Trekkers’ Class of 2015 Rites of Passage Expedition

On Monday, April 20th, the senior class of 2015 headed out on their final core Trekkers’ expedition in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts. Our trusty Trekkers’ bus, Daisy, led us out of Maine, through rolling hills, and along the winding Deerfield River up to our destination… all the while, Daisy was filled with laughter, reminiscence of fond memories, games, and stories. When we arrived at Stump Sprouts, our group was greeted with familiar smiles and warm, delicious, cooked-with-love food. That evening, we gathered inside by the fire to begin conversations around moving through adolescence into adulthood, and looking at the personal experiences everyone has gone through year after year. These conversations and journal prompts really got everyone thinking about the reasons why we would all be going out on a 36-hour solo experience, and why this trip was built around that time.

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The focus of the next day was to get all of our gear together, and set out to find our solo sites through the woods and trails around Stump Sprouts. With our backpacks geared up and bulging with tents, tarps, sleeping bags, and sleeping pads, we separated into two different groups to hike up the trails and set up our sites. Each student and leader chose a site that was about a football field away from the next person, with varying distance from the trail. Some students set up a shelter they had designed beforehand with a tarp and rope, and others set up a tent… either way, setting up their homes for the next two days. Once everyone’s site was set up, we headed back to the lodge for further discussions, and to set our intentions of one thing each person would like to let go as they head into the next chapter of their life. With this intention in mind, each person picked another’s name out of a hat, and would make that person a gift during their solo. After a hearty meal, and great anticipation of this solo experience, the whole group packed up everything they would need for a warm, safe experience, and headed out to their site as a group at 9 PM. As we approached each site, that person would say their goodbyes, receive “good lucks” and reassure the group once they were safely in their tent or shelter.

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For the next 36 hours of sunshine, rain, thunder, and snow, each person was given a chance to be in pure solitude to sit, reflect, journal, and sleep. Meredith made rounds, checked our “tree mail”, left supplies that some had requested, and delivered some thought-provoking journal prompts and quotes for each to reflect on. Each person had been given two assignments throughout their solo: to create a gift, as explained, and to write their own mission statement. We were all left with the question “who are you” to prompt a meaningful, true, and whole mission statement.

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On Thursday morning, Mere called through the woods to each site to let us know we could pack up our things and hike back to the lodge. As we all reunited in the lodge, and took turns taking much-needed showers, everyone shared their individual stories of their solo experience. There were exciting recounts of potential bear visits, coyote calls, birds that sounded like three blows of a whistle, peace, coldness, hunger, clear minds, lucid dreams… just to name a few. Once everyone was back and showered, we all shared a large meal of eggs, fruit, oatmeal, home-made bread, homefries, and COFFEE. There was so much to talk about, so much to feel comforted by, and everyone was happy to be back together as a group.

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After we set back out to clean up our sites completely, and take away any evidence that Trekkers were in the woods for those 36 hours, we all gathered back in the lodge. Each person gave their gift, one at a time, to the person they had chosen just before the solo began. Whether the gift was a poem, a letter, a drawing, a natural creation, a dramatic scroll, a song, a sapling planted in the shell of a coconut, a lacrosse stick made from twine and a Y-branch, or horns made from branches, each gift was from the heart, and from a place of respect and reflection. This set the stage for our final process of the Trekkers’ experience.

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From 2:00 in the afternoon until 1:30 in the morning, with breaks for dinner, stretching, and the bathroom, the whole group participated in a Trekkers’ tradition to celebrate the impact each individual has had to the whole group. We had four chairs in the middle of our circle, symbolizing the four directions of a compass. As someone felt moved to do so, they would sit themselves in the East, and draw names of two people to sit on either side, in the North and the South, leaving the chair in the West open. The person sitting in the East would share their Mission Statement with the group, then would listen to what the person in the North and South had to say about the impact they’ve had on that person’s life. As people felt moved to do so, they would go to the chair in the West to share words from the heart about the person in the East. This was an incredibly moving experience, as each person shared their impressions and emotions whole-heartedly, making sure that the person in the East knew the impact they’ve had, and will continue to have in their life. Each person took their time, and stayed fully present throughout the whole process, giving respect to everyone in the room. To say the love and respect in the room was palpable is an understatement.

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As we packed our things, did our final house-cleaning, and had our ceremony of certificates and specialized “Class of 2015” whistles, everyone was still embracing each moment they could spend together as a Trekker family. The whole trip was a meaningful and fitting celebration of all of the strong relationships built in the last six years of Trekkers, and of adolescence. Through all of the laughter, games, and reflection, the trip came to an end with a long bus ride, and a bumpin’ dance party, as Daisy rolled and beeped into the Oceanside West Parking lot with this wonderful group of seniors. I can speak for everyone when I say that this is a trip that will live on in our memories and hearts for a long, long time.

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