Friday, March 23, 2012
Throughout the year, the students of FMA are exposed to heroic and inspiring ideas from around the world. As part of the curriculum each student analyzes and interprets the idea in his own words. Following are each student’s selection of the ideas he found most powerful, and why he intends to incorporate these ideas into his own life.
“At 211 degrees, water is hot. At 212 degrees it boils, and boiling water become steam, and steam can power a locomotive, and it’s that extra one degree that makes all the difference.” —Mac Anderson.
I have to work harder to achieve that extra degree that makes great things happen. When this one extra little degree is achieved I can do more than I have even dreamed. It’s that one degree that makes the difference.
With my one degree I can do many things. If the difference of a degree can make a locomotive run and keep a factory running, imagine what I can do in my own life with this one degree.
Compassion is comforting those who are hurt. It is caring for others, and feeling their pain. When I am compassionate I understand others and am trusted more by friends. The Bhagavad-Gita states that by being compassionate I can stay strong in my heart. I shall be compassionate and have strong relationships.
I chose this virtue because it is something that I wish to possess. Compassion is a very important trait in strong relationships, and it is especially important to me because I wish to have strong healthy relationships throughout my life. By showing compassion to others I will gain trust and respect and will earn the relationships I seek.
Detachment is learning to act upon my emotions in a constructive way. It is the process by which I force myself to hold fast the dish I was about to fragment. When I exercise detachment, I am able to step back from what I want to do and reflect on whether or not it would be worthy in His eyes. The Bhagavad-Gita states that I should perform all actions as if for the Divine. It is of vital importance to take a breath, to breathe slowly, and to reach a true understanding of my self.
I chose this virtue because detachment is a trait with which I find myself struggling. When I have been in the grip of emotions, I have often acted on them in ways that have been detrimental to my psyche. Detachment requires a high degree of self-discipline. I must first recognize my emotional impulses, think carefully, and then only act on what I decide is the best choice. Detachment is a virtue that, while simple to understand, can be difficult to practice. Look. Choose. Act. These three short commands can change my life.
“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” —Helen Keller
Something of strength and depth cannot be derived from something of frailty and shallowness. Similarly, an inner character of great strength and solitude can only come from experiences of the like nature. How I lead my life, the challenges I choose to face and overcome, or wither under, is what dictates the proud fortitude or weary timidity of my soul and character. The vast importance of maintaining determination and courage through the hardest of times in order to reach top potential is supported when Helen Keller says “Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened…and success achieved.” Gold cannot be, and never has been, created of lead, and this is precisely why an enduringly strong character and soul must not be sought at the end of an easy road.
The topic of character is important to me. My own character is an aspect of my self in which I find a dissatisfying weakness. My character encompasses my attitudes, morals, ethics, and intrinsically, my thoughts. Pondering the lifelong struggles of Helen Keller, especially during her early years, automatically makes me more appreciative and thoughtful of the many things and abilities in my life, which I have habitually taken for granted. More than this, however, I find invaluable wisdom in her explanation that a strong character only truly comes from a victory over the toughest experiential opposition in life. As dwindling confidence and inner drive are weaknesses from which I suffer, I hope to build my character through perseverance in tough times so it will have the strength I will need to draw upon in the future.
If a problem presents itself, do something instead of complaining about it. It can always be solved if I will get to work on it. When a problem seems impossible, the solution is usually something so terribly obvious that I have overlooked it. This quote, attributed to a number of authors, says that it is always better to find a light source in the darkness than to whine about how I can’t see. So I will not go overlooking obvious answers.
I chose this quote because my problem-solving skills still leave something to be desired. It illuminates my usual approach to problems: find the most complicated solution, attempt to pull it off, fail, and then complain. When I am shown the obvious answer that I completely disregarded, I usually try to justify my lack of effort. To incorporate this idea into my life, I will try every reasonable and profitable solution, and if I can only think of one, I will ask for help in thinking of other viable ways around my problem. In this way I will be much more likely to be able to solve my own problems.
“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.” — Marcus Aurelius
The happiness of my life depends on the quality of my thoughts and whether I choose to be happy or not. It is important for me to protect my happiness and not let it be affected by other people’s input. When others are unkind or disrespectful toward me, I must not allow myself to be affected by their behavior. Marcus Aurelius states here that being happy in life depends upon my choices and the quality of my thoughts. This quote reminds me that my happiness is in my hands, and, no matter what may happen around me, I can still choose to be happy and grateful.
