As I sit on my twin bed in the attic room of Molly’s old, brick house—affectionately called “The Orphanage”—I look over at the other five beds in the room. They belong to my fellow scholars: the (former) chicken cook, the pediatric occupational therapist, the actress, the CSA organizer, and the little baker bee. The beds will all be empty tomorrow, including those of the chef-professor, the magazine editor, and the student intern who sleep on a different floor. When our group leaves, the laughter, tears, frustration, and joyfulness of the past two weeks will get washed away with the sheets creating a blank slate for the next wave of artists looking for solitude.
As a child when you go away to camp you have many expectations and fears. You wonder if you’ll make friends and then you wonder if you’ll keep them. You hope to master arts and crafts in order bring those skills home to share with others (at least I did). You worry about critters and creepy-crawlies attacking and mostly, you worry if you have the ability to go weeks at a time holed up in a world that is not your own.
The LongHouse Scholars Program in Rensselaerville, New York, has proved to be an emotional upheaval I don’t think any one of us was ready to take on at full speed. It seems that we had each hit a crossroads and some hadn’t fully realized it yet. To be able to share food and memories, sacred family stories, and personal essays with a group of women I respect while genuinely caring about their background and feedback is rare and it has been an honor.
Over the last fourteen days we created recipes, foraged for mushrooms, visited a farm, learned photography and videography, and ignited a presence on social media. The act of enjoying three meals a day crowded around a wobbly, communal table is a surefire way to make or break a group. What we were really creating at “food writing camp” is synergy. Whether we are in New York or Iowa, Georgia or Louisiana, and however far flung our bodies get from one another in the future, we will be able to look back to our Rensselaerville respite and remember the calm.
When we leave in the morning we will be casting off our camp personas and strutting confidently back into our own little bubbles. I realize, and I may not be alone, that taking time to be holed up in a world that is not our own has been a lifesaver. We made some friends. We left the critters alone. Best of all, we get to take our art skills home to share with others to create fulfilling futures.