Full moon over Merck Forest

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I am here at my desk, uncurling a paper folded and frayed. My handwriting spills all over it, with some of those words veering off the page to the inkless beyond. For the most part I know what I was trying to say when I scribbled it down during a weekend camping trip at Merck Forest. It was a weekend which found me bunking in a cabin, under a full moon, with a handful of women whom I had never, for the most part, met.

We all know of that charming person who gets along with all and runs in wide social circles. We are enriched if one of these humans is in our life as he or she is the graceful glue who can dip into their pool of friends, assess, and bring together previously unknown to each other folks in such a way that they are getting along amicably by night's end.

Well I have a lovely kind of friend who did just that, but upped the ante by having us gather in the woods, for a weekend; then once everything was set into motion my effervescent friend became sick as a dog and had to back out; leaving the rest of us to fend for ourselves in the circle she had created. Truth be told, some of the other women in attendance knew each other rather well, and I was developing a friendship with one of them whom I had only met just the week before, but let's be real here: I knew no one. Some of my readers may relish that kind of opportunity, but in those first moments of Saturday morning I did not. Of course this article ends with how wonderful a time it was, but no kidding, at the beginning I was baffled as to how I had gotten into this position in the first place. Why wasn't I at home, feeling comfortable?

Merck Forest is a magical place; managing to get the jobs done each and every day (and there are many) while still being a space which offers majestic natural beauty, solace, and a change to unwind. I have heard such things said, but the weekend of my camp-out sealed the deal. Up until then I had mostly used Merck Forest as a resourceful space to exercise and water my energetic kids with activities of field tromping, blueberry picking, and sightings of the pig. The huge Mama pig! Raise your hand if you have ever used the entertainment of that sow nursing her young to pacify your children while you caught your breath from the day.

The humor in this gathering was clear from the start as some of the campers who had gotten there before me were in the parking lot on look out for other members of our group, but they didn't fully know who they were looking for and I had no idea they were looking for me. It thankfully did not turn into a Laurel and Hardy act.

Indeed, after a few hours together we were acting seamlessly as one unit. Case in point, as we ended a hike by passing the woodshed, each of us grabbed a log or two to stack by the woodstove for the evening burn. The whole night long, hardly a finger needed be raised to get a new log situated in the stove.

I did, I had an amazing weekend. The unknown easily evaporated as all us women got to talking and setting up camp. Like an Amazonian tribe, each of us discovered we excelled in a particular skill area: get the outdoor fire going? There was a woman on it. Encourage the group to go on a full moon hike and successfully lead them along the dark trail? There was a woman on that. Get the persnickety cabin wood stove warming? There was a woman on that. Figure out how to best use a lantern to light the night? There was a woman on that with an ingenious hack.

The group easily managed the overnight essential tasks, while hardly batting an eye or interrupting a conversation, and by conversation I don't mean frivolous. gossipy talk, but solid, good discussions about motherhood, and cooking, and literature, and service, and life destinations. Deep talk balanced out with well timed jokes. I looked around the fire and again asked myself what in the world was I doing here, but this time my thoughts were steeped with gratitude.

What is it about those magical Merck Forest woods? I do not know, and I do not care because either way I will certainly be returning. To further explore kinship developed over an open fire, and yes to see the impressive sow, too.

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