Sunday, March 18, 2012

Update 7

Gratitude Attitude

To have the gratitude attitude, one must be conscious of and thankful for the gifts received in life. 
I am thankful for many gifts.  The Smilie School has allowed us to camp on the property. Wild sumac provided us with great tea. The teachers gave us the means to make hot chocolate. I am thankful for  boughs and the wonderful floor they make; unparalleled by cardboard. 
I am thankful to be here, right now, with these people, with this community, on this expedition. This truly is a great experience, which few people ever know. I am thankful I am one of the few.
Perhaps most importantly, I am thankful to be thankful. It feels good to be thankful. Every gift received becomes better when acknowledged as a gift.  To have gratitude is to be happy.

This leg was the leg of our Group Solo.

We have chosen camp alone before, we have set up camp alone before, and we have navigated and skied alone before; we have been on our own, but not all at once. This was a true test of how strong we are together.

Before the Group Solo:
On one day that we navigated and skied alone, Lu & Andrew waved goodbye with their backpacks on and skied off before we had finished taking down the tent. The night before we had agreed to camp and reunite along three little ponds around 10k away, and we would see them then.

We were nervous that they were leaving but we knew that they were leaving tracks. There were several chances where we could have taken a different route, or a shortcut over easier terrain, and we have certainly ignored teacher tracks before.

Sometimes they’ve gone the wrong way to try and trick us, and we didn’t fall for that back then! But today, the way it went, we stayed alongside the teacher tracks and felt some more secure in our position, but not as proud.

The Catamount Trail spat us out onto the side of a large straight road, which baffled our navigator of the day Conor, and everyone else, for some time. The teacher tracks were still with us but where were we? We walked up some of it and came across some water, and suddenly it all made sense! The Catamount must have been rerouted yet again, as we’ve learned and been stumped by many times, and judging from the brook and the pond we must be much farther along than we thought! We did not go North and then East, we had gone a squirrely, disorienting Northeast.

It was after a slow half kilometer road walk that we came across Golf Course Road, and Malcolm Master Navigator remembered seeing that on the maps before. We found the intersection on the map and it was a couple kilometers past the three little ponds.


As it turns out the Catamount had not been rerouted, but our teachers had skied past our agreed-upon destination, and we had trusted their tracks instead of our own navigational sense and instincts.

The shadows were getting longer but we felt we had to get to those three ponds one way or another on the account that we were separated, so we started walking and laughing.

At that moment, Lu & Andrew found us, and we were able to pick a camp right near where we were. They had bought us ice cream and we all ate it together that night, talking about the crazy Catamount.

The next day we visited the Lepine sisters.  I was not able to go, so Josia wrote about the visit…

Imagine yourself walking up to a small house overlooking picturesque Vermont rolling fields, the patchy snow turned mucky from multitudes of cattle strolling over it. It’s about midmorning and the sunny air feels like spring on your t-shirt clad body.  You are a little sweaty after the ski from a tucked-away liveover camp. As you approach the door, a little dog begins voicing its operas through the ripped screen door, and three opinionated, strong female voices are raised in response.  The air inside the hours is warm, the walls coated in beautiful paintings from all sorts of local artists, and on the kitchen table is a mug of unfinished cocoa set down next to recent newspapers. This is the house of Gert, Jeanette, and Marie Lepine. They are native Vermont farmers, sisters who a few years ago sold their family dairy farm after an eighty-plus year lifetime of managing it.

Over the few hours we were welcomed into their home, we learned of old and new ways of dairy farming; from squirting milk at your brother to an electric tagging system.  We heard about  the adventures of a Pan Am flight attendant from Jeanette, self dubbed “Jeanette Lepine, International Garbage Queen”.  We tasted the delicious intricacies of raw Holstein milk and chocolate chip cookies.

The Lepine sisters are really more than all of that. 
As one of our group’s few female members, the highlight of my morning was Gert’s response to my inquiry about running the farm as a women. She said that people would come to the farm and look around for a while.  When she asked if they needed something, would say that they were looking for the boss. Gert would point to her chest and say "right here" very proudly. 
These women, who some might consider to be "just" old farmer sisters, are still cutting their own 6 cords of wood with a chainsaw and studying the birds that feed outside their window. They are full of passion and life and stories about the gallery they used to own, Gert's teaching stint, Marie’s restaurant, and Jeanette’s aeronautic adventures, all on top of their dairy farm. Talking to them, it is easy to imagine that with enough will and work, anything is possible. They pushed us all to think hard about what we want to do with our lives. 

