bunker of Palermo, Maine, is known throughout the country and world as ‘The Apple Whisperer’, as he’s spent the better part of the past forty years playing apple detective and bringing forgotten varieties back to life.
We were lucky enough to have John’s apprentice, Laura Sieger, visit us recently to tell us more about some of the unique apples they grow for their apple CSA and FEDCO Trees. Since her visit, we’ve been digging to find out more about these interesting varieties and about the apple trees recently planted at the Saltmarsh Farm.
We’ve also discovered why we can only find about ten kinds of apples at the grocery store today, when there used to be thousands of available apple varieties in the 1800’s. Names like Starkey, Fletcher Sweet, Collins, and Kavanagh are probably not ones you’re familiar with, but our class is on a mission to embrace the diversity of the apple world and learn about these fruits that have existed for hundreds of years.
Again and again we have come to the realization that our state of Maine is rich with cultural and ecological resources, which make place-based learning (and living) here an absolute adventure.
Have a wonderful weekend!
the sun makes
as it slants
as I glide ahead
by Maeve Tholen