A Final Thesis

by: Natalie PontikesEliza Luden&Ned Hallahan


Back in August, we Arcadians marveled at the quotation-ridden walls of our composting toilet, the Clivus Multrum, surprised that our bathroom walls for the semester could contain such insightful wisdom. The first few times using “the Clive,” we probably spent more time that we should have sitting on the wooden seat because the quotations left behind by former Arcadians instilled a strong sense of anticipation in us. As the Arcadian portion of our semester wraps up in this week before Thanksgiving, we are contemplating what final theses we will leave behind in the Clive before we say goodbye to our beloved village.

In our early September Arcadian days, the twelve us sat around our outdoor campfire ring bearing guitars, ukuleles, and eagerness to sing with one another. We were only just beginning to form our relationships and community at the time. On this past Saturday night, we decided to end our semester on the same note with a campfire singalong in the community yurt. While belting out Taylor Swift and Train songs all evening, we realized that our community had grown in ways we hadn’t anticipated from the start.

This past week brought moments of joyous comradery to Arcadia. We found ourselves throwing mixing bowls and balls of dough around the kitchen simply for the fun of it. We found ourselves screaming into the Massawepie abyss due to stress-inducing papers for Glenn’s class and jumping naked into the almost frozen lake alongside one another to cope with that stress. Legless snow angels have appeared on the snowy barge, and multiple loaves of bread have emerged from the oven, some successful, some not so much. A few of us even found ourselves cutting each other’s hair at woodworking class.

Our community has indeed been fostered through strange and blissful happenings, and we couldn’t be happier with the result. At our campfire on Saturday night, many instruments sounded and many voices sang out, symbolizing the support and bravery within our community. At dinner, a nervous Kim Covill said, “I don’t know guys…I don’t like singing in front of people.” But a few hours later, Kim fearlessly shared her talents with the group.

The semester has begun to wrap up, bringing ups and downs along with it. November has brought looming anticipation for the spring semester through early morning course registration, housing forms, and program applications. Much to our relief, the sun has decided to make an appearance as well, helping us enjoy our last few days here before we must think too heavily of the spring semester.

In some ways, the sky reminds us of the earlier sun-filled days that began our semester, but the differences between then and now are undeniable. A layer of snow coats the ground, and we must keep our water jugs in the kitchen to prevent their freezing. Our community has changed along with the weather. Like the sun we have been blessed with these last few days, the individuals who began the semester shine through. However, we are no longer just individuals; we have fostered a culture shaped by our professors Mark Sturges, Eileen Visser, and Glen Harris, our director team Cathy Shrady, Will Madison, and Kim Covill, and past Arcadians. Ultimately, though, we have also formed our own community.

During the semester in our Land-Use Change in the Adirondacks course, our professor Glen Harris would not allow us to write a thesis for our papers. He believes that in order to make an opinion or argument about a place, you have to know it first. This week, for our final paper, he allowed us to write a thesis statement, confident that we have learned enough about the Adirondacks this semester to make an argument about it.

For many of us, the walls of the Clive also present a thesis that argues for a particular vision of Arcadian life and its fundamental value. Many of us have refrained from adding our own words to those walls until this week; we hadn’t yet felt comfortable with our knowledge of this place to assume the responsibility of leaving advice for future Arcadians. This week, that hesitation has vanished. Many of us have added words of wisdom—or plan on adding them—to the walls of the Clive. We are finally confident with our knowledge of Arcadia to add our own theses to the ongoing argument of Arcadia.

In our first days of the semester, the director team told us, “The Arcadian community is what you make of it.” Now our individual legacies will remain on the walls of the Clive until they too become compost, and our community legacy will be passed on to future Arcadians through these quotations left behind. Meanwhile, each of us will carry our memories from Arcadia into our remaining years at St. Lawrence and beyond.