These days, as we check every couple of hours for signs of lambing in the barn (none yet – they’re still holding out!), sheep are constantly on my mind. Just this week a Semester 50 alumni named Maggie Kelly sent me the following essay, which she wrote for her college applications. It’s about a very different season and someone’s else’s sheep, but so right for this moment nonetheless, as themes of learning self and connecting to place are season-less. Maggie and two other semester alum working on our farm last summer had a chance to accompany a small group of farmers and volunteers to an island off the coast of Maine where local farmer Lee Straw shepherds a flock of island sheep. Lee’s wife Beth is profiled on our Alumni Profiles page; more information about their farm can be found on their website for Dandelion Spring/Straw Farm. Here is Maggie’s essay: Late afternoon sun filled the air and gusts of wind whipped the rippling waves of grasses across the island. The waves spread from my feet in all directions right down to the ocean’s edge, continuing as swells. I looked up from my rubber boots to see the line of seven people that stretched across the island turning slowly to become parallel with an old stone wall on the ridge. As the last person reached the stones, we were lined up, ready to advance on the clustering sheep. They bahh-ed in confusion and the lambs stuck so close to their mothers that they were almost trampled. Their tails were flapping and their hooves sounded a pattering echo as they raced across the cobbled beaches and back into the wavering grasses. Thousands of gulls cried overhead and I immediately understood their stress as I skirted a tiny collection in the grass of two mottled cream and black eggs, and one fluffy mass I could only assume to be a baby gull. This herd of sheep has supported a farming family since before the Civil War and I, along with two other Chewonki students and our school’s head farmer, had come to help. We finished herding the 118 wild sheep that inhabit this tiny island off Maine’s coast into a rickety wood and wire pen to shear and count the lambs before releasing them again. We spent the rest of that afternoon and the next day wrestling with lambs and full grown sheep and skirting the I experienced more in those two days than I have in the past twelve years of my education. The farmer, Lee, spoke with such wisdom and knowledge. I realized how meaningful his life had been, working directly with the land for fifty years. I could see the intelligence and experience in the lines of his face and in the steadiness of his hands as he gently but firmly handled the animals. The physical work for what he was producing – the vegetables and the well cared for animals – provided such a reward. The dinner we ate that night was completely from his farm and he knew which cows had produced the milk. He held a powerful relationship with the land and knew every inch of soil and the story behind every acre. I realized how kind and deliberate, how intelligent, how caring, and yet how hardened by wisdom these farmers are. I gained an appreciation for people working closely with the land and understood the value of true hard work in a way I had never understood before. It sharpened my thoughts on how I want to live, where everything has meaning, everything has purpose. I realized how collaborating with such thoughtful people is something extremely important to me. I want to live a fulfilling life, with a point to what I do. I don’t want to be a farmer, but I want to have such knowledge and wisdom that it reflects in my face. I want to do what is right, what is sustainable, what improves my impact on this world. I want to be surrounded by thoughtful, purposeful people like this farmer who put meaning to their actions, whether it’s changing the world to be a more sustainable place or just growing their own carrots. This place – an environment of people working together for something they care about – is where I am content. It’s what I seek to find in college: thoughtful people who put care and meaning into their life. It’s what I hope to find in the rest of my life. I plan to be a person who has knowledge and wisdom etched into the lines of my face.