The extremely valuable idea that I am in control of the happiness in my life is of great importance to me. It helps me make choices that will lead me to succeed in what I do and to excel to be a better person. When I put in the time, intelligence, and energy to make my thoughts of high quality, I am happy doing whatever I am doing. This Marcus Aurelius quote stands out to me because it instructs me to prioritize what I want in life and helps me recognize what true happiness is. When my thoughts are focused on what is right for me, I will be happy and will not need to wear a “mask.”
“Adversity introduces a man to himself.” – Horace
Hard times force me to truly get to know myself. They show me my strengths as well as my weaknesses. When faced with difficult times, I fall back on the character traits I have been practicing. Horace states that only when circumstances are challenging do I actually see what is within me. How important it is to practice developing the strength I seek.
This quote is important to me because it reveals a greater truth. It is an idea that applies to every human being. When I have faced adversity, I have realized my potential and what I truly need to work on. I will seize the moments of adversity in my life to become stronger and wiser.
“Excellence is caring more than others think is wise, risking more than others think is safe, dreaming more than others think is practical, and expecting more than others think is possible.” —Winston Churchill
Following my own ideas of what is best for me and not trying to impress others, will lead me to exceed expectations. It will benefit me to soar above the rest. When I let what others think of me get to me, I choosing my own downfall. Churchill says that I should be different and be proud of it. Be yourself and don’t let others’ expectations hold you back.
For this issue, and the event of this year’s final group expedition, each student took one day of the expedition to write about, with a final note on the experience of sharing seven expeditions thus far.
Day One: Joshua B.
On day one of this expedition I got up at 5:30 a.m. for 6:15 class, then had the normal expedition breakfast, chores, and room inspection. At 8:30 we left on the bus for a two-mile drive to the base of Academy Trail. After getting separated from the front half of the group for about 30 minutes, we hiked up the Academy Trail for what seemed like miles. At the top we reached the Iron Mountain Trail, and hiked about three miles on that before arriving at camp at approximately 1:30 p.m. Mitch and I got our tent set up and our fire started, gathered some wood, and then went to rally, after which we had supper and went to bed.
On the second day of expedition I awoke to a cool windy morning. After Carlisle and I had packed up our camp, put out our fire, and eaten a wonderful breakfast, we started hiking toward rally. It was then that I remembered it was my birthday. This made me feel kind of annoyed because I wished I were home with my family having a regular birthday; however, once we started hiking, my mood improved for I was able to let my mind wander and enjoy the beautiful scenery. It was a five-mile hike, and about halfway through a light snow began to fall, but it wasn’t bad. Once we arrived in camp it started coming down harder. This was probably the most amazing campsite I have ever been in. It has a view of Doe Valley below and is truly spectacular. We were allowed to relax in camp for the remainder of the afternoon, and at 5:00 p.m. we went to rally. At rally I was granted a pleasant surprise when Mr. Dan came toward me singing Happy Birthday and carrying Snickers bars for everyone. All in all, it was a great day. At about 8:00 p.m. it really started to blizzard, and although the night was cold, my sleeping bag kept me toasty.
Day Two: Jordan B.
This morning my tent partner Aiden and I awoke to a serene, snow-covered stillness. For ten minutes. Then the winds started. Maybe “started” isn’t quite strong enough; rather it began howling madly like those large brown monkeys in Costa Rica. This was only the beginning; as we hiked along the IMT we were pelted with a massive barrage of icy snow, which continued until we reached our next camp. Our SMEAC said we’d be headed to “camp onion,” but due to the weather conditions we stopped a bit short – at a camp, which has yet to be named. And now I sit by my fire, wind still blowing, with a hot drink in my hand. Today brought rough weather, but it was good for my mind, because I persevered and can still smile at how beautiful everything is out here.
In typical fashion, Jacob and I awoke well before the designated “out of tent” time to painstakingly apply our outer layers of clothing and boots. The entirely clear sky (in stark contrast to yesterday morning’s blizzard-like whiteout) allowed for a bitingly chilly welcome to the outside world – outside the tent that is – as we tossed all our belongings out in front of us in order to get packed up quickly and to ensure we wouldn’t succumb to the temptation of re-entering the tent. The dreamlike weather outside and the lack of any significant terrain obstacles made the 4.8 mile journey from camp “no name” to Abingdon Gap pass quickly, allowing me to enjoy the lustrous views of Holston Valley and two large lakes which gleamed with an almost green tinge below our ridgeline. After erecting our tent and starting a modest fire, I was able to enjoy a delicious meal of salami and Mr. Mike’s mozzarella cheese, while making slow progress on a new interest, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. By 2:00 p.m. all the groups were assembled for class where we participated in some field first-aid Jeopardy! Getting back to my book, and now reading aloud for Jacob’s entertainment, the 5:00 p.m. rally came in the blink of an eye. I am currently sitting in my tent, of course, in the comfort of a bag of sleep. Day five beckons so toward dreams I shall creep.
