By Tori DiBiase and Alexis Dorsey
"Only human beings have come to a point where they no longer know why they exist. They have forgotten the secret knowledge of their bodies, their senses, their dreams." Lame Deer (quoted in Suzuki's Sacred Balance)
This week Arcadians took their immersion in nature to the next level by looking through the lens of other cultures. We explored three continents by learning about the mystery of shamanism, studying wilderness in Africa, and by engaging in Native American and African rituals.
In the beginning of the week, during our Knowing Nature class, Professor Cathy Shrady enlightened us about her experiences in Peru with shamanism, the indigenous practice of healing through spirits of the natural world. Much like the shamans, we focused on the intelligence of nature. Through this we blurred the line between human and other species, strengthening our respect for the world in which we live.
Toward the end of the week we continued the connection between human and nature in Erik Backlund's class, the Wilderness Idea. We discussed how in Africa communities and the land are interconnected, much like the values of the Adirondack semester. Instead of nature being seen as a separate entity from the civilized world, Africans consider themselves to be living in and among the natural. They incorporate rituals of thanks to the land, such as drumming, that we were fortunate enough to practice ourselves.
This past Friday night we drummed for hours to the rhythm of our hearts with Len Mackey, a local indigenous music enthusiast. Using various instruments such as the djembe and didgeridoo, we learned native songs and chants.
On Saturday we were visited by Joe Longsore and Roger Stevenson, who taught us Native American teachings and facilitated a sweat lodge. We experimented with fire and tools and learned about birdcalls. Finally, when it got dark, we participated in an hour-long sweat lodge, a Native American tradition used for the purpose of giving thanks and for meditation. Everyone felt the powers of the lodge either through chants, Joe's words, or the stones sizzling in the center. "This experience allowed me to give more appreciation to those around me, and my family back home, and the natural world," said Sam, after jumping in the cold Lake Massawepie following the sweat lodge. Braulio agreed. "I could feel the music in my heart and the love that burst through everyone's chanting," he said. He and his fellow Arcadians are still singing some of the chants. By the end of the weekend, everyone was filled with praise and love for nature and those around us, and were ready to take on our last few weeks at Arcadia.