by: Michael Greenwood
Ryan stands at the front of the crowd, jumping back and forth as he recounts his and Marly’s experience on the Raquette River rapids during the canoe trip. As his story reaches its climax, he details his astonishment when Marly jumped out onto a rock to free their boat from the rapid. A round of laughter and applause from the audience ensues.
It was Friday the 12th of October, and we Arcadians had traveled to Raquette River Brewing for the Howl Story Slam, a live storytelling event hosted by North Country Public Radio and the Adirondack Center for Writing. The theme of the night was “taking a leap of faith, or going for it.”
From St. Lawrence alums to internship partners, we met many Adirondackers that night. Eight of us told stories of different ways that we “went for it”—stories of haircuts, hockey try-outs, hiking trips, nighttime skiing adventures, dogs and solar eclipses. And in turn, each person was taking of leap of faith by standing in front of a crowd of one hundred people and sharing their five-minute story.
Friday’s story slam was just one opportunity this week that we had to “go for it.” Tuesday we made sculptures in Creative Expressions of Nature, which were modeled after the work of Andy Goldsworthy. Each student spent two hours creating a piece of art made exclusively from the organic materials around us.
On Wednesday our Natural History and Ecology class took a field trip to the Wild Center in Tupper Lake. We spent most of the day marveling at the exhibits and wildlife, later getting a back-room tour of the inner workings of the center.
Both classes gave us an opportunity to appreciate our surroundings here in the Adirondacks. At the Wild Center we were able to see how all the systems we’ve been studying in Ecology class are interconnected. With our sculptures we used our knowledge of local ecology to create our own art, and took a leap of faith by showing them to our classmates.
Saturday we sent several “bomber first ascents” at a new climbing spot on the Massawepie property. Experienced climbers and newbies alike tried their hand at climbing the wet, mossy rocks. One of last year’s Arcadians, Garret, and another SLU climber, Hunter, showed us the literal ropes. The climbing was difficult as we battled through periods of sleet, but we left the wall in high spirits.
That night, Dan Berggren, a well-known Adirondack singer, joined us for dinner and some delicious pie prepared by Natalie. We then moved from the kitchen to the community yurt for an evening of Dan’s songs and Adirondack history. He told stories of the dangerous work done in logging camps, then sang us the songs that kept those loggers going. He encouraged us throughout the night to sing along when we could, and by the end of the night we had our very own Arcadian choir. His last song was one that he wrote after a night spent with a past group of ADK Semester students. The song, called “Occupy This Moment,” had a chorus that really struck home: “When we occupy this moment, we occupy this world.”
After a very busy Saturday, we all crashed hard and enjoyed our later Sunday wake up. Saturday’s climbing allowed us to really push our comfort zones and go for it. Dan’s songs and reflections on community made us realize that it is the strong community here at Arcadia which helps us to keep “going for it” and pushing our boundaries.
On Monday we had guests who were themselves going for it, in a sense. President Fox and his wife Lynn came to observe our Knowing Nature class and stayed to have afternoon tea with us. We each shared a journal entry with the Foxes and spoke with them about the important lessons we’ve been learning this semester.
It was truly a week of going for it, and each time we as Arcadians took a leap of faith, we were rewarded for it, whether in the form of a day spent climbing outside or a night cultivating community indoors. One of the best rewards of the week came at the story slam in Tupper Lake. Ryan’s tale of canoeing ended up winning the competition! We all can’t wait to be watch him take another leap of faith as he performs another story at the Grand Slam event in December.