Summer Term 2014: “Never has my life been so at peace and in clear vision”

The week on campus following expedition was a wonderful yet emotionally taxing time, as we all felt a sense of dread about leaving our new friends and this beautiful place which has come to mean so much to us.  The week started off with presentations of our Personal Environmental Ethic Projects for our Practices & Principles: Ethics of the Natural World class, followed by our final Sense of Place projects, in which we applied our curiosity for learning about Leadville to other locations with significant meaning to us.  It was awesome to get to know one another and ourselves even better through these projects.  This week also included Super Clean (in which we cleaned every inch of HMI’s campus), our final cabin meeting, cabin cleaning, and a frantic effort to return all of our belongings to boxes and suitcases to be shipped and flown home.  Other highlights included Cabin Olympics, complete with a watermelon eating contest, a giant game of knockout, and many other highly-competitive endeavors.  On Thursday afternoon, we embarked on solo, during which we had time to write our Full Circle essay, a reflection upon our time at HMI.  The presentation of our Full Circle essays in front of all of our peers and Summer Term faculty and interns was an incredibly powerful experience, and quite a few tears were shed as we realized how much we have been shaped by the community, laughter, and challenge we have encountered at HMI.  On the final night of HMI, we all gathered in the East Building for a slumber party! We stayed up late, reminiscing and laughing, until it was finally time to go to sleep so we could wake up for the bus to the airport at 4:30am the next day.  We will all cherish the memories we made during Summer Term 2014 immensely, and will carry the growth we have accomplished here into the rest our lives.

A Full Circle essay, written by Alex Van Raalte:

“Mom, I’m way too over packed. I only need four shirts.”

“Don’t be stubborn, Alex. You’re going to be there for six weeks.”

“Believe me; I know four shirts will be plenty.”

“Do you want a nice one for special occasions?”


Three weeks later I spoke to my mother again. This time, via telephone, I politely asked her to ship out my suit. You’ve all seen it. The blue, three piece suit that had me looking, in Izzy’s words, “Dapper”.

“Do you want me to send you some nice dress shoes as well?” She asked sweetly.

“No” was my blunt reply.

Thinking about it now, some dress shoes would have fit nicely with the suit; they probably would have gone better than Henry’s crocs. There’s that stubbornness Mother was talking about. Oh well. I had preconceived notions about this place. I would go backpacking, take environmental classes, and certainly would not have the time to wear nice, clean clothes. But there I was, calling Mom to send me a full suit for a fancy dinner, all the while praying it would get here in time so I would not look like a bum among all of you well-prepared individuals.

All of you, those well-prepared individuals. All of the places we’ve hiked together, slept together, looked at the stars together, laughed, cried, sometimes at the same time, together. We’ve cleaned, studied, and piled into the hammocks together. Talked together. All of it, all of you were my fancy dinner. Completely unexpected, wonderfully embraced.

How is it possible that this room we are sitting in has had so many different atmospheres and moods in its existence? It reminds me of my own existence. My life has been erratic, chaotic, a scramble just as this room was a few days ago as all 27 of us jumped, dodged and smashed that purple ball in our games of gaga. And at other times, this very same, chaotic room has been quiet, peaceful, thought-provoking and reflective. It has been stimulated and inspired by the all the positive energy and perspective that you well prepared individuals bring into it. Each of you has taught me something meaningful in these past six weeks, even if you didn’t know it.

Not many of you know this, but it was a big step for me to even suggest we watch the documentary, “McConkey,” let alone have everyone watch it together. I feel as if it’s much more than a movie to me. It’s this secret of mine; this convergence of passion, history and emotions that inspires me to act and live and prosper the way I do. Its vulnerability, and the thought of exposing that vulnerability to anyone scared me. But I knew in those early days of the summer that things would be different here. I felt a sense of comfort, of kind- heartedness, of acceptance and together-ness. It’s rare to find an entire community who believes and upholds these values.

Six weeks ago, our window of opportunity was wide open. I had preconceived notions, but I never expected how much could truly fit into that small, little window. Never has my life been so at peace and in clear vision. Never have I felt true inspiration from the words of a single individual. Never have I been so tempted to test my capabilities. Never have I been so willing to share with anyone a movie that resonates so deeply within me. Never have I woken up with a smile on my face, excited for who I might get the pleasure of speaking to later in the day. Never have I dreaded the words “good-bye” so strongly. Never have I felt so in control of my future. Now, six weeks later, I ask that we close our window of opportunity in the only fashion we know how, together.

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