You whose day it is, make it beautiful.
Get out your rainbow, make it beautiful.
- Nootka from Songs of the Dream People by James Houston
Rainbows, flowers and a peace sign are among the colorful chalk decorations adorning our completed timber stairs. Hopefully the children who attend day camp here will enjoy our designs and add their own drawings. Our steps - nine in total - ascend tantalizingly close to the top of the hill. Three trees gave their lives for this structure. The tree I felled had about 10 more feet to spare, so we constructed a bench at the base of the hill, just for fun (but really so we could sit at the bottom and gaze at our masterpiece). Even though we did the best we could with the materials provided, the "what ifs" seep into the picture. What if the bit for our hand drill was sharp? Maybe we could have finished the retaining wall faster and spent more time on the steps. Without touching the zenith, we still pushed our work past 11 hours today.
Long days are often a necessary part of accomplishing quality trail work. The labor itself can be monotonous and physically straining, so we invent ways to stay engaged. When you pick up a log using timber carriers (two-handled pieces of wood with metal prongs), you count to three so everyone lifts at the same time. To amuse ourselves, each time we lifted, we counted in different languages - Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, French, Hebrew and German. We also talk about the most desultory topics, from physics to birth rates in different seasons to creating a pogo-tamper, as in a flat metal plate attached to the bottom of a pogo stick that enables the user to pack down dirt in style.
Despite all the fun we have, work is wearing. Frustrations were apparent earlier in the week due to slow progress and a small space - only a few people can work on timber steps at one time.
Buying a new drill bit made all the difference in boosting morale and productivity. With good tools in hand, work is still work, and still tiring after more than a week straight. We refer to both Saturday and Sunday jokingly as Monday. On some subliminal level, my body is conditioned to expect a break that never arrives. Fortunately, we celebrated Rob's 24th birthday this weekend by ending early and heading to Northampton, a college town with hip stores and tasty eats. We must have been the only table at the local brewery that ordered water, but the food was delicious, and it was a luxury not to prepare dinner.
Our program director, Jonah Keane, dined with us and treated us to ice cream; one tiny example of how supportive the staff is in multiple aspects of our lives. Yesterday, our education manager Jessica Harwood ran 5.6 miles from her house in Northampton to surprise us on the trail and bring us cherry-chili chocolate. Whether we require advice on constructing steps or removing white pine sap from our arms, the staff is a mere phone call away. Ultimately, however, they leave the decisions to us. I may have led this crew, but we made the decisions that mattered together.
Well, the sap is gone from my arms, but probably permanently attached to my Carhartts. The blotches will serve as a souvenir of what we accomplished.
I hope I can return to Arcadia one day years from now and walk along our steps. Maybe by that time, another SCA Massachusetts crew will have completed what we started, thus continuing the legacy of our program that stretches across 13 years, many parks and many more lives.
I can't wait to see all the others in Hawley tomorrow.