The mountains already seem distant. The bottomless swimming hole on the Cold River, the wind and view on the ridge leading up to Sandwich Dome, the rolling thunder on Sunday morning near Pond Brook – it all fades after the first few days of the campus schedule. Classes, assemblies, sports, the new Dining Commons, the spectacular weather, dorm meetings, advisory meetings – this is the new rhythm.
But I like to think that no matter whether a student has been on Wilderness Orientation this year or three years ago, something of the experience lingers. Students accomplish more than they think they can when that summit in the “absolutely no-way distance” is reached. The sleeping pad that looks thin and impossibly uncomfortable on the first night looks like a Tempur-Pedic mattress by the third night. And who would have thought simple add-water mashed potatoes could ever taste so good? The group laughter rings on, the stories are retold, and traces of the time touch days, weeks, and years later.
My hope is that something else whispers a memory. Something important. We are so used to the microclimates of our iPads and phones, to clicking apps and having total control, and it is good to be reminded that something bigger than Instagram or Snapchat sits out there. In the mountains where the trail only yields with effort, where water has to be carried to camp, and food and warmth are a matter of fire and skill, you pay attention differently. You are not in a click zone. You are moving in deeper, slower, and more timeless rhythms. That’s a different memory, a different feeling, and a more important one when we think of building and sustaining community. The Proctor community, any community.
Finding the sweep of gratitude that encompasses both the moment and the matter behind the moment is one of the lessons we hope our community teaches even as we hurtle through the busyness of each day. We learn to pause, take in the grander view, and come to appreciate the longer journey.