So began our nearly twelve year association with Kroka Expeditions. We signed Fiona up for an ocean canoeing trip in Penobscot Bay, under the guiding eyes and paddles of Hans and Laurel. I remember the smells and sights and the feel of the ground underfoot as we arrived at Kroka that first day, walking through the big room in the farmhouse to get checked in, and then standing in a circle in the meadow while one of the summer staff lead everyone in the song that began that session’s adventures, “bend down, and listen to the voice of the fire, you’ve got to humble yourself and and bend down . . .” So we released our somewhat fragile daughter into the skillful company of Kroka’s staff to adventure into Penobscot Bay and sleep under the stars.
After that summer, we came back to Kroka with Fiona and our son Seamus for more summer experiences. Over the same years, my husband and I were looking for a piece of land to buy; we had settled in the upper Midwest, but we knew we wanted to come back to New England to be closer to extended family after our kids were finished with high school. One summer, we heard that Kroka’s neighbors across the road had split off 20 acres of meadow and woods to sell, and after some consideration we bought it. We camped on that land over three summers, setting up tents and an outdoor kitchen, and eventually contracted with a local builder to raise a small post and beam cabin with a sleeping loft on the edge of the woods. And because it’s not good for buildings to be empty, we agreed with Misha Golfman and Lynne Boudreau that Kroka could use the cabin for staff housing during the summer.
This wonderful partnership has expanded in unexpected ways. Two years ago, we paid for the hardware and Kroka provided the labor and expertise to install some solar panels on the roof, and now the cabin has lights and electrical outlets. Kroka is also tapping some of the maple trees in our woods. Last year, a semester group built what is assuredly the most beautiful composting outhouse in all of North America just behind the cabin. Next summer, we are talking about jointly planting a small orchard. And every summer I anticipate the deep pleasure of stepping outside in the middle of the night to see the Summer Triangle overhead as if it were the first time.
As Patrick and I get closer to retiring and moving back to New England, we are thinking about building a house on this property, something that would be, like Kroka, simple, sustainable, tied into the local community, and close to the land and the work of building, nurturing, and cultivating. But whatever we decide, we will be conserving this land so that Kroka’s staff and young campers can use it, and we look forward to being part of a community that lives out our shared values of stability, hospitality, and the welcoming of “all things counter, original, spare, strange.” It’s been our pleasure to contribute to the work of Kroka, see the results of its investment in the farm, in its staff, and its kids. In a time when it’s easy to lose hope and get consumed with anxiety about the fate of, well, just about everything, Kroka is one of the communities that has helps us keep our feet on the ground.