January in Hawley


January is always misconstrued as something boring, dead, and lifeless, and… and dull… something along those lines. For anyone who believes this, I invite you to visit Hawley. One needs only to awake at dawn and take a walk around the pond to see life everywhere. You see miniscule mouse footprints with a thin line from a dragging tail in the snow….”Um, are chickadees still around?” a voice next to me asks.

Jessica, who had been standing next to my bunk leans towards me with her elbow resting on my bed, questioning me about birds. I am sitting cross-legged on the top bunk with my notebook open, pen poised and waiting for inspiration to strike.

Hawley is a small township in Western Mass, but it is also synonymous with the even smaller SCA Massachusetts community nestled within Kenneth Dubuque State Forest. Five building make up this community, and a chapel-turned-bunkhouse where 18 young adults sleep is where we set our scene.  I am a member of the Media Leadership Team, responsible for press releases, photos, and a blog chronicling life in Hawley. A few minutes earlier, I had asked the furniture- and human-filled room to suggest a topic for a blog post. A few joke-topics where tossed around, and the conversation began to flow in other directions, from childhood stories to the recent Super Bowl performance. Fine for socialization, but in no way helping me overcome writers block. Again, I asked/begged/whined for someone to help me, and Jessica’s verbose language came pouring out in response. With her theatre voice on, she has a way of stringing words together to form beautiful image-filled sentences.

She taps my knee. “Say something about the chickadees. Flocking, flocking above your head,” she says, her arms waving wildly above her own head. “Write something about that.” My pen has been flying across the pages of my notebook since she began speaking.

“A porcupine waddles across your path…” A pause. She frowns, silently deciding to stop describing the wildlife and moves on to different inhabitants. “The corps members bring their own life to Hawley. The early morning sun catches grooves of ice skating tracks on the pond. A newly constructed igloo shows—“

“Ew, do not mention New Texas.” Alexandria interrupts from her bunk, adjacent to mine.

“I didn’t say New Texas, I said igloo.”
Alexandria rolls her eyes and laughs about the section of pond claimed by her Texan teaching partner. (And if Martin were in the room, he would have corrected her to say it’s technically a quinzee).

Jessica continues, suddenly aware that she has captured the attention of the room. “Four distinct snow figures on the lawn call up memories of our last snow day—“

“That happened yesterday!” a shout from a bottom bunk, interrupts. The occupants of the room all chime in:

“What? Like two days ago.”
“Wait, which ones are we talking about?”

“Like THREE days ago!”
“Which snow figures?”



“Who is telling this story?!” Jessica silences everyone with an exasperated look. She sneaks a look at me with a wide grin upon her face. “Ok, ok. Anyway. So just then end it with something like hot drinks, tea, etcetera, and then… it’s the end of the day. Even 18 hardworking people can’t stop the sun from going down and— 18 vibrant souls can’t stop the sun from setting…” she searches for the right words. She has lost her story-telling momentum. “So we light up the night with… whatever we light up the night with. Hot chocolate, games, talks. You should mention something about the moon and stars, too.” She waves her hands, dismissively. “If you have any other questions or need help, let me know. I’m going to get ready for bed now.”

She turns away from me, walks past the couches and dressers that divide the room in half, and sits on the bunk opposite mine. Determined to make the seemingly long trek to the bathroom facilities, she laces up her boots, flings on her parka, adjusts the headlamp on her forehead, opens the door, and walks out into the snow.