As the late afternoon sky cleared over Gilmanton, I descended down the hillside.
The only thing to betray my presence were the sunken footprints I left behind.
Thick January snow, frosted over from the morning’s rain, crunched beneath my boots in subtle protest.
My wandering was largely aimless, leading me past Lake Eileen, whose waters rippling in the breeze were covered by a monotone sheet of ice. Travelling beside the lake, I felt out of place. With my dusky blue coat and black boots, I was like a shadow silently drifting across the blinding landscape.
Further along were a row of cabins. The middle one, where the girls had stayed during the summer, had a hollow look with the absence of lantern light. Not far off was the chapel. One of the newer buildings of the reservation, I always thought it had a unique design. Now that snow sat atop its angled, vaulted roof, it had a distinctly Scandinavian look to it.
By the time I stopped, I found myself standing like some curious animal. Off to the side was a wooden sign, half covered in snow, reading: STAFF SITE. There was nothing more than wooden platforms, though I could almost see the rows of green canvas tents that once stood upon them. It was akin to visiting a previous home. I had lived there for ten weeks, my tent providing valuable shelter against some of the strongest storms I had ever witnessed. It was awry yet fascinating to explore Hidden Valley draped in white, to see a summer camp fixated in the stupor of winter.
As the sun lowered in the western horizon and the forest grew darker, I made my way back to the comfort of the lodge. Once in main camp, I followed the sound of laughter tumbling down from a lodge uphill.
Euphoria washed over me as I walked inside to a room full of familiar faces. Here were the camp staff. It was all so surreal. To be with friends I had only known for three months out of an entire year, to be with people I had only ever been with during the summer.They were friends nonetheless, though differed greatly from the classmates I had back home. Here were lively young men and women borne of summer’s energy and adventure.
I was soon caught up in a myriad of laughter, card games and stories.
We were determined in every way to forget about the growing cold of winter.
Our fellowship reached far into the night until sleep overcame us and the living room was silent.
Sunlight peering through the window announced it was Sunday.
Reluctantly, I got out of bed, feeling like something had been taken from me. What was taken, I know not.
I joined everyone as we went to Carter Lodge nearby to have breakfast and meet once more.
The small hallway there was filled with a chorus of “goodbye”, “safe travels”, and hugs aplenty. The exchanges were short and kind, though it was hard for me to express myself. In a way I felt detached from it all. These young ‘Hampshirites and Massachusettsans wouldn’t go too far from the reservation. Seeing that I was the only Vermonter, it would be away from them for months. The prospect was altogether almost too daunting, yet I stayed my concerns. They would only bring clouds upon the sunny morning. Instead, I held on to the hope of seeing them in June and musing on talk of what program areas we would be in for the summer.
When I recognized a familiar Toyota parked outside I took my leave, the hall dwindled to a few side conversations.
I piled all my belongings in the back seat and hopped into the car with my parents.
I rolled down the window and raised my voice to say goodbye to Rebekka as she walked by. Soon her soft voice in the quiet valley was replaced by brisk wind rushing along the open highway.
At the steady rhythm of the car I rested my head on a jacket against the passenger door. Now sleep came upon me, forming a plethora of dreams beyond my closed eyes.
Most vivid was a vision of songs by firelight - voices ancient and resonant traveling through a night forest.
The car stopped and I woke up.
We were back in Bristol, as dark outside as we had left the town two days beforehand.
For all the world it was like he had barely left the tired village.
The weekend had passed by so briefly.
As if it were no more than a dream.