The sun peeked over the mountains as Ralph and I crawled out of the tent at 6:50 a.m. After we put on our boots, Ralph went over to start the fire using flint, steel, and a good amount of dry twiggies. While he did that, I quickly took down and packed the tent, and, at 7:26 a.m., I was just in time for a delicious breakfast of oatmeal mixed with hot chocolate powder. While Ralph went on a water-run, I took apart the hammock chair we had made the previous day, and then neatly packed my backpack for the day ahead. By 8:00 a.m. our warm fire was smothered, and we were ready to leave. We commuted to the rally point where we were notified that we were early. At 8:35 we met with everyone else, and Mr. Mike talked to us about leading. At 8:49 a.m. we started our 7½-mile hike from Abingdon Gap to midway camp. Throughout the hike we changed leaders at each break. At 1:15 p.m. we arrived at camp, and, while I started the fire, Ralph set up the tent. After collecting wood for an hour we finally sat down to eat and relax. At 3:00 p.m. we had rally where we reviewed out experiences while leading. At 4:00 p.m. I went down to the trickling water source, and, when I returned, I was happy to find that Ralph had made a wonderful meal of lentils, rice, and lots of cheese. After dinner, we headed for rally. After rally we finished the evening by collecting wood and happily “scarfing down” the delicious chocolate donuts we had made. By 6:40 p.m. we were in our tent ready to rest up for the next day.
Day Five: Liam L.
I awoke to a beautiful day at 7:48 a.m., but was, once again, reminded by my stomach of the reality of the situation, and I found myself, yet again, perturbed by the idea of satisfying my hunger by eating my tent partner, Liam Lewis, as he started the fire. These thoughts began to erupt as the already low food rations, drawn from my pockets, had shrunk to mere crumbs and were compounded by the realization that we were ten-thousand, five-hundred, sixty feet from civilization. As it was our last day, it was unlikely that we would seriously resort to eating each other, but no one could have foreseen what was to transpire by 9:00 that morning. It was 9:24 a.m. when we discovered that the disastrous events I had been imagining, due to the loss of our precious food bags, had actually been part of a dreaming fantasy, and now that I had regained consciousness, we both enjoyed delicious oatmeal, and were even able to double our regular amount because we had “saved” some for this final day. We gorged ourselves on the contents of our food bags, which contained even more rations we had been “saving.” By 10:23 a.m., Liam and I had the tent taken down, as well as the fire put out, which was not difficult considering our previous training. At 12:45 pm., we, being the entire team, left camp for Damascus where we would rendezvous with Ike, the bus to be taken home. We arrived in Damascus around 1:50 p.m. where we enjoyed delicious Pepsis. After that we commuted back to the school on Ike, and did our routine check-in. It was official; our expedition vacation had ended and work had begun once again. The remainder of the day included stuffing ourselves with amazing food, catching up on homework, and introspection.
Throughout this year, every three weeks, an event has arrived that I have not always look forward to. Weather conditions have included pouring rain, snow, lightning, and windstorms that seemed nearly hurricane-level, but somehow expeditions have still been a highlight of the year. Each has covered a period of six days during which we have the opportunity to bond with each other and learn first-aid and wilderness survival skills. This last expedition was a bittersweet experience. As it came to a close, we all realized it was the last expedition we would all be going on together, as the next expedition will be divided by level achievement. We have been through tough times, great times, and times full of fun, and I think I can speak for everyone when I say that looking back, we enjoyed it 100% of the time, even in the worst conditions. Whether it was a bright sunny day, or a bleak gray wintery storm, we learned to get along well, and I’m sad to see the combined expeditions behind us.
Friday, March 2, 2012
Expedition Six was a sojourn truly worthy of remembrance. Through the good weather and the bad, the struggles and the triumphs, the very short hikes and the very long ones, Expedition Six provided seemingly everything.
