We're off to the Island again.
Every year, the yearlings go to an island, whose identity I do not reveal, for a week and a half of workshops. The idea is for the yearlings to bond as a group (now that they've had a few months to absorb the school culture) and for the masters to have a retreat and semi-vacation of their own, when they aren't leading workshops. For the past two years, I've gone along as well in order to help Charlie with his workshop. Here I am again.
There's always the logistical difficulty that because both the yearlings and the faculty are on retreat, I can't camp with either group. Thew first year I camped with Charlie, just the two of us, so he could train me. Last year I stayed with Allen's family, who were up for a vacation at the same time. Allen split his time between the masters' campsites and his family. I felt welcomed by Lo and their kids, but very much the outsider. I assumed that this year I'd have to do something else.
A few weeks back, I said as much to Allen.
"Why wouldn't you stay with us again?" he asked. This being Allen, the question was real, not rhetorical.
"Because I'm a student," I told him. "You can't just have students crashing in the middle of your family vacation all the time, that wouldn't work."
"Well, no, it wouldn't," he acknowledged, "but occasionally stopping by is ok, and the more you stop by, the more you cease to be just a student and the more you become family."
I stared at him, speechless. Allen and I aren't especially close, though we are solidly friends. I had not expected him to categorize me as a quasi-family member. He chuckled and bumped me on the arm with a fist, in a friendly way.
"You'll have to talk to Lo, obviously, but David's asked about you coming with us already."
And so here I am.
This year I've made an effort to get to know the yearlings a bit more, so I have some friends in the group, but there are some extra familiar faces on the Island, too. Evie and Jutta (pronounced like "you-tuh," with the accent on the first syllable) are both one-hit-wonders, so even though they're yearling they're also part of the graduating class and they've been attending group meetings with me every month. And Kayla and Nora are here.
As you might remember, neither of them went to the Island with us when we were yearlings together--Nora's mother wouldn't let her go and Kayla was still nursing Aidan. Both of them are on an extended track, spending more than the normal four years here, so the idea always was that they'd go to the Island with the group that would actually include their graduating group.
And that's what Nora is doing. This is her fourth year out of six, so almost half the current group of yearlings will graduate with her. Plus, she's 19, now, so she's about the same age as a lot of them.
Kayla is 15 and still has four more years, meaning her graduating group hasn't arrived yet. She could have waited until next year or the year after to go to the Island, when she'd be closer to normal college age. But she and the masters (including her mother) decided that it's better to go this year, when she has Nora--and me--with her. So here she is.
There were some logistical issues, as always. Between the 33 yearlings, the five masters (Greg stays home), and Nora and Kayla, we had to bring three school vans not just two. That meant it made sense for Lo and the kids to join the third school van rather than take their own vehicle, but that in turn meant their family couldn't stay after and have their vacation, as they usually do. What we ended up doing was putting all the students in two vans, with a faculty driver in each, and the three other masters, plus Lo and the kids and me and most of the tents and food and so on, in the third van, which went up a few days early. So Charlie and I pre-hiked all the trails we'd use for the workshop to check for any changes or issues and the Chapmans (Allen and his family) had some private time. I don't know what Karen, the third master in our van, did. I think she went rock-climbing.
Then the students came up, the workshops went well, and Charlie vanished to explore the Island on his own, as he usually does. Before he went, he gave me an assignment.
"I want you to find your favorite spot on the Island," he said.