What is it that drives us to the ocean, to shorelines, out on the water where the blues turn to grey, the ripples build to waves, the zephyrs strengthen into gales? We are a landlocked school, tucked up next to rock-ribbed granite of New Hampshire. Our proximity is to rivers and lakes, to ski mountains and biking trails. And yet, as today’s launching of Ocean Classroom reminds us, we are drawn to the ocean, to harbors, waterfronts, lighthouses and passages that bear us outward. Today nearly two dozen students will go to Boston and find the Roseway, Captain Flansberg, a World Ocean School crew, and two Proctor educators. They will walk the decks with their duffels over their shoulders to ease down gangways and find assigned berths below. They are beginning their term at sea. That beckoning to adventure and discovery, that call to the sea, is in us all.
We all know the Harry Potter series, and most are familiar with the beginning of the school year at Hogwarts when new students find themselves placed in houses like Gryffindor or Slytherin with all the attending alliances and associations, reputations and personalities. The “Sorting Hat” places the new students at Hogwarts. The choosing is not their own. And in some way a similar process has played out across Proctor this week as afternoon team activities ramp up and coaches work towards roster decisions. And now, at the end of the week, cuts have been made, and teams have started to coalesce. Roles have been determined. It's not quite the Sorting Hat, but it can feel that way.
Day three of the Wilderness Orientation and pre-season sports camps and I can’t help but reflect on an article read earlier this morning in the New York Times: It’s 10P.M. Do You Know What Apps Your Children Are Using?For our students in the Pemi Wilderness on their Wilderness Orientation the question is easy to answer. Their App is an MSR stove, a fire, a chicken noodle Cup of Soup. Their connection is a connection of shared experiences standing under a rain fly waiting out a rain squall, sharing stories around a hot meal, collectively whooping when the sun peeks out. Theirs is a personal connection, the best kind of connection, the connections that cannot be replicated on line.
Crossing campus today, mindful of the shifting weather and some of the trees that have caught the slightest tinge of fall, the arrival of new and returning students over the next 10 days is much on my mind. You will come in waves: early wilderness orientation, sports camp, regular wilderness orientation, and returning students a week from Sunday. Some of you will walk onto the campus for the first time, put on a pack, and head into the wilderness. Others will come for their senior year, pulling together a final college list and starting to tinker with applications. But no matter the length of time at the school, no matter whether student, faculty, or staff, we stand on one piece of common ground that we collectively share: Proctor.
Last games, last projects, last rehearsals, and last snow…. the year winds down. Watching the ski area to see when the last snow will fade from the middle trail is like watching the final pinches of sand running through an hourglass. Cupped by a dip in the middle trail this white patch has been diminishing slowly in May, and Tuesday it finally disappeared. One last time I visited winter, touching its cold while across the valley the flanks of Ragged flashed summer green. The season turns over, the overlap of beginnings and endings similar to a school transitioning from one year to the next.
Dave Pilla was talking about this in a report to the board of trustees last weekend when he and two of his students, Eliza Orne and Kevin Barry, talked about the stewardship of Proctor’s lands. The concept of thinking seven generations into the future (about 140 years) is attributed the Iroquois laws. It’s about the ripple of today’s decisions, about caring for more than a moment. If we cut this stand of white pine, what’s the impact? If we plant chestnut trees at Elbow, how does the next generation benefit? Or the generation after that? This concept may not have the currency it should in today’s ‘now’ world, but I had the chance this week to spend Wednesday with three individuals, who over a significant portion of the school’s history, helped set the course of Proctor, shaped its arc, and ensured that actions of the past would ripple into the future in positive ways. These are seven-generation thinkers.
This past week Scott King shared a recording of the vocal ensemble singing a medley of tunes, and the recording reminded me of two things: first, the range of talent in our community is impressive; secondly, that wonder is a local commodity sometimes inspired by small moments that can have disproportionate impact. An eight-minute recording can impact a day, a week, sometimes a month. It lingers. Echoes.
One of my favorite books, The Man Who Planted Trees, is a fictional account of shepherd who lives in a ravaged and wild landscape in a simple hut with his dog and the acorns that he sorts, soaks, and carries with him to plant each day as he tends his flock. A young man who is hiking to escape the tangled destruction of an overly industrialized world encounters the shepherd. The hiker befriends the shepherd and visits him over decades, witnessing the growth of a forest, sees a water table restored, and notices an abundance of species returning to the hills. He marvels and is inspired by the work of a single planter of trees.