Circles are pretty sweet. The wheel – Revolutionary. M+Ms – Undoubtedly the best part of any gorp mix.
Circle, as defined in Deb’s very own Merriam Webster Dictionary, is a group bound by a common tie. On Mountain Classroom, we operate largely within this circle theme. We link arms each night before dinner and send a pulse around the circle by squeezing the arm of the person next to us. On our final expedition, we were only seven people, so our circle became even more tightly knit. But looking around at my six peers, I felt an overwhelming sense of contentment and gratitude. We were just a group of friends, living and performing with ease and freedom in the wilderness. Our route wound us through the Porcupine Mountains along the shore of Lake Superior. On the second night, our campsite was something out of a fairytale. We had prime real estate mere feet from the water. Driftwood benches and an array of smooth, round rocks molded by the force of Superior surrounded us. We all piled onto a spacious boulder overlooking the wide expanse of lake and sky, with the waves crashing wildly at our feet. As we watched the sun sink and the horizon shift to brilliant shades of pink and orange while chowing down on gummy bears, we exclaimed that this was, in fact, the life.
One of my favorite things about Mountain Classroom is the cumulative circle time (which may seem elementary, but it's the truth). Some of my most memorable moments have been circled around a campfire, meal circles, and evening meetings. Evening meeting is another Mountain Classroom tradition that is performed in a circle, and it is arguably where our group experiences the most growth. During this time, we offer positive and constructive feedback for each other, appreciate each other, and continue to learn more about each other. There is a go-around question each night, which varies from serious to lighthearted. How else would I know everyone’s favorite condiment or the one meal they would eat for the rest of their lives? Luckily for Carol the answer is the same: mustard.
I think feedback has been valuable for many of us. I have learned a lot about my leadership style. I’m an “analyst-architect” which means I am very adept at assessing situations, variables, and preferences. From these I make effective plans. I am less versed in always using my voice to share these ideas. Going forward, I’ll take away a greater understanding on how to strengthen my leadership style and adapt it depending on what the situation calls for.
What I look forward to most during evening meetings is appreciation time which is exactly what it sounds like– we take time to acknowledge one another, circumstances, or scenery. I often feel fulfilled and valued after these exchanges. Since you haven’t had the pleasure of living with these wonderful people for two months, I’d like to share a snippet about each of them to give a glimpse into our little community.
I appreciate Ada’s way of making me feel grounded. She has a way of viewing the world that is conscientious and gracious. She inspires me to be more attentive and sustainable.
I appreciate Stew’s ease. He moves through life unconstrained and curious, always willing. His insight keeps me thinking positively and his wit keeps me laughing.
I appreciate Lucy’s fierce spirit. She has an astute gift for understanding and supporting. She inspires me to feel more confident and unapologetic.
I appreciate Jeff’s passionate inquisitiveness and his keen knack for cultivating curiosity. His deliberateness inspires me to be more detail-oriented and intentional in the way I do things.
I appreciate Romy’s soothing and affectionate presence. An empathetic confidant, she is always ready to listen. Her voracious reading appetite has reignited my own love for books.
I appreciate Carol’s commitment. She fosters inclusivity and engagement, and her infectious quality of life makes me feel seen. Her joyous amusement reminds me that a smile and/or a laugh can mean more than you may realize.
I appreciate Gunnar’s fervent exuberance and excitement for the mundane. Eager and riveted, he speaks with a contagious and spirited inflection. His inventiveness astonishes me.
I appreciate Hayse’s hopeful vivacity. Luminous and delighted, her light shines bright. Her trust and integrity makes me feel valued.
I appreciate Alana’s perspective. She carries a vast knowledge of how humanity works, and how she fits into it. Her freedom and self-reliance amazes me.
Alana shared with us a saying her Mom taught her: we reflect the people we love. I keep thinking of this quote, and I find myself coming back to it even more as Mountain draws to a close. After our trip, we will inevitably bring little pieces of each other with us. It makes me feel sad and preemptively nostalgic for the threads of Jeff, Carol, Romy, Ada, Lucy, Hayse, Alana, Gunnar, and Stewart that I will weave into the next chapters of my life. But it also makes me feel grateful and proud that I get to bring these small things along with me. I am intensely thankful for this modest circle of people that have made my Mountain Classroom experience the amazing adventure it has been.
Peace, love, and chow.
- Maura '22