By Will Madison and Meredith Cross
Despite being a rainy evening, arriving at Arcadia after the long, suspenseful expedition very much resembled Christmas morning. But instead of discovering brightly wrapped packages, we were running around and seeing, for the first time, our yurts, sauna, kitchen, and of course our amazing two-person duel action composting toilet (not to worry, there are walls between each one) that we now know intimately as Clive.
Settling in and exploring this new area has been a wonderful experience for us. A feeling of home has developed in this remote yurt village, but the excitement of exploring the surrounding unknown still remains. Just because our expedition is over doesn’t mean the adventuring has ended. There are endless miles of trails to be hiked, and many lakes and ponds to be paddled with even more boat selection than on our expedition, including kayas, a solo canoe, and guide boat.
Classes at Arcadia have begun with a very different feel than those on campus. Discussions are held in an outdoor classroom while sitting upon logs, a new species from our immediate surroundings is learned daily, and for the first time ever, we have a professor whose office hours are “whenever I am not sleeping.” Rather than a class being sidetracked by a cellphone ring, out here professor and students alike take a moment to be pleasantly distracted by a bald eagle soaring overhead.
We have gotten used to having our days revolve around our three meals. We use this time to come together as a community: cooking for each other, eating together, and sharing stories around our rectangular, wooden kitchen table. The transition from weekdays at Arcadia to weekends is seamless. Weekends include staying up (on a good night) to maybe 11 P.M., campfires, banjo lessons and late night saunas.
Our alarm clock is now a bell that we ring for breakfast, we fall asleep to the call of the loon, and on clear nights many of us crawl into our sleeping bags and choose spots on the barge to sleep under the sky, taking advantage of how well we are able to see the stars here each night.
We are learning how to not only conserve our solar powered energy but also our chocolate chip supply, which we seem to devour at a much higher rate than we expected. All and all we have settled into Arcadia and have made it our home. We eat together, study together, learn together, sing together, and laugh together. But we also have time to be alone and reflect. This happens in many ways. Some seek walks or early morning runs, some opt for late-night journaling, others sleep alone on the front dock, and still others go off adventuring in the afternoon.
However, we always reconvene at those sacred meal times: 7:30 A.M., 12:30 P.M., and 6:30 P.M. We start and end days together by sharing a meal—something we are blessed enough to do without rushing. We are able to savor and appreciate the work and effort we put into preparing our food and how delicious it tastes. We have certainly gotten creative with our recipes, having not had a working oven since we arrived. Not to mention how creative and at times alarming our dinner conversation can be. Meals here, as you can imagine, are definitely entertaining.
Everyday we are all reminded of how lucky we are to be in this place, surrounded by beauty wherever we look. We are getting used to living at a slower pace and learning to appreciate the luxury that comes from not racing through life. And last, but certainly not least, we are getting used to the spontaneous singing that erupts throughout the day from when we wake until we eventually drift off to sleep. Who needs the radio anyway?