Day One began like usual with a hearty breakfast of eggs, potatoes, and bacon, although this time we had to endure a one-hour bus ride to reach our hike-out spot. Getting off the bus, we fell into formation, and, before we knew it, the expedition had begun. We hiked through the mist and into the clouds, a day of shelter building awaiting us. After an uncharacteristically brief trek (I’m not complaining!) each of the four groups was directed to a campsite, and shelter building was underway. Using only the materials afforded us by the surrounding forest, branches, leaves, and other natural matter, each group constructed a survival shelter fitting its creative appetites. Some were cavernous, some were smaller, and some even had multiple rooms. After a few rallies, the day ended with the news that we would stay put for day two, rather than hiking to a new location, in order to further improve our newly-built residences.
On Day Two we were out of our tents by 7:00 a.m. sharp, and morning rally confirmed the day’s purpose: shelter makeovers! Each group was challenged not only to improve its shelters, but also to go above and beyond what our pre-conceived notion of a shelter was. By the time the prize for “best shelter” was revealed, no one was holding back, because this was now officially a contest. By the end of the day, what had previously been shelters were now estates, some even drawing comparisons to the living quarters of “Robinson Crusoe,” and “The Swiss Family Robinson.” Day Two ended with the interesting news that, regardless of where we had decided to sleep the night before, (tent vs. shelter) tonight all of us would be spending the entire night in our own creations.
Day Three began with a pang of grief, and, for some, dismay as directions were given to totally dismantle and dismember our homes in the woods. Shoveling down breakfast next to the disfigured remains of our last two days’ efforts was more than difficult. A four-mile hike preceded our arrival at “Meadow Camp,” where a gloriously powerful sun welcomed us. With the air temperature hovering around 65 or 70 degrees (at least that’s what it felt like) I wrote in my journal, “Sun baking our camp slope…hanging around in a t-shirt, and still breaking a sweat.” At 3:00 p.m. Mr. Mike led a compass class, which was a review for some, but brand new for me and necessary for the forthcoming compass hike. Despite the amazing weather throughout the day, when the sun receded behind the mountains at about 5:30 p.m., the temperature dropped about 25 degrees, prompting Jacob to recall a similar situation at Saunders Camp during his first stint at FMA. The weather had been just as serene there, but overnight it mysteriously evolved into an unforgiving snowstorm. We all fell asleep that night hoping and praying that Jacob’s seemingly insignificant recollection would not jinx our current weather.
I think I can confidently speak for everyone when I say we responded with disbelieving shock when we woke up the next morning, and snow was falling. Following morning rally at 8:30 a.m., we engaged in a stretcher building exercise. We were split into two groups, and each group was given the task of constructing a viable stretcher. Building an impromptu stretcher is an important skill to have when hiking through remote mountains as we were. Again, as with the shelters we built on the first two days, we could only us the materials at hand, such as poles and cross pieces made of small trees and padding made of pine boughs. Using our belts, scarves, safety vests, and even shoelaces to fasten everything together, in under an hour both teams constructed functioning stretchers that endured a rigorous stress test. By 12:30, the worst of the snowfall had passed, leaving a few inches on the ground as we readied for the next exercise of the day: a compass hike administered by Mr. Mike and Mr. Dan. Each individual, with his compass as his only tool, set out on his own at fifteen-minute intervals to complete “the maze.” Starting at the same point, each student began by setting his compass azimuth to 310 degrees, which, if followed correctly would lead him to the next “clue” or compass heading. Following all of the clues, we found that our final destination, of course, was our own camp. With an acute chill nipping at our toes, sub-zero rated sleeping bags welcomed us after a full day of action.
Day Five began with the prospect of the longest hike yet, an almost eight-mile journey through the bitter cold and snow. For the first couple of miles, before the freeze of the previous night lifted, the scene was simply breathtaking; on every towering tree, on every shooting branch and twig was a complete and perfect casing of ice. Because of our altitude, the trees had been smothered in a cloud of humidity, which, when combined with the freezing temperatures, caused the entire forest to glisten in what can only be described as a “winter wonderland.” Arrival at camp seemed to take forever, but the emergence of the sun from its terrible home behind the clouds sparked our spirits, and within the next twenty minutes we had arrived. Pulling into camp at around 1:35 p.m., we were already behind our scheduled “class time,” so Mr. Mike let us all take a breather and set up our new campsites. Dry wood was plentiful and, with the close proximity of the water source, this camp became my favorite. At evening rally we concluded the day by sharing our observations, and in the process, we also mysteriously cured Ralph of a sudden breakout of hiccups.
