In Hawley, I can account for the whereabouts of the 23 other people with whom I share a home, but at this moment, I can only tell you the location of two other members of my crew, because I can hear them talking in the next room over. All hitch sites are different, and this one feels disconnected. It has its advantages: a wooden shack for cooking, an old farmhouse with a shower and bathroom, and a shady spot for tents. Although these three places are less than 100 yards apart, it allows people to wander where they please.
Hitches are by design intimate, as we spent every waking moment with each other. Sleep offers the sole privacy, perhaps not even if you're sharing a tent. You see your crewmates in all their facets, at work and at play, and learn deep depths of their personalities. You learn their moods and vagaries and how to tell when they're at their tipping points of stress. Or maybe you're Rob "Cool" Zywno and don't even flinch when you cut down a tree in the field, unsupervised, for the first time today. Some of us are more transparent than others.
Despite living in close quarters with these same people for months beforehand, I am constantly learning new things about them, like the fact that Leigh Whaley puts Frank's hot sauce on everything. She's been calling me, "Captain, my captain," and I sort of love it. The summer has just begun and already feels almost over. I have a hard time comprehending that the people I have lived, worked and breathed next to for the past 10 months may no longer be a part of my life after a few more weeks. In a group as large as 24, you naturally gravitate toward certain people, and I have made several strong connections. We can stop the erosion of a trail by constructing a retaining wall, yet it will take a greater effort to quell the erosion of friendships against the forces of time and distance.
Dinner is about ready. Chores, including cooking, are usually assigned on hitch, but we are experimenting with having only designated dinners and counting on everyone to chip in where they can. I find it only works with certain groups, otherwise some people end up doing a disproportionate amount of work. In the meantime, before we hold hands over tacos for a moment of gratitude, Molly Berntsen is strumming "Classical Gas" on guitar. We brought three guitars, and at least three of us sing - a musical group. Songwriting and band practice will be a consistent after-work activity. We are going to perform at community meeting, a weekly open forum for discussion, when we return to Hawley. Yes, we do quirky things in our spare time, but in our community, acceptance is the standard. I feel I could do most anything (within reasonable realms of decorum) that others might find ridiculous, and my crewmates would still love me. We have no illusions and accept each other exactly as we are, from moment to moment - in a word, liberating.
Note bene: The best way to find out if your tent has a leak is to have a rainstorm.