As I left their house, my pack a tiny bit heavier from the wonderful weight of blueberries and maple syrup, my heart was shining and loving life.  I felt relaxed, at home and empowered to live in this world, going through with my ideas and learning forever.

A few days before the end of the leg, Lu & Andrew brought us into a circle.  We listened to a poem and sang together in a field of melted snow and soft mossy grass and warm gray branches.

We were about to separate and set off on our Group Solo, three days that many of us were scared of. How could the 9 of us keep moving smoothly and get along without our teachers? I was sure that we would know what to do. I was not sure that we would be able to do it. It is hard to be led by your peers if you are in disagreement. Taking criticism is a hard task.

We broke the hand circle and said goodbye to Andrew & Lu.

We brought the circle back together, arms over each other’s shoulders as they walked off, and suddenly it didn’t feel like such a mountain to cross. I believe everyone else felt that too, because we shared that even though we were worried, we would do all right. Which was right.

Later that day we were done with dinner before dark and breakfast was already cooked and ready to be reheated for the morning. The tarp went up and the tent was set strong in the best available space. During our Evening Share we shared just how unbelievable it was that we were solid enough to have organized an Evening Share, or even have time for one.

This beautiful rhythm continued over the remaining days, and we made many important memories.

We visited the Elmore Store and bought local ice cream, apple cider, strudels and muffins with some of our group money. The lady who ran the store was very nice and gave us a loaf of one-day-old raisin bread, which we saved for tomorrow’s breakfast, and it was delicious. The lady asked to look at my knife and was impressed that we had all made our handles, but reassured me that her knife was bigger, which it was! It was closer to a machete behind that desk! Our group lunched together under the sun, which was melting all of our snow, but giving us a dry green hill to picnic on. Very importantly, we limited our time and kept moving when it was coming to an appropriate end.

I haven’t talked much about our Layovers but I believe Heartbeet deserves the recognition. They are a biodynamic farm and life-sharing community, involving many capable adults with special needs.  Heartbeet just recently became North America’s 12th Camphill, but I can tell you a bit more than that.

We sleep in the hayloft where the hay has been cleared, but we can sleep in the hay itself with our sleeping bags. Noah did and convinced me to as well. I honestly found the most comfortable position in the world and I woke up not knowing if I was actually lying down or just drifting. Below us are chickens, roosters, calves, cows, pigs, goats, and ducks, and I love their calls coming up in the morning, even the rooster.

When I walk down the dirt roads everyone smiles at me and I shake their hand and meet them and learn their names. I learned how to milk and when it was time to finish and I was checked, there was barely any milk left! I had a great conversation with a woman around my mom’s age and I learned how she came to Heartbeet looking for a different life because she was, the word wasn’t frustrated but she didn’t know what it was, back at home and the idea of coming to a farm was beautiful. She said she’s been writing imagination stories lately and maybe she would write one for me. She’s practicing and is hoping to work up to something much longer someday.

Jonathon, the co-founder alongside his wife Hannah, came to our lunch yesterday in the tent, which we’ve set up in a field. He was so excited to share his and Heartbeet’s philosophies with us that he hadn’t finished his first bowl by the time we were on thirds! He said that originally he was not sure why they had started Heartbeet in Hardwick, there was not much going on, but now it is a huge center for young entrepreneurs with big ideas who want to do well for the customer and be involved in the community. I asked him if he thought they had just gotten lucky with the town or if they had influenced the change. He laughed and said he thought it was destiny, and told me, “Even though I don’t believe in chance, I have found myself lucky.”

If you are trying to do something good, the little miracles you need have a way of finding you.

We visited a Waldorf school and presented ourselves and what we are here for with members of the community and young students. We set up the tent and made hot drinks over the stove, and they stood inside it with mugs of yellow birch and spruce tea. We sang songs and taught about trees and shared some of our poetry back in the school building. Willie, Adam and I shared a little more about ourselves with short personal narratives and I was proud to stand in front of that small crowd and remember how I came to be here. I was very glad that we were able to go there.
I am very glad that we are able to be here.

