Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Final Update

Dear Graduates of the 2012 Kroka Vermont Semester,

It is June 12.  A beautiful Graduation has come and gone. Our Kroka village is quiet now, while here in the office we are looking forward to the start of the summer season.  This morning I ran through the woods before chores.  The forest was filled with bird song, the slap of the beaver’s tail on the pond, the breeze through the tall ferns, the opalescent sunrise, and an overwhelming feeling of connectedness. 
This is my home.  I live and work here.  This is where I find meaning in my days.  And for five months, I have shared this home, this life and work and meaning, with you. So I want to thank you.  Thank you for your hard work, your time, your commitment, your joy and humor and loving kindness. I feel so lucky to be here, to wake every day to work that I can do with love and joy and gratitude, to be blessed with the opportunity to teach and guide and learn from young people like the nine of you.

Yours truly,
Lu Neuse
Vermont Semester Teacher

Ps. Here is Willie’s final update, and excerpts from some of your writing.  You have all accomplished amazing things.  I hope you are as proud of yourselves as I am of all of you.

Hello again everyone!

Our final week has been SUPER intense. On Wednesday, May 30, we continued to work on lodge reconstruction with Laurel and Ken. We filled in the gaps in the wooden frame with more and more poles. After we were done working on the lodge for the day, Nate came to begin preparing us for our final presentation. Presentation prep began with a game of miniature tanks, which involved everyone in the group on their hands and knees in a circle saying “miniature tanks” repeatedly while trying to move straight across the room without stopping, turning, or altering their course in any way. Also, 6th graders from Edwards Middle School in Boston arrived for a three-day program. Once again, we got to eat dinner with a visiting school group. 

On Thursday morning, we did our chores with the help of the 6th graders, and then got back to working on the lodge. By the end of the day we had finished laying the poles and we began doing the unthinkable, roofing. First we laid wide strips of reused billboard material from the lodge’s old roof as a skirt. We also laid it in the vertical crevasses between the main body of the lodge and the doorway and dormer as extra protection against leakage. Ken gave us a brief lesson in roofing, telling us to lay the roofing materials like shingles with the higher pieces overlapping over the top of the lower pieces to keep water out, and we began putting on the main waterproofing layer, Delta-MS, a material normally used in waterproofing foundations. 

On Friday, we worked with the 6th graders during chores again. They left later that day. As far as the lodge went, we finished putting on the Delta-MS, leaving only the final living layer of sod to be laid. Saturday, unfortunately, was a rainy day. We devoted the entire day to working on finishing our academic work. Sunday, June 3 was also begun with academic work, but in the afternoon, Nate came for our second presentation prep. 

For dinner, we went to Gilsum to the home of Bill and Katie, the owners of Badger, who are big supporters of Kroka. Monday was a similar day to Sunday. We worked on academic and other miscellaneous work for half of the day and were joined by Nate in the afternoon for yet another presentation prep session. In the evening, after eating with the 4th, 5th, and 6th graders of Cambridge Montessori School who had just arrived, Lu, Adam, Josia, Malcolm, Dean, and I got gussied up and picked up Nate to head to Nelson to go to the contra dance. 

We had a great time and some of us (me) danced for the first time at a contra dance (with the exception of the contra dance at NorthWoods). We got back late, though, so we added to our self-inflicted sleep deprivation. On Tuesday morning, we did chores with the help of the Cambridge Montessori students, who were very enthusiastic and helpful. Nate came for a morning presentation prep session. After lunch, we worked on our semester book covers. I also had the privilege of making enchiladas for the group for dinner. After dinner, we went back to Bill and Katie’s house for a transition workshop. We focused on worries and goals pertaining to the end of the semester and made collages to represent aspects of our current lives. Wednesday morning also began with chores assisted by the Cambridge Montessori students. We went back to Gilsum after chores for breakfast with Lisl and the transition workshop with Katie. We returned to Kroka for lunch, our big job presentations, and presentation prep with Nate.
Afterwards, we all headed over to Misha and Lynne’s house for dinner. They served a delicious meal of burritos and lemonade, with smoothies for dessert. We stayed for a slide show from the 2011 Paddlers Up North program and Misha’s expeditionary past. We went off to bed feeling good.

