By: Kealey Viglielmo
Looking out off the dock it is hard to miss that across our beloved Mama Massawepie the foliage is becoming vibrant while at the same time swimming has become infrequent, the chimneys are billowing with smoke and the sound of migrating geese and falling leaves are audible. Summer has been forgotten and the winds from the south west have begun to inform us of autumn’s presence. Course work and day-to-day life are tying together in unfathomable fashions and it feels that many aspects of the Arcadian life are coming full circle. We have come so far, yet there is still so much to go. Even though eight weeks have elapsed since our orientation, mid-semester break is close. This break does not signify an end, but a beginning in which we shall learn from the past so as to move positively towards our personal and collective futures.
This weekend marked many firsts for us Arcadians. We traveled to Essex, NY which is comprised of beautiful pastures, quaint and large-scale homesteads and land-oriented families. With the Adirondacks to our west and the green mountains past Lake Chaplain to our east, we felt a significance and understanding that grounded us geographically. Our main goal then was to gain exposure to possible internship placements and the escapade began soon after we arrived at Pok-O-MacCready. We were greeted with meatloaf and potatoes, smiles and enthusiasm, actual beds and bathrooms, even access to an indoor rock wall. Despite the procrastination that went on, the time there was valued by all, yet short lived.
The following morning some of us awoke to face internal conflicts and moral dilemmas. Together we were to travel to Reber Rock Farm to process chickens for family dinner. Our mission was to see and take part in the inner workings of a farm and to do so we not only got a tour, but had the option to take part in a chicken slaughter. Due to the nature of the farm, the charismatic, and the kind-hearted and mindful hands that guided us and raised the animals with compassion, we saw just how fantastic and humane a farm can be. It is a virtue to utilize every part of the chicken, so we packed up the meat along with the hearts, livers and feet (for stock), while the entrails were served to the pigs. Though being present for the chicken slaughter was emotionally trying for some, we all had agreed as a community that it was something we wanted to be involved with in order to understand where our food comes from. By the theory of conservation of energy, even though the chicken’s life did come to an end, their energy shall nourish us and in this way live on. These thoughts both comforted and confused our inner emotional moral compasses, as we sat and sang songs, drinking tea and eating homemade cheese, bread, jam and pickles all out of the hospitality of our hosts.
Following our time at Reber Rock, we visited two other potential internship partners: Lakeside School and Peddle Power. Lakeside is a Waldorf-style school with an adjoining farm, while just down the road Peddle Power uses human energy to generate electricity in hopes of creating a more efficient world. These stops gave us insight into just how eclectic the town of Essex is.
This then was again affirmed by our tour of Essex Farm. When we pulled into the muddy driveway we were sodden, fatigued and ready for a nap, but with some quick humorous relief, insatiable laughter and Mark’s slightly playful, but compelling calls to drop and giv ‘em 30 push-ups we were ready to press on through the puddles. Beginning with a brisk jog through various fields sampling, based on the mode, “take something green and put it in your mouth,” we stopped abruptly ever-so-often to discuss farming and philosophy. Weaving our way amongst peppers, tomatoes, asparagus and raspberries we finally arrived at “Mark’s Soapbox”. This patch of ground was no more significant than surrounding fields planted with cover crops; however, Mark had us huddle up to listen to another one of his diatribes. He started with the idea that we are the richest people in the history of time and that we are squandering our potential unconsciously. He implored us to be brave in the way we live our lives, questioning everything and pursuing our passions despite risks and conventions. For sooner that we realize we shall be a part of the matter which lies below our feet.
Now back at Arcadia, we are reaching an end of sorts. As we paddle across the lake to our last wood-working session with Everett we take a note of bare branches and the lack of remaining ferns. The abundance of foliage is crucial to the completion of our tree and fern identification project. We are, therefore, alarmed to find that we are now facing both the challenges of fern-killing frost and encroaching deadlines. This week also marks the final meal we’ll prepare with our long-standing cooking partners. Although it is sad to witness all these endings we find solace in knowing that each represents a new beginning in our Arcadian lives. As we anticipate the preparation of our chickens we realize a newfound appreciation for the fragility and impermanence of life itself as well as our time here on our peninsula amongst the pines.