Work from Pushups and Poetry



to learn independently
to feel empowered
unlike the way we are
when help is showered
to give a shot at what was learned
after all what else do we need
you watered the plant inside us
it’s time for us to sew the seed


I look around earth and every person has a gift that they offer. Ones so special and unique I can’t help but accept it. Some stand tall and shout to the world “here it is” Some quietly kneel down and extend a hand. There are those whose gift is so natural they don’t know they have one.
Each gift is differently given
Some laid at your feet with fanfare
Others a little token under our pillow or simply in the palm of an outstretched hand with no more explanation than a wink and each of them with a different wrapping. Newspaper and twine for this while bows and bobble on that and no matter how they come forth, you know that each comes from that place in the heart
The place where sad music touches your happiest memories
With the knowledge of where they come from you cannot help but appreciate them. And with that appreciation all you want to do is answer
Answer with your gift


It’s pretty incredible
what a group can do
to a person
so today
I was doing something as mundane
as walking down the stairs
quite and echoey and cavernous
cold and concrete, uninviting in their semi-lit state
and I was singing
but it was more than that
at home, I used to sing too
not loudly
but to myself
under my breath
and then stop
as soon as I knew
someone my be drawing close
so today
as I was sweeping the stairs
I realized
it wasn’t quiet
or secretive
but open
and free
and I knew then that part of me
the inner, joyful, loving bit
is flying right now
as much as it complains about my cold ears
deprived of their bunny hat in the wash
it knows
that it is welcome
so incredibly excited
to be itself
that all it can do
is sing


the flight of the grouse
whirling upwards

the track of the mink
bounding between trees
the gurgle of the stream
under the ice
the slopes of the hills
rolling away
the monolithic boulders bearded wih moss
the flat expanse of a beaver swamp
under the sky
the clouds fleeing the wind
grey and white and purple
all the earth humming
weaving its way
the crackle of the fire
awoken from the trees
and brought forth
to speak as well
by me

I’ve been sitting here watching Adam finish cooking and adding spices, and I keep thinking to myself. Wasn’t that tomato powder added too late? Do we need that much salt? He’s doing it a different way than I would want to see if it works. He’s learning much more than I am right now. But sometimes I want to try it my way and learn too. I would love to have my own pot of barley and taste it as it boils until it burns, so I can learn the path it takes and not just ask for the answer. It cooks in 0 minutes. I would love to learn the paths of many things until they all come out beautifully.

What I hope to retain from semester

There are a lot of things I want to continue past my time at Kroka. Here are a few.
Waking up early. Our days are often 5:30am to 9:30pm. It feels like doubling your money to have a day that active, especially when you’re living outside for most of that. It’s not always possible, but its great to have no watch.
Wilderness spirituality. When we sing before blessing meals or “greet the day” for “morning meditation” or thank the resources we use and eat, it spices up the mundane, and lends a deeper meaning to our world.
Relationship to work. I’ve learned here that no work is beneath you, and also that all work can be done beautifully and create a work of art from everyday tasks. A janitor can be the life of a school, and to sweat daily is wonderful. Washing our dishes by hand, or chopping firewood instead of burning fossil fuels is more work but well worth it.

Living in the circle of the sun. There’s a satisfaction in well-earned exhaustion and its great to exercise simply by living. Food, energy, and all other things are gifts and well earned when you try.
Natural Knowledge. I know more about the weather, navigation, trees, water, outdoor living, firewood and wilderness skills ten I ever thought possible. Just surviving or outlasting the elements is not the point. The goal is to thrive outdoors, to live well in primitive settings and to feel at home.
Conscious lifestyle. Kroka gives priority to ethical and sustainable practices, whether it be local organic food, energy efficient housing, or environmental education. Its empowering to see the overwhelming goal of living more responsibly on the earth become a daily reality.
Constant education. Kroka has taught me to ask the good questions and not just questions. I’ve never learned in the same constant way that days here on semester are filled with. We learn a tree one moment and then that evening I memorize a poem and make a dinner for nine. At the same time this break from continual academics here has made me even more hungry to go off to college in 6 months
Good habits. I get up early every day. I cook much of my food, I at least have a solid relationship to it, and know exactly where it’s from. I am involved in the energy use, splitting firewood and using electricity prudently. I journal often, from basic to-do lists to reflection ad brainstorming goals for the future. I’m outside every day and exercising so much more. I feel empowered, optimistic about the world and my place in it.
And even more to come in the two and a half months ahead…

1 comment:

  1. You've made it to Elmore and so much more. The scenery is beautiful to see; thanks for a glimpse of the Green Mountains. Aloha to Everett from us and from Al & Mo in Maui!