Thursday would be the penultimate day of the cycle for us, and I was hoping that it would be a joyful day. Unlike the prior day it looked like everyone was going to be present, and on time, and I was looking forward to meeting with most of the Learners for a quick check-in. After I arrived at the drop-off location in the morning, I filled out my intentions and then jumped on a call with the other Facilitators to discuss how we were going to approach the day in light of some challenges both cells had the prior day. As I was talking Learners slowly started dropping in and filling out their intentions: read, play guitar, hang out at the dock, ink comic, pet dogs, write, socialize, freetopia, don’t die, get to know people, drink water.

I invited the Learners into a shaded area that we do not usually hold our meetings at and we began the morning meeting. It was obvious that at least one of the Learners was having a really bad morning, and multiple Learners were subdued and not eager to engage fully in the meeting. I was not quite sure what was bothering the Learners but I gave them space to state how they were feeling that morning, and if they needed anything form the community. I then read a Washington Post article about the CDC’s expanded Covid-19 definition of who a “close contact,” and provided the Learners some prompts so we could discuss Covid practices. Because of the feelings that some of the Learners were holding it was not much of a discussion so I adjourned the meeting.

While most of the Learners wanted to go to the lake, I requested that we try somewhere else for the morning, as some Learners have had some lapses with Covid practices recently. They suggested we go to the small waterfall that was relatively nearby, and we broke into two groups, one that went immediately there and one that made a stop at the bathroom on the way.

After the bathroom stop, when I arrived at the small waterfall with two other Learners, we saw three Learners trying to fish a toy out of the water near the waterfall. They eventually succeeded, and those of us who recently arrived set up in different locations. I had the Cuddle Buddies with me so I tried to find a place near the stream so they could drink water. One Learner found a large rock to sit on under the shade of some trees so she could ink her comic. One of the Learners asked for a walkie talkie so that he could go on a hike. I asked if anyone was going with him, and there was an awkward moment as three other Learners thought about and then opted into going, as well. I asked what time they would return by and they said 1:00 p.m.

Reading and tending to Ivan.JPG

It was a restful, slower morning at the waterfall

I had my Education Conversations book group to attend that evening and I had not finished reading the first three chapters of Diana Senechal’s Republic of Noise, so I broke it out and began to read. One of the Learners who stayed back eventually engaged me in conversation, talking about NFL football teams and about a lawsuit that was filed against the handlers of BEVO, the University of Texas mascot. When the Learner decided to read her book, the other Learner walked over and asked me if she could take care of Cuddle Buddy Ivan.

Soon enough some of the Learners came back, but not all of them. Eventually they all came back, and there was still tension in the air. I asked a couple of the Learners if everything was alright, and they said yeah, so I let it go. One Learner then asked for a walkie talkie so that she could take off again, and I reminded her that I was checking in with everyone that day. She asked if she could instead meet with me the next day, and I said that would work for me. I asked if anyone was going with her and she shrugged, and another Learner asked if he could join her. She said yes and they took off. Then another Learner asked if we could all go down to the lake, and I said that he could check in with everyone to see if they wanted to. Two said they would rather stay at the waterfall a bit longer, so he asked if he could take a walkie talkie and go down to the lake with another Learner. I said that we would join him in an hour or so.

When we got down to the lake, around 2:00 p.m., after a stop to refill water, we did not see any of the Learners. But within ten minutes all the Learners converged on the lake, and the Learners took up their usual spots on the dock or under the trees. But again, some of the Learners were distant with each other, facing away from each other and not interacting even as they shared the dock. I then started calling over Learners one by one for our check-ins. The check-ins were short. I just wanted to review a bit from the previous day and ask them about their preferences for the next cycle. For each person that came over I offered to listen if they wanted to work through any of their feelings. All of them passed on that.

Slowly, as I worked through the check-ins, the Learners on the dock began to interact as usual, again. They started to turn toward each other, and talk, and play. By the end of the day the Learner feelings that hung like a cloud over the earlier half of the day had dissipated, and at the same time the clouds above opened up and the sun came down hard on us. The heat led me to take Cuddle Buddies Ingrid and Ivan into the lake for some swimming so that they did not overheat. And before I knew it, it was 3:30 p.m. and time for our afternoon roundup. At the afternoon roundup I asked how everyone was feeling and how it differed from the morning, and everyone said they were feeling better than they were that morning. I asked what they wanted to make out of their last day at Abrome for the cycle and the general consensus was just to hang out and have fun. The two Learners who seemed to be having the hardest time in the morning looked at each other and each said, “play guitar.”