I wrote this poem at the end of my fall semester at Outdoor Academy. I left my home in Durham, NC (which I refer to as “old tobacco” in the poem) for the mountains of the Pisgah Forest. I joined 27 other students to form part of “Semester 51.” We had the amazing good fortune to live, work, learn and grow together for 16 weeks during the Covid pandemic.


I am Lucky by Maya 

I am lucky

Letting go of the rough hands

Feeling the unfamiliarity engulf me

Before, unfamiliarity seemed dark, scary

I needed to escape the old tobacco

Escape the slow moving

Escape the masked passers

Escape this stranger who embodied me

I am lucky

Embrace pulls me by a string

Entangled in their arms

Oak paddles waved fear goodbye

Canoes soared through powerful waves of connection

Little ducks left marks in Pisgah’s waters

We quacked to one another’s presence

My people

I am lucky

Cabin 7 heard stories on the sunny October days

Bears lay bellies up listening to delicate words

We were allowed to feel each other

Twisting my fingers between theirs

Sun watched us roll on the fresh greens and browns


Dancing to her warmth

Closer than 6 feet

I am lucky

Once the sun gave her goodbyes

Stars came waltzing

Pulling a blanket over the world

Softer than any other

We all watched the tango

I am lucky

Pisgah’s mountain tops could be seen from the big windows crying for light

Holding towering trees between long piano fingers

Hiding beneath the twisted rhodo

Familiarizing the simplest of things

I am lucky

Ghosts once lay under the bunks in late October

Now, snowflakes twirled on lace

Feeling winter

Stringed lights impaled the cries

When tears dropped, rolling slow

I was never alone

Unlike home

I was always alone

Even half awake

The squirrels always scratched

The thick breaths from unconscious souls always tapped the dark

I am lucky

Tight laces follow up Pisgah’s ridges

To campsites we would call home

For just a night

50 miles of observation

30 miles of discovery

10 miles of the Art Loeb

Digging deep into who this stranger was

I am lucky

Family follows close behind

Winter enters

Its presence is chilling

Tip toes crawl up the Wedigo

Morning breath

Morning walk

Morning watch

I am lucky

Oak showed me who I was

Green wood showed me what I could create

Maple held my quick feet in place

Slowing the world down

I am lucky

Food is provided, family style

Food from gardens

Food from labor

Food from the unknown

Food from the woman who placed those seeds in the soil

She dirtied her hands

She sweat

She waited

Waited for those small peppers to flourish

Soon they would escape soils cradle

Mother Earth would release them

Giving this woman her creation


I am lucky

Bears lay on the untrimmed grass basking in autumns winds

Squirrels swing on a trapeze of trees

Crickets argue til’ the days get dim

Their home is just beyond these windows



I am lucky

Birch, maple and oak pull tight and whisper,

“You are welcome here. This is home”

I whisper back,

“You’re right, this is home”

Trees don’t accept the enemy

The killers

Thick hatchets

No goodbye

I am lucky

Goodbyes to these trees aren’t forever

They know I will return

Maybe not tomorrow

But when I feel it’s time

They know I’m no enemy

No hatchet

Just goodbye for now

I am lucky

Look under the shelves, on bunks, under tables

We are always there

Sharpie marks our presence

“Covid,” they called us

Braver than most

Entering back into these loose cloth masks

Leaving 51, returning to ‘23

I am lucky

16th Street held my wobble

Watts felt my runs


We all carried home

Like hermits

You don’t know you have that shell ‘til you’re pushed into it

Spend a night in it

You’ll feel your shell walls


I am lucky

Trees read us storybooks

Of the creatures that once roamed

Of the big hearts all of us pumped

And the rings of their trunks

I am lucky

3 months

Oak, maple and birch release their leaves

Fitting the seasons changes


Watching the 27 shufflers grow

Lift their heads

Slow their words

The trees slowed us all down

I am lucky

People look beyond

It didn’t matter which colors you wore

Who you admired from afar

What you wished on that shooting star, dancing across the sky

They always winked back

The figure dangling off the curve of the moon

Casting its wishes

I am lucky

51 listened

Listened to the noise echoing off of Pisgah’s many lakes

They listened to my stories

Felt my shoulders tense

They listened to words far from their vocabulary

I am lucky

28 heads down, eyes closed

Blind from each other for only a minute

Hands in hands

Blind from the dining room, holding smiles from the past

Look close

You’ll see 50 before

I am lucky

Oatmeal will remind us of home

Sponge in hand belting to songs from an unclaimed CD

Bringing us back to the whirring of the sanitizer

To the dining room’s warmth

Even with no heat

No flame dancing in the wood stove’s wake

Warmth is always there

Deep beneath the floorboards

From 25 years

I am lucky

Chirps woke us

Howls followed meals

Wolves howled to melodies

Beating hands on tables

Forming rhythm

I am lucky

Clothes rolled off the shelves

The bunk in the corner was uninhabited once again

We no longer lived in these woods

Fire stopped dancing

Country roads lulled away

Chasing the directions we now marched

Soon we would be gone

I am lucky

Though goodbye seems like a release

It’s actually just hello

I’m okay with goodbye

51 needs the world to see their new ways

New laces tying up old ratty shoes

I am lucky

Home is the shaky bunks and 6:50 rises

So is Watts Street

So are Pop’s Belgian waffles on the late church mornings

Waking up to Jack Johnson

Walking down to Pop’s twirling, flipping pancakes and whistling

3 simple steps, repeat

I am lucky 

Every last drop of honey was used

Though there is no more

No weeks of waiting for another jar

This yellow liquid touched everyone’s tongues

We all tasted the memories

I am lucky

Unfamiliarity turned to community

Travelers turn to family

I know who I am

I no longer embody a stranger

I too can make dents in the old wooden table

I am lucky

Lucky to forever call OA home

December 2020