Thursday and Friday were filled with finishing our Big Job work, binding our semester books, and getting ready to say goodbye.  Grandfather came to run a sweat lodge on Thursday night, and on Friday we had appreciation circles, where we took time to honor the special things each of us had brought to our community.  On Saturday morning, we awoke together in the Big Yurt (where we also slept the last night before expedition began), ready to embark on our next big journey.

I hope you enjoyed hearing from the 2012 Kroka Expeditions Vermont Semester.  Thank you to all who supported us and made this possible.


Excerpts from recent student work...

I declare that I love the cool night air.
I always say there's no time other than today.
I praise laughing singing summer days
I denounce those who take more than their allowance.
I believe in the stones in the sky in the trees.
I support living life cause life is short.
I uphold sky of blue sun of gold.
I commend having no regrets when it comes to the end.
I appreciate all my gifts small and great.
I revere anyone who knows their hopes loud and clear.
I adore giving your heart for all its for.
I believe everyone has a tapestry to weave.
I imagine everyone sharing their gift within.
I believe in the birds, butterflies, and bees.
I have learned so much, my life's path has turned.
I understand that all we have came from the land.
I believe in being proud of the legacies we leave.
I am proud to take my new voice and sing loud. 

At certain points on our Semester Expedition I was very afraid. Sometimes this fear was justified, sometimes irrational, but all of it was genuine. I am most afraid of things I don’t understand. The day we crossed Woodward Reservoir I did not understand ice. Miles of frozen water lay ahead and behind as we skated across on our skis. Ice, no matter how thick, shifts slightly under weight, and sporadic groaning and popping marked our passage as the ice rubbed and cracked beneath us. This “ice artillery” put me on edge. But when a series of hairline cracks opened several feet away with a dull thump, my instincts went into a frenzy. I was group Navigator that day and needed to concentrate on my orientation and the route ahead or risk getting lost. I had to focus, not be hysterical. The only option was to forge ahead, holding my composure as best I could and lead the group to our next landmark. The rest of the group sang and laughed the whole time, but I was trapped in my own phobia. The ice was far thicker than was needed to safely cross, but convincing my panicked brain was another thing entirely. Semester showed me how to meet my personal challenges directly instead of sidestepping them. The first time I canoed solo I firmly never wanted to do it again. The harder I had pushed and strained to move the boat forward or change direction, the more off-course I had gone. I was reduced to swearing at the wind and water and myself, to no effect. After a few days on the River I still hadn’t paddled in the stern, let alone tried to paddle solo. I realized I would be ashamed of finishing a river trip unable to paddle a canoe on my own. So I owned up. I paddled in the stern for the next few days, and then soloed once I could steer, continuing until I felt totally confident. I can now say I have paddled a canoe by myself, in beautiful sunshine, driving rainstorms, and even into a beautiful sunset.
With this learning I can now turn to the future. The week ahead is a confluence of two currents, a time when the Semester’s flow runs back into the rushing torrent of the outside world. I cannot turn back to the beginning, to the joys or the low points, nor would I if I could. Now is the real beginning. Now is the time to balance the lessons of the journey, the sorrow of its passing, and the satisfaction of its finish. -Adam

I am my morals more now.  The blood of the oak is running hot in my veins and the words coming out of my mouth sound like truth sound like power sound like who I want to become. -Josia

