The week following our biking expedition was filled with sewing backpacks with Lisl and Nicole, our wonderful sewing instructors. The first step in the process was sewing all the different parts for the packs-the bodies, the pockets, the straps, the pocket lids, and so on. Working with all these little pieces in the beginning, it was hard to imagine an actual backpack coming together. But, we dialed in and focused, and before we knew it we were sewing our own backpacks together. Nicole brought beautiful ribbon from Ecuador that she let us use to line our pockets. Although we each sewed together our own backpacks, each one is made up of parts that the whole group created. So in a way, we all made backpacks for one another.
I really enjoyed working with Lisl to make our backpacks. We started from scratch, using just fabric and thread, and constructed beautiful and durable expedition packs. We worked in the sewing room for long periods of time, but Lisl’s positive attitude created a positive environment for us to work, make mistakes, and learn. Most semester students began the project without having previous sewing experience. However, on day five, we finished our backpacks with newly developed sewing expertise and great smiles. I felt so gratified once I could hold the backpack in front of me and say, “I finished.” Now I’m even more excited to put it to use.
The week was also filled with hard work on academics. Many guest teachers came and taught us lessons-Bob Brown taught us about New England Geology, Nathan taught Navigation, Silvano taught Biodynamics, Matias taught Permaculture, and Nora taught Creative Writing. In Nora’s class we did an exercise where we wrote continuously for five minutes in response to a reading she read. When we couldn’t think of anything else in response, we wrote whatever came to mind. When the five minutes were up, Nora asked us to pass our journals to our right. She then asked us to write a poem using only the words the person before had written. Here is Aisha’s poem, written from Whitley’s words:
this is necessary
in turbulent times
in troubled times.
How do we catch solid ground
long enough to let the sediment settle.
This must be done in many places.
Where would we be?
On a solid slab of granite
or a solid slab of marble.
If every piece settled
just a little bit within themselves
We could keep going,
this is necessary.
Once every two days we have “sit spots,” which is a time meant for being still by ourselves-sitting in the woods, the field, or whatever spot we feel connected to. This past week we have not had as much time to run around outside. So for some, sit spot time has become more active. One afternoon during sit spots, I was sitting at the edge of the woods in the field of the camp village. I began to hear rustling coming from the forest. I ignored it, thinking it was a chipmunk or something. The noise continued to grow louder and voices joined in- I recognized Griffin and Luke’s. As I watched the tops of the trees, two next to each other started shaking, and the boy’s laughter grew louder. Apparently tree climbing wasn’t the only activity that occurred during the sit spot. Later, Jule and Harry shared with us that they had gone out to the beaver pond in the Kroka woods, and paddled across it with the canoe there. They told us that once across, they cut pieces of a fallen oak for making wooden spoons.
A couple mornings ago we got up before the sun rose to take a run. The moon and the stars were still out, bright in the clear sky. On our way back, pinks and oranges appeared with the sun. When we got home, we ran straight into the pond together where fog was gently rising, swirling and dancing around all of us.
Our Paddling Expedition with Misha
The morning we left for our four day paddling expedition, Misha drove us to Bellows Falls and we swam across the Connecticut River. He asked us to climb the cliffs on the other side and find the petroglyphs- rock carvings the the Abenaki people created. When we found them, almost buried from construction materials, we sat in silence for a while. We stared at the faces in the rocks and could feel that this was a special place people long before us knew.
|Sunset on the river|
|Working on our portaging skills|
|Aisha- enjoying the river|
|Classroom by the river's side|
The one night we slept by the Connecticut we found a beautiful island to camp on. It had a beach with sand so soft it felt like being at the ocean. When the stars came out, we lay on our backs around the fire. Nora told us a story about the constellations.
|Harry cooking our dinner|
The first rapid we paddled was Sumner Falls. The swirling, churning white water carried us fast through channels of rocks. Some of us flipped, but the water wasn’t too cold and the sun was shining warm that day. By the time we left, Wilder Dam upstream had released. The water went from 800 cubic feet per second to 9,800. The river looked completely different. Most all of the rocks had disappeared.
|Hannah and Whitley- playing in the waves!|
|Griffin and Luke, taking a hard line|
|After a nice flip into the river!|
|Hyim- testing his skill in the solo canoe|
The van ride to the Deerfield River was full of singing, laughter, and some music played on Misha’s travel guitar. We arrived at camp late at night and went to sleep promptly, preparing ourselves mentally and physically for running the river rapids for the next two days. In the morning, Misha had us go find our own spots to sit next to the river. He told us to listen to what it was saying and write down what we heard. Here is what Hannah heard:
She rushes to get where I sit,
toppling over rocks, springing up white wash.
I hear her energy, high and continuous.
As she weaves through obstacles, her voice lowers.
Her rippling, spiraling intention is pronounced.
Her confidence is clear.
She sings to the pools of still water,
lapping at my feet.
On her path, she does not turn to see where it flows from,
but rather greets and welcomes the forgotten stream
that trickles in closely with her warm song.
Together they hum, softly,
Winding their way,
forward in harmony.
|Griffin and Aisha|
|Nica and Luke|
|Tikko and Zoe|
Paddling the Deerfield rapids was exhilarating. Misha taught us techniques and sometimes we stayed at one rapid for hours, practicing and flipping over and over again until we felt strong. The last day we paddled Zoar Gap, a class three rapid. Before we paddled it, Misha told us “this rapid isn’t two times harder than all the rapids you’ve paddled so far, but three.” We were very nervous. Before we ran Zoar Gap, we stopped on land to scout it and plan our passage through. After much conversation of strategy, and debate about which route would be the best, we walked back to the canoes with our partners. Some of us ran to the put-in, the adrenaline already kicking in.
It was awesome to watch partners go down the rapid, working together and the using skills that we had just learned in the past two days. Later on land, we went around in a circle and thanked our canoe partners, all expressing something we were grateful for.
Over the course of the expedition we studied Hydrology and Watersheds with Misha. We visited an 18th century grist mill and a sewage treatment plant, arriving by canoe. We learned about the water cycle, point-source and non-point source pollution, and histories of logging, flooding, and dam construction on the Connecticut and the Deerfield. Now, all of us are a lot more aware of how our actions affect the water.
|Our favorite classrooms are the ones we find on expedition!|
On our last night of expedition, Misha took out his guitar and sang us songs. Tikko sang us lullabies too. Before going to bed, we all started to sing one together. All of a sudden, we heard rumbling from the train tracks across the river. Our voices became louder together and the momentum and energy grew and grew as the train went by. After, there was silence for a while. Everyone was smiling.
|Feeling like champions!|
|On to the next adventure...|