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The Smell of Pony Noses

There’s a giggle-filled werewolves game happening in front of me. Between a crackling fire and a giant group kanban. @themadhatter is DM-ing and dancing, next to the kettle heating water for my mid-day mint tea. Most of the other adults are missing, helping install windows in a community member’s addition, around the inverted pine tree whose roots appear to hold up the [presently snow-covered] green room. In a few minutes, I’ll leave the laughter of the werewolves group to go stack wood before the sun sets.

Welcome to day three of the ALC-NYC visit to QIV-C/Cloudhouse.

We took a couple of trains up Monday, after a quick set-the-week and Culture Committee at ALC-NYC. Things in the city were pretty calm, but as we got farther north the weather got more and more precarious. Our second train was delayed, so we hung out on the platform and admired the actually-star-shaped-snow-flakes for a while. Then when we arrived to Wassaic, our rides to Chatham were delayed…somewhat by snowy roads and somewhat by flipped milk trucks (we saw one!) blocking roads. Everyone kept in good spirits through our four hours of travel, in spite of circumstances which would have been easy to get pessimistic and whiny about.

When we got to the farm house, we gathered around to dine on chili that my friend Chuck (who has been visiting Bear) made for us. We discussed agreements for staying as guests here, then played werewolves and read and played card games. Bear and I went night sledding a couple of times, celebrating snow deep enough to disappear my boots, leg warmers, and sometimes knees. Our first night of screens-off-at-nine / lights-off-at-ten went smoothly, and people found places to sleep without any problems.

I slept down by the fireplace, so I got to wake up to sunlight on snow and an old tree [which I remember dancing barefoot around back when the grass was green and soft]. Soon, though, the quiet of the morning gave way to egg skillets sizzling, refreshed kids playing, reminders to clean up our cleaning spots to ready the space for the day, phones pinging with texts from parents and friends, and early scrumming of daily activities.

When we convened for morning meeting, we scheduled sledding time, many rounds of Coup, MM, Hip-Hop Lyric Analysis, building a Fox Hole radio, playing League of Legend (and Counterstrike and Minecraft and Compendium), more sledding, Clue, Stratego, Werewolves, cooking, dinner with the community, and a demonstration of the tin Rocket Stove that Paul just built. I went sledding both times, and I took a nice long walk by myself in the woods (with some time just laying in the snow, listening to the sky). I watched many of the board/card games, and I helped cook some. I helped hang and then played on aerial silks. I sketched the people around me, and I collaboradoodled with Askani and Javair. I contact improv-ed with Bear, Douglas, Javair, and Askani. And I had a wonderful time seeing friends at the community dinner.

Today Javair and I made pizza from scratch for everyone’s lunch. It was awesome fun, but also chaotic. We had spilled ingredients and non-cooks buzzing around the kitchen asking for specific toppings, asking when we’d be done, and asking questions they had already asked but hadn’t heard the answers to amid their excitement. The contented quiet that fell once we finished and everyone started eating felt really sweet in contrast. Javair and I high fived, then I put on my boots.

I went for a walk to thank the land and snuggle with the horses. Even with all the beauty and amazing people around me and everything going very smoothly with the trip, a few small worries were threatening to eat my brain. I was unwilling to let them take me away from the wonder of being here, so I went to find the solution. For me, for years, this has meant trees and pony noses. There’s something about putting my face against a pony’s and petting its velvety nose that magically quiets my mind and heart every time. I’ll settle for horses when ponies are unavailable…the effect is usually the same.

After my walk, Charlotte and I went upstairs to the room where Askani was reading and Bear was napping. We drew them for a bit, and then it was time for Charlotte to lead a yoga class. Chuck and I were the only two who came to the class, but we had a good time. Then I hung out with David and Luca, sitting in a sunny window and talking until Werewolves started. Bear had taken Thanos to see the horses, and then he, Ryan, and Chuck all went to help Gens work on his house. I stayed behind, drinking tea in the kitchen while Milo DM’ed Werewolves. Like…while watching Milo announce Werewolves and watching all the kids who were screen-brained close their computers immediately and leap from their chairs to gather in a circle around their DM. It was inspiring enough that I started this blog post while watching them.

Um…and then…the internet allows for time travel, soooo it’s three hours later. I may have been pulled from blogging by requests for snacks, the start of a stage combat class, firewood stacking, and the flurry of activity in the kitchen as Bear choreographed Thanos, Adin, Douglas, and Alfie’s dinner making.

After dinner, we’ll probably make candles, play a big group game, and explore an archetype chart (one I’ve never seen young people interact with, but experienced Bear’s facilitation of at ALF Summer 2014). And we’ll probably play Coup. And drink tea. And surprise ourselves with other fun things.

Love it here 🙂


*It’s been pointed out that I use “Cloudhouse” (and ALC-NYC to some extent) in reference to the people of that community rather than the space they inhabit here at QIV-C. Sometimes this confuses folks. It feels pretty accurate to me.

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