Our buses made short work of the distance between Brooklyn and the Eastern Shore. Early September corn stands taller than a tall human—leaves, tassels, ears: all gone yellow and dry. The land stretches wide and flat reminding us that we are near Chesapeake Bay and beyond that the Atlantic. Rising sea levels, warming temperatures—a world at risk—for all the beauty and because of it we are asking the eighth graders to think hard this year about what happens next for them as individuals as members of a local and global community. This is a complicated challenge for our students and it will requires hours of consideration yet to come this year.
Our 77 students and 14 chaperones are spending the first night at Camp Pecometh on the edge of the tidal Chester River. The cabins are as simple as shucked corn cobs—simple bunk beds and mattresses with screen windows. To get here means navigating two-lane back roads past small farms. Turkey buzzards navigate the humid air with surprising delicacy, with barely a wing flap between perches. We are far from the congestion and distraction of the city. Acres of meadow allow the 8th graders to get a sense of what they call these days “forest bathing” in Japan. It is so helpful to change environments, leave cell phones and the digital world behind. A single caterpillar draws a cluster of students—intrigued and a touch nervous about its toxicity. I hide my smile but it is gratifying to see them change with change, however small. Our world is nothing if not details. We find principles based on minute observations.
One of the counselors today said, “Let’s get going because time is a limited commodity.” I hope our students remember that.
On the way down we stopped at the Walt Whitman rest area. Whitman never wrote an ode to capitalism and rest rooms but our own Brooklyn poet would be happy, one can only imagine, to know that to grow up in Brooklyn in 2019 means — still — to learn how to encounter America.