Semester 39: “We are learning how to thrive”

September 27, 2017

It is difficult to wake up in the morning when the sun has not peaked out from behind the trees and the boardwalk becomes an ice skating rink with frost. Yet, something changes when the sun turns the trees into silhouettes and the clouds are tinted pink and orange. It is much easier to go for a run or do yoga at seven in the morning when your footsteps and eyes are following parallel to Mount Massive. The snow blankets the peaks of the fourteeners that live outside our doorstep and that faint, pink light paints color onto the snow covering the peaks. At night, when we walk back to our cabins, that same frost creeps back, covering the boardwalk and a sea of stars fills the sky. We hunt for shooting stars and find where the big dipper is hiding in the black night sky. We can see our breath and enjoy the feeling of breathing the cold air before we pile into our cabins to build a fire and talk with our cabin mates, until we climb into our beds and one by one, distinguish the light of our headlamps. It is amazing that every day we get to wake up to a quiet sunrise in the wilderness and fall asleep under a blanket of clear stars each night.

We’ve begun to get into the swing of things in terms of life on campus. We are beginning to develop a knack for preparing meals for 60+ mouths in cook crew, and we are becoming attuned to morning exercise—three-mile runs transitioned from a daunting task to a mere part of our morning routine. Each day it becomes less and less difficult to find a table to sit at during lunch. We, as a community, are getting increasingly close, as groups of strangers have evolved into families, and cabins and classes are becoming more a more comfortable environment where we can speak freely and at ease. With the weather changing and temperatures dropping we are learning how to thrive, not survive, in our cabins by utilizing our wood-burning stoves to keep us toasty throughout the night. We spend a portion of our weekend chopping and delivering wood to each cabin in preparation for coming winter months. We are learning how to build and maintain a warm fire; occasionally, you can even hear the cheers of encouragement from other cabins at night, as we all develop our own unique ways of building a fire. Though we have been at HMI for nearly a month now, we have only spent two weeks on campus, and it is finally starting to feel like home.

Our first full week of classes started with a bang! The first science lab of the semester was an exciting outing to the Arkansas River and California Gulch. We used nets to collect macroinvertebrates in the stream and then counted the number of species to determine if California Gulch has high-quality water. Everyone was thrown off their studying game Monday night after the HMI wifi experienced a few difficulties connecting. This meant we were able to experience the archaic ways of studying–utilizing books and hand writing assignments! We were relieved to hear the issue had been solved the next morning. After this amazing start to our week, we quickly learned how excited the teachers are to be teaching us. We have already had countless engaging discussions with Jacob, Liz, Howie, Jess, Clara, Dylan, and Emily. Though it was just the first week, we already have had lots of homework including a final paper covering A River Runs Through It and our science lab report. All in all, Semester 39 is so excited to learn much more in the following months!

This weekend was our first “typical” (not sure if one would call it that) weekend on the campus, in the sense we had our half-day of class on Saturday, followed by activities in the afternoon and throughout the evening. After class let out, we split into four groups for the afternoon activities. We rotated between chopping wood to fuel our stoves in preparation for the pending winter cold; it already began snowing daily on Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive over a week ago! We then went into town for about an hour to enjoy ice cream and sweets while perusing the historic downtown. Once back on campus we prepared for the highly anticipated Square Dance. We all donned our finest plaids and we learned several different routines. It was an exhilarating yet exhausting experience. The dance was followed by a delicious meal of chicken and rice. We ended the night with a Gaga Ball tournament, sing-alongs, and writing letters of appreciation to each other and our teachers for completing the first full week of school! On Sunday, we had the rare opportunity to sleep in and enjoyed a pancake bunch around 10 a.m. We then proceeded to our “sit spots” for two hours of solo time and had the remainder of the day free to relax, read, catch up on some homework or call our families.