Here, at the Woods Hole campus, SEA Semester students are split between two chosen programs: Caribbean Colonization to Conservation and Global Ocean: New Zealand. As part of the latter group, we were further divided into three houses: A, B, and C. I live in A-house with seven other people, which more closely resembles a blue cottage with four bedrooms and two bathrooms.
With the exception of the bathroom, I have not been alone for one minute. The SEA Semester culture strives to dispel the adage “every [person] for [themselves]” through constant community. We’ve shopped, cooked, attended classes, gone on field trips, and played games together. After three jam-packed days, I already consider fellow A-house residents, and future shipmates, to be my friends.
As much as I prize solitude, the program is showing me the benefits and power of community. On Friday, the first day of class, A-house residents made their breakfasts and readied themselves for the day in silence. When the departure time creeped close, we all huddled and waited by the door to leave together—eventually walking up the hill in a group. Albeit brief, the moment shows the weight of inclusion. I was less nervous for the day because I was surrounded by others. On Friday evening, we ate dinner together. A-house has a rotating dinner schedule, with every meal from Monday to Friday shared. Again, nothing extraordinary occurred: no fires, no explosions, and no anaphylaxis. It was simply enjoyable to sit and eat and talk. I felt the community—the us—in this moment.
I want to introduce my newfound friends to you. I’ve asked each resident to share a sentence about themselves, ranging from humorous to profound. Get excited because you’ll hear more from each of them in subsequent blog posts.
Ashby: “I was an extra in the movie Little Women.”
Devin: “I’m an adventurous person who loves to take hikes.”
Ella: “I like to knit, and once, when I was biking, my chain fell off twice.”
Kendall: “I hate feet.”
Leif: “I enjoy exploring new places, especially natural areas with birds.”
Lilli: “I’ve grown a quarter of an inch the last three years.”
Lily: “My favorite foods are sweet potatoes, peaches, and ginger.”
For my input, I’d like to share an excerpt from one of my favorite authors and probably my favorite book: Amy Leach’s Things That Are. In the essay “Pea-Madness,” Leach toys with doublespeak (talking about peas but not actually talking about peas) and writes: “Yearning begets yearning: the pea plant yearns for a lattice, so it grows tendrils—then every tendril too yearns for a lattice. Yearning draws tendrils out of the spindly green pea-shoot only to find itself compounded, elephantine. Tendril wending is swervy and conjectural; like a dancer who cannot quite hear the music, pea tendrils are antic with inapprehension. Since there is no way for them to apprehend a lattice, the only direction to grow is yonder. Haywire personalities like peas, wobbly personalities with loose ends, iffy ends, result not from having no aim, no object in life, but from having an extrasensory object. What they want is beyond their powers of apprehension—until they hold it in their acute green wisps—so their manner is vagabond. The personality that longs only for perceptible things is down-to-earth, like a dung eater. But the teetery-pea kind sends out aerial filaments to the yonder, tending every which way, guessing themselves into arabesques, for they are fixed on the imperceptible.”
Okay, I’ve highlighted the merits of community, but I also want to mention the importance of individuality. In my Maritime History & Culture course, upon discussing the Māori—the indigenous population of New Zealand—we discussed the tendency to treat them as one collective group and the potential danger of this condensation. Even within a community, I believe in the wonder of the individual, rejecting monoliths and respecting every person. As you’ve seen through this glimpse into A-house, an array of individuals can
create a wonderful community.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed meeting me and us.