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OCT. 17, 2013

Life in the Sun Lodge

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Have you ever seen three girls fit into one XXL t-shirt? Have you ever discussed societal expectations for women with a group of 15-year-old females? Have you ever seen sweatpants monsters? Or had an animated conversation about how to keep the communal bathroom clean? Well, all of these things are regular occurrences in the girls’ dorm on the third floor of the Sun Lodge. The third floor is up in the tree canopy and our windows look out at squirrels and rustling leaves. The ten girls are split into two separate rooms: “the south side” and “the southern side” affectionately named by our proudly southern ladies. But these rooms are by no means a catalyst for separation, and there is constant bare foot traffic between the rooms. I often have to go break up animated discussions or giggle fests to tell the girls that it is time to go to their rooms. Who wants to sleep when we could whisper and laugh all evening long?! With their busy schedules though, sleep is oh so precious.

Sunday evening is our cabin meeting time. We all gather on the couches and start with a check-in of the week. Girls discuss cabin and school issues: relationships that are beginning to feel exclusive, annoyances with early alarm clocks, appreciations for the week, our cabin inspection grade, the needs of the community. Often we laugh and argue, smile and cry, paint our nails and share quirky secrets. We are creating a tight-knit community on the third floor, a community that loves each other and allows for differences. This is the first time away from home for most of these young women, and their bravery is always inspiring. They approach every challenge with such determination and are always willing to delve into conversations, to reach and grow.

One Sunday evening under a clear sky, we head up into the woods. Our footsteps are all that we can hear as we make our way through the forest. Below the dark silhouettes of pines, oaks and rhododendrons, we light a fire and stare into the jumping flames. After a few moments, we invite conversation about conflicts that need to be resolved. Living in such a close community, conflict cannot go unspoken, so we take the evening to talk about the issues that have been arising in the dorm. The girls are wonderful and bravely speak up about their needs and concerns. Everyone is respectful and articulate. All I can think about is how much gentler the world would be if everyone was able to communicate in the way that these girls are learning—learning to advocate for their needs while also being considerate. As the fire flickers on their earnest faces, I feel a deep sense of respect. I value the courage that these girls are bringing, being able to step outside of their comfort zone and throw themselves into this community. It is these moments that are making this semester so magical.

Becca Hamilton
Resident Wilderness Educator