Small Pleasures-Why We Do This…

(From the notebook of Americorps intern Kayleigh Chalkowksi)

“You’d have to be a… what’s the word?  Oh yeah, masochist.  You gotta be a masochist to keep doing this kind of work.”  We all commiserated over our warm bowls of sardine-noodle-medley.  I took a miscalculated step earlier, so there was a thin layer of slick Alaka’i mud in my left shoe.  The week had been a long series of miscalculated steps.  Every morning, you could hear the sloshing of water coming from my boot when I would squeeze them on as my feet were entrenched in a cold enigma of muddy water.  Rain jacket and pants were like sticky, cold gum wrappers.  No clean fingernails at this camp, nosirrreeeee.

It’s hard to imagine that your friends might be down on the coast eating papaya on the beach, jumping in the water to cool off.  Your roommate is probably sitting out on the lawn reading a book because it’s too hot to read in the house.

It was a long week, that’s for sure.  The repetition and isolation makes you feel like you’re in a fieldworkvortex: wake up// coffee// wetfieldclothesON// binocularsready// workwork// lunch// workwork// backtocamp//dinner//sleepingbag// ZZZZzz….//

I stare down at my empty bowl smeared in hot sauce remnants, put the bowl down, put on an extra fleece.  I need a burger, and a shower, and a nap.

So why do we do it?  There isn’t really a tangible answer for that.  Would it be cliché to quote Thoreau?

The rain picked up outside, made loud by the pattering of the drops on the tarps above our tent.  Earlier that day I was kneeling on the side of a deep drainage, staring at a cliff wall on the other side, scanning for nests. The clouds hung low, sweeping up the stream valley in wind-drafts.  A mist blew in, then rolled into rain.  Drops hung from the tip of my nose, streamed down my face.


I was suddenly sensible of such sweet and beneficent society in Nature, in the very pattering of the drops, and in every sound and sight around my house, an infinite and unaccountable friendliness all at once like an atmosphere sustaining me, as made the fancied advantage of human neighborhood insignificant. 


Over the knoll, through the fog: a Puaiohi song held slow, solemn, and sweet– tumbling low from his throat and ending in a high, ethereal trill– left hanging in the silence of the mist.