The final day of expedition began, like always, with extremely cold temperatures, but unlike the other days, it also carried the promise of relaxation. With the news that move-out would not be until 1:00 p.m., we took the time to get nice fires going, and sat and calmly soak up the beautiful day, while spending quality time with our tent partners. By 12:30 p.m. we had all packed up our camps and were lined up at the rally point ready to go. As the final leg of our journey back home to the FMA lodge began, there were exactly two things on our minds: Showers and Parmesan Chicken. There is truly no such thing as too much praise for FMA’s famous Parmesan Chicken. Much of the time hiking was spent along paved roads, finally leading up to the pasture on the outskirts of the FMA property. One by one, we tiptoed across our bridge-in-progress in the woods behind the lodge, and Expedition Six came to end, carrying the promise of more to come.
For the past couple of weeks our morning meeting has been dedicated to possibility thinking. We have been going over the eight steps to replacing an attitude of impossibility with one of possibility. Although each and every step has its own significance, for me two of them have really stood out. Step number one tells me “I must remove my disadvantage complex.” A disadvantage complex is the belief that I am at a disadvantage due to a set of circumstances outside of my control. This step is pertinent to me because I must focus on the ways that I can do things, and not on the ways I can’t. Overcoming my disadvantage complexes will help me to achieve the goals I have set for myself and will make me stronger.
The second most pertinent step for me is step number two: “Develop the habit of recognizing and responding to the smallest trickle of positivism that might leak into my mind.” This step is just as valuable as the first one because without positivity I have a negative attitude that is only going to take away from the experience at hand. Finding positivity in my surroundings will help me be more confident and determined in the face of any challenge placed in front of me.
Using these steps to my advantage will benefit me in the future. Possibility thinking is the mindset I will need to use to help me solve the problems I might face in the world. The best way for me to start using these ideas is to apply them to the smaller issues I am encountering in my life – once I master those I will move on to the bigger, more difficult challenges and overcome them, too.
Recently we decided to build a bridge connecting the six-acre FMA property to the rest of the campus. The bridge we are building is constructed entirely of trees, which we have felled near the bridge site. We cut two of the trees into girders to form the main support for the bridge. Then we dug a hole for the girders to fit into, clearing out all the rocks in the way. All the logs used in the construction had to be peeled down to bare wood prior to using them to ensure they do not rot. I was one of the lucky ones stripping the trees, which was hard but rewarding work. I also harvested boulders from the rock quarry site, transporting them to the bridge and breaking them into smaller pieces used to support the girders. At this point, the girders are in place, and this article will be continued in the next edition.
Chess is a game of intuition, knowledge, sportsmanship, and cunning. Although surprisingly I did not invent chess, it is a game in which I find myself dominating. However, there is one student here whose chess story is even more inspiring than mine: Jordan Brewster, 15, who against all odds continues to play.
We were all astonished when Jordan proved he could do math, but Jordan’s love of chess has revealed an even deeper, more enlightened young man, and that is moving to all of us. While Jordan never wins, he never fails to demonstrate his love for the game when, every Sunday, he shows up to support my playing. Through watching my mastery of the game, Jordan’s whole attitude has changed, and, because of this, I have discovered the true meaning of hope; a lesson I will never forget.
Chess, the game of intelligence and patience, is played almost daily here at FMA. Ralph Russ and I are the champion players, although sometimes we feel sorry for the other students and allow them to win. I am grateful for Ralph, though, because he sometimes provides a challenge. He has an unusual style, is very unpredictable, and often throws me off guard by making moves that make absolutely no sense. As we test our skills against each another, we both have the opportunity to improve.
Many times others gather around us and observe, in the hope that they too will gain the skill we possess, but our techniques are so complicated, that the logic of our moves is something only we can see.
Chess helps relieve the stress of homework and lack of sleep, and it helps me to bond with the other students and learn more about them.
So, chess anyone?
You’re still a dancer on the pier,
With music that doesn’t play,
Solemn in your silence,
Movement without delay.
Euphoria grips the mind,
Hollowing yet loud.
Something about the quiet,
Kept from moving out.
And circles swim before your eyes,
On waves of purple rain,
Tripping on eyelashes formed in black,
Said to swallow fame.
Now don’t ask silly questions,
And I’ll answer without lies,
Black sheep still in the cockpit,
Awaiting time for flight.
You’re still a dancer on the pier,
With music that doesn’t play,
Solemn in your silence,
Movements like slow decay.