On April 23, our spring truly began.  On a cool rainy day, we set out in our canoes, trudging up the Clyde River into the wind.  It is undeniable that the winter was equally amazing, but there was a uniquely special feeling that accompanied the river expedition. Life sprang into existence and we were blessed with wild edibles. Fiddleheads, dandelions, basswood leaves, and violets landed in our salads.  Just as the green around us was reborn, so were we.
We returned to Kroka as the air was warming, summer was coming, and thunderstorms beautifully distorted the atmosphere.  We reentered the morning chore routines we had once known, and greeted the animals once again.  We transitioned from living under a tarp, our spring sleeping arrangement, to living in wood and earth lodges, as we had in January.  Our days were spent rebuilding another wood and earth lodge, which had been prone to flooding, and working with visiting school children, who were getting a small dose of the life we are now at home in.
Now we have completed our journey, but a new one is beginning. We will once again be thrown into the current of the mainstream, but this time armed with new skills, knowledge, wisdom, and rejuvenated souls.  There is so much to take home from this experience, this adventure.  New friendships are an obvious result.  Despite being spread out over hundreds, and in some cases thousands of miles, I am certain that we can remain as tight as siblings.  Another souvenir is a new notion of what is right, what is good, and what is beautiful.  I will never think of food the same way again.  A handmade dwelling seems preferable to a conventionally constructed home.  Transportation powered by the body allows for more appreciation time, never mind a positive physical impact as well as prevention of a negative one.  I will never ignore the consequences of displacing or removing a part of the natural world.  I will never forget that beneath everything should lay love. I have found a new home.  -Willie

Scrape away the dead matter.  Take handfuls of the decomposing life and throw it out of your mind, cast it as far from you as possible.  Forget it and look.  See what is underneath.  There is dirt.  The leaves have been blown by a curious wind into a forgotten pile of useless scraps.  A hole has been dug. A window into the earth and into the substance from which everything grows.  There is life in here.  A hard, shelled seed falls, blown by an unintending wind, into the earth. It nestles its way into the soft, wet ground. Time and water flow through and in the seed something stirs.  A thought to grow. A crack from the tip of the seed splits it in two and a pale green shoot presses its way out.  With no regard for gravity it moves.  Up and out, through the ground and the rotting layer of ideas covering it.  White light and then flickering, swaying shadows of leaves play across our young plant and it grows.  Grows into a vast earth-changing concept.  Many- branched, with roots cracking and breaking the rock beneath.  Well-founded and sunk into the society of the wood.  Only after many years does it in turn drop its new ideas of children into the ground and give back to the earth.
Here in the heart of life is the cycle.  It takes from the dirt and then in its time it gives more back.  A debt of responsibility is paid, for dirt is a responsibility. It is the lifeblood of our planet. It grows the trees and plants that feed our world.  Catches the water that falls from the sky. Forms the great flowing architecture of the landscape. Guides rivers and trickling clear streams through valleys and over slippery, mossy rocks.  It grows turnips. -Everett

The whole world is one. But I am a part of this world too, I am also one.  Maybe the greater part of me was calling back to Dean the body and mind, the smallest part.  If I believe this, I should be able to be the world, not a tourist.  The butterfly and the ant, the tree and the tomato plant, they are my other halves. -Dean

All plants depend on soil. All of life is cradled in the brown decaying muck.  Moss needs dirt as much as any other plant.  It pulls nutrients and water from it, but as it takes it gives.  Giving and taking, not the same things, not a closed cycle, but an irreplaceable part of a larger one.  I always want to be part of that cycle too. -Michal

The portage- a challenge conquered only by ones own will and determination.  This act is similar to life in the sense that willpower and determination are essential to success and happiness…
Looking forward to the next few years of my life gives me the same feeling I experience when picking up my packbasket at the beginning of a long portage.  In a few days, after graduating semester, I return to Kroka for the summer and shoulder more responsibility than I have ever found myself entrusted with.  It will be hard, and I will certainly have to push myself, but I believe I can handle it.  
I have so far been able to achieve happiness in my life.  I hope to follow it up with success.  It seems that the portage doesn’t end with the semester.  I intend to carry this canoe for many years. -Conor

Home is defined by the people around, and here is the home I have found. -Malcolm

Dear Lu,
Your determination, hard work and mostly your love towards everyone and all things have contributed greatly to make this semester such a success! THANK YOU SO MUCH!
With gratitude in our hearts we wish you a wonderful summer.
The semester students, their families and all Kroka staff


  1. This might help you in working out in your house if you intall underground rainwater tanks.

    underground rainwater tanks

  2. Replies
    1. Hello Joe! This is the last journal, written by Willie! The journals are listed backwards, which is a little confusing, but here is the link to the first journal which I wrote


    2. Oh ok, thanks, I know it's a little creepy that your much older and stuff and don't think I'm creepy but we should keep in touch just to say hi once in a while and tell everyone at camp the next time you go I said hi :D