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NGI Recipient: Alice Fristrom

Session Attended: CDS Boston Centre, Folk Arts Center of New England - Labor Day Weekend (2017)

Pinewoods is different things to different people. Actually, it can also mean different things to the same person at different times in their life. When I was a child, Pinewoods was playing in the dirt with my sister and our friends, building things out of sticks and pinecones and jumping in the lake. There’s a series of pictures tracing the growth of our ramshackle buildings from when they were hardly a foot tall to more impressive structures that we developed in later years.

Nowadays, I have a very different agenda when I come to pinewoods. As my life has become more hectic, I look more for a chance to relax and get away from the stress of the outside world. I can often be found on the Camp House porch by Long Pond or the Round Pond dock, or even just on the porch of Pinecones cottage writing or reading, or listening to music. Sometimes the simplicity of doing nothing is the kind of experience some people are looking for. Though going to workshops is fun, sometimes it’s just as enjoyable to sit quietly by and watch from the outside, or just revel in the change of scenery and atmosphere (not to mention the food!). These days, most of the workshops I attend are singing ones, though I can occasionally be found in a dance session—especially the Morris workshop because my father is usually the one running it! Though I’m untrained, out of tune, and highly unprofessional, I enjoy singing; and, for years, Pinewoods has been one of the few places that even a socially awkward young person like me can feel comfortable doing so around others.

But workshops aren’t the only place I take license to embarrass myself—for a couple years running, I’ve been competing for the title of worst Cabaret Night act (think I won this year). Though usually by that time in the night, my voice is cracking and I’m ready to fall asleep on my feet from doing even a little dancing (especially when out of shape), I always inexplicably look forward to making a fool of myself in front an audience of slightly tipsy adults —not something I do on a regular basis. But over the years, Pinewoods has come to seem like a second home, a place where I feel at ease behaving like a total idiot and not worrying about being judged. It’s a place where I know where I am, who I am, where I feel free. The power of this is reinforced by the fact that I am always here before going back to University—going back to a place full of strangers that I can’t be sure of, to house with those I do not know well, something which happens less and less when you come to Camp repeatedly. Pinewoods is a chance to catch my breath, so to speak, before going back to the regular demands of school life. It lets me prepare mentally without being afraid of what people think—no demands, no requirements (well, other than a job that’s usually simple and surprisingly enjoyable), it gives a sense of inner and outer peace, like a precious little corner of Eden that never changes.

Unfortunately, there’s been another side effect of time: as time goes on, it becomes harder to afford to come. When you’re not a child anymore, prices go up for everything, especially coming to a place that houses and feeds you good food. When you’re as much of a broke student as I am, being able to afford coming to Pinewoods is always an issue; parents can only pay so many times before they have to prioritize other financial responsibilities, and my part-time salary is nowhere near enough to cover the whole fare. That’s why getting things like an NGI scholarship (or even the dishwasher discount), is so important. As the classic example of a desperate student, I can speak to the benefits of applying for help in any way possible—especially when it comes to attending somewhere like Pinewoods Camp. Without that help, I might not have been able to come this year.

As a long-standing member of the youth folk community, I’ve seen numerous times when other fellow members are prevented from doing things by economic circumstances— and while I hope dearly to be able to continue coming to Pinewoods, I hope even more that other, newer members of the dance community will be able to experience what I have over the years. I love dancing, I love Pinewoods, and even as I age out of the ‘youth’ label, I pray that the next generation of young dancers can find and make use of the support that exists for them, so that they don’t have to miss out on the possibilities that surround them. I love Pinewoods, and think everyone should be able to go there!