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NGI Recipient: Autumn Joy Jackson

Session Attended: Country Dance and Song Society - American Dance & Music Week (2016)

Dear Pinewoods and CDSS,

Thank you, thank you for giving me opportunities and friendships I could have never dreamed of without you. Thank you for allowing me to exist in such a magical place for a week and hopefully many more weeks.

Dear reader and hopefully future camper,

I have some grand things to tell you about. Because of the most wonderful NGI scholarship and all the beautiful people that help make it happen, I was able to attend CDSS’s American Week at Pinewoods. A week I could have never dreamed of attending without this scholarship. A week that has inspired me in so many ways. A week that inspired me to dance more freely and work harder to build my own dance community by volunteering at local dances, encouraging new dancers, making my own dance stronger, and supporting new and old dance coordinators.

It all began with a four hour drive from Augusta, Maine to Plymouth, Massachusetts with some of my family. A drive where Maine’s billboard laws were explained thoroughly, the meaning of said laws were questioned, and the excitement of the upcoming week of dance was heightened.

Once we arrived I was left to some of the most lovely people I’ve ever met, and my family returned to Maine. It was so overwhelming. Everything was so beautiful and grand, and here I’m tired from the car ride, covered in sweat already from the 90 degree weather, feeling a little lost, a little bit confused, and completely in awe of everything. Then a lovely fellow named Alex showed me the Schiehallion cabin where I would be staying for the week. A small cabin with a porch, many windows, and 3 beds, soon to be filled to the top with laundry and tired campers.

The first day was spent meeting roommates, swimming, eating, and late night dancing. After all of this, I was a little less lost and confused and a little more in love. Day two was a bit more hectic. Breakfast, contras and squares, waltzing, the gathering, drawing, singing, sweeping, tea, advanced contras, and dinner followed by a late night of dance, music, and swimming. Most days were like this day. With thrown in card games, cuddles, deep talks, new dance run-throughs, oreos, naps, and joke circles. I quickly learned that these thrown in things made days so much more lovely.

I learned so much during this CDSS week at Pinewoods. But my greatest learning adventure was learning how to waltz. The first two classes were so very frustrating. I had no clue as to what my feet were doing, I felt terrible for all my dance partners that I kept stepping on, and I just wanted it to magically be over and for me to just have the ability to waltz. The good news is that by the last class I took, I never wanted it to end and I sorta knew what I was doing. Gaye Fifer was a fantastic teacher even through all of my frustration.

All in all it was one of the most beautiful rejuvenating weeks of my life. I never knew that I could fall in love so deeply with a place within a week. Once again thank you for all that CDSS and Pinewoods have given me.

To end this letter this is a song that was written the week I was at Pinewoods by a camper.

“Thy ponds, round and long
And thy wealth of dance and song
And thy pines, tall and strong,
Give us joy.
As we walk on thy paths,
Beds of leaves and beds of sand,
We sing a song to salve our aching soles.
O Pinewoods, o Pinewoods,
May you live so long,
That each and ev’ry one will forget our joyful song.”

– Pinewoods Hymn written by Sam van Loon during CDSS American Week 2016