2021 LEGENDS OF THE RIO GRANDE SEMESTER BLOG #5
Upon returning to basecamp after bikepacking we launched into a week of small group projects of many shapes and sizes. From working all day in the autumn woods to sitting in lotus position sewing, each of us found new ways to put our bodies and minds to work.
The Yurt: First, to the Yurt, the center of community, with Patrick, James, Misha & Hugh
An impossible task, they were told, to take apart the entire workshop! To lift and move and piece apart, and then to rebuild the foundation and floor, and reconstruct the entire yurt in only FIVE days!
“I never had to redirect them or encourage them. They worked so well.” –Misha
The Farmers: Zef, Diego, Lynne & Brian
The farmers loaded hay in the barn and transformed the greenhouse into a home for the chickens to stay, where the winter winds will not reach them.
The 21st Century Gamme: Samuel, Finn & Cecily
This crew was in charge of building a new structure in place of the old leaky Gamme. Hours and hours of morning chores went into digging holes for the foundation, followed by 5 days of construction.
“Every day was filled with fun. You don’t have to be miserable to get things done. You can do both.” –Cecily
Cobblers: Willow, Sarah, Ruby & Sara
Crafting the sole of one shoe took an hour, and a pair, on average, takes 10-12 hours, so you can imagine just how much of their souls went into making a pair of delightful, leather barefoot boots for each one of us. Now we can enjoy walking closer to the earth!
Makers and Fixers: Zzyn, Aeron & Emily
Zzyn and Aeron, with the gentle guidance of Emily, fixed all the holes in all of our clothing, as well as sewed a 15 x 15 foot tarp. They also made us little bags to keep us organized on our trip across the country.
“Now I can pretty much sew anything.” –Zzyn
Trail Workers: Ave, Jasmine & Ezra
Last but not least, Jasmine, Ezra, and yours truly (Avelea) spent this week making bridges, lopping branches, cutting trees, and carrying rocks. We read about the heart of the forest, the deepest point of spirit, and contemplated how we, in our own lives, in our own forest of consciousness, may all find that place, within each other, and within ourselves.
Weaving, Carving & Climbing
After completing our many and varied small projects, we bid goodbye to Trish and the gap year boys, who set off to climb the Presidential Range in the White Mountains and make canoe paddles with Kevin and Polly from Mahoosuc Guide Service up in Maine. They were bathed in rainbows, or so I heard.
Meanwhile, back at basecamp, the highschool group left to climb with Ruby and Ezra Landis, a delightful fellow with long dreadlocks atop his head, a fiery smile and deep tranquil eyes. As a group we learned once more the borders we could push, and to push our own fears away, unafraid to feel them. We learned knots, anchors and forms of encouragement to keep each other climbing.
We rose very early on Tuesday morning and drove to Mount Monadnock. At the trailhead we were surprised to find that Ezra Landis had multiplied, and we all met Owen, his twin brother. Hiking under the morning stars, we wove our way up to the farthest peaks, and hand in hand, wind whipping, eyes closed, we sang the sun into the sky. In the midst of all the adventure, a cold front came to bless the earth with its frosty kisses. Along with the turn of the seasons, many of us felt a turn in our own bodies and a cold made its way from person to person.
After a long day of climbing with the twins, we returned to basecamp to find an expansive dinner made by Sam, and harvested herbs strung up to dry by Jasmine, recovering from the cold. We left the next morning on expedition, stopping to test our climbing skills at Rumney, which offered a combination of the face and crack climbing we had been practicing the last couple days. Throughout the day, the air echoed with the calls of each person taking charge of their Big Jobs: “Take your astragalus,” Finn called. “Bring your helmets over,” said Sarah as she packed them into the van. “Is everyone drinking water?” Zzyn asked sweetly, covering for Zef. And as Willow pulled out our seventh snack of the day, Aeron hopped in the front of the van to help Ruby navigate us to the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. With the Patrick, James and Zef gone, we had a chance to step in and step up and hold their Biga Jobs as well as our own.
We arrived at Lazy Mill Hill Farm under the heavy blanket of darkness and made a swamp of cheesy rice for dinner (though the sicklings, myself included, ate rice with sunflower seeds, instead).
The following days were filled with rest and crafting. A fire burned all day in the old-growth orchard and tea was plentiful to ward off the cold. Penny, a professional weaver, guided us and a smile curled up onto my face as I saw her bare feet moving through the frosted grass. First, we pounded ash logs, watching the strips of wood fall to the earth. We scraped, measured, and cut uprights and weavers, and, finally, we sat on the ground and started weaving. Our baskets grew, seemingly on their own accord, up into our own creations.
Two days later, as the sun came out and seeped through the clouds, we bid goodbye to Penny, Finn, Penny’s son and semester alumni, and to the Northeast Kingdom. As we were heading home, James, Zef, Patrick and Tricia descended the mountains, facing the wind and the snow. “They pushed really hard,” Tricia said later in an evening meeting.
Even though we were separated on two different adventures, this week really demonstrated and reinforced our care for one another; whether the challenge was a mountain, a cold, or a climb.
Why We Climb (by Patrick)
What is it about mountains that attracts us to their peaks? This is a question I have asked myself in the past, and a question I was reminded of on our traverse of the Presidential Range in the White Mountains. It’s one of those things that we don’t think about, yet so many people do. Why? What is it that humans get from hiking?
There seems to be a primal instinct in humankind to reach the summit. It seems to be in our DNA, somewhere ingrained in our genetic code. Or maybe it’s not so scientific. Maybe it’s the feeling of accomplishment from reaching the highest point of an enormous mass of land and rock. Or rather, is it the longing for such magnificent views at the end, where one can gaze over miles upon miles of earth and sea with the naked eye? It could be as simple as a great way to exercise whilst surrounded by the natural world around us. There are countless reasons why we hike up mountains, and I believe you will get different answers from different people. That is so beautiful.
For me, I can appreciate all of these, but what really attracts me is in the journey. It is a meditative ascent, one where I am alone in my thoughts and present in my body. A place I go to find impregnable solitude to be with myself. This walk is therapy. It brings me peace over mind and spirit that silences critics and casts away judgement: a serenity that diminishes fears, mends wounds and holds softly. Hiking up mountains has been a sacred ritual that I practice alone, and with the ones I love the most. Hiking is something I am so grateful for, and something I hold dear to my heart.