C.S. Lewis' magical fable, The Silver Chair, takes readers on an adventure where marsh-wiggles take life seriously, gnomes eat precious stones, and two English school children are transported to Narnia to find and rescue its lost prince, Rilian. It follows the trek of Jill, Eustace, and their marsh-wiggle guide, Puddleglum as they encountered talking beasts, man-eating giants, and many other perils on their journey to restore Narnia's heir. Although they had been given specific guidelines to follow by Aslan, their misadventures began when they allowed themselves to be distracted by the many temptations they encountered. Whether they find Prince Rilian and rescue him or die in their attempt will ultimately depend on following the signs they had been given.
The deeper meaning conveyed throughout The Silver Chair is that if one is on an important mission or sacred quest it is vitally important to stay on track and not allow distraction to lead him or her astray. It was shown in the story as the heroes repeatedly failed to stay on course and thoroughly complicated their mission, nearly losing their lives in the process. After several days of walking through the wild and dangerous “lands of the north,” the travelers met a beautiful woman and heavily armored knight and were encouraged to stop for rest with the "gentle giants" at the castle of Harfang. Although their guide, Puddleglum, was suspicious, the children were completely led astray and nearly paid dearly for their mistake.
Just one of the wonderful offerings in C.S Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series, The Silver Chair is an entertaining novel that leaves the reader contemplating its timeless message for a long time to come.
As the Cold War was heating up, the Defense Department recruited a brilliant young mathematician named John Nash to crack communist codes found in newspapers and magazines. Nash, who is capable of deciphering codes in his mind, is adept in his covert position, depositing decoded articles in a mailbox used by his Defense Department handler. The trouble is that John Nash, brilliant as he is, is also schizophrenic, and his decoding work is a figment of his own imagination.
The telling of Nash’s story in A Beautiful Mind is both dramatic and confusing. I was completely convinced that everything that was taking place was real until Nash’s condition was revealed. Given the intricacies of showing what was happing in Nash’s mind, as well as what was actually happening in the real world, the movie could have been almost unwatchable, but the combined skill of the writer and director pulled it all together. This intriguing film demonstrated that, in spite of the mental illness that caused him to be a danger to himself and his family, Nash was able to control his delusions and ultimately become a Nobel Prize winning mathematician and economist.
The first day of this expedition was Monday, January 16th due to a one-day delay. We got up, ate breakfast, and did our chores as usual. At 8:00 a.m. we got on the bus and drove to Damascus, Virginia where we started hiking up the Appalachian Trail. At 12:00 p.m. we arrived at our camp, and Mitch and I set up our tent, started our fire, and gathered firewood. We had a review class on first-aid, cooked our dinner, and then went to bed.
The next day we went another four miles on the AT, most of the time was spent hiking up a steep two-mile traverse to our next camp near Saunders Shelter. Mitch and I set up our camp and started a fire, but unfortunately the rain put our fire out while we were relaxing in the tent. We didn’t cook dinner that night.
Mitch and I got off to a slow start the next morning and were somewhat late to rally. After rally, we headed down the AT for three miles to where it joined up with the Virginia Creeper Trail. We hiked north on The Creeper trail for another mile and made camp under a tall trestle bridge where the railroad used to run. I felt like a hobo, and the wood wasn’t very good, but there was a river running near our camp.
The next morning Mitch and I were late again due to fire issues. We stayed on the Virginia Creeper Trail for another four miles that day. This time our camp was up above one of the giant trestle bridges. We were on the right-of-way, but fairly near some private homes, so this was a “quiet camp.”
Mitch and I were the first ones at rally the next morning, and that day we hiked seven miles, leaving behind the Virginia Creeper Trail, and hiking up to and over the Tri-State area, out of Virginia and back into Tennessee. That night we camped at “No-Mo-Bus-Camp,” named because the old school bus that used to be there, for some reason, has now disappeared. We had a good fire that night, but a storm blew in just after dark.
It was pouring rain the next morning, and we never got our fire started. Thankfully it was the day we hiked back to FMA where we all enjoyed some good food and hot showers.
Leaving for winter break was one thing, but coming back was quite another. I left home for FMA on Monday, and, almost immediately, I was overwhelmed by my conflicting feelings. It felt as though I had just arrived home and now I was being pulled away again. I didn’t know which way to go; I knew I had to come back to FMA, but the pain of leaving seemed like too much. I tried to push myself and do what I knew was right, but all the great memories of being at home made it difficult.
I finally released my tight hold on staying at home and left for the airport, where I arrived with a heavy heart. I knew I had to leave my parents, sisters, and friends once again. I walked up the ramp and said goodbye, and then walked on through security and to my gate with an apathetic attitude.
As the plane took off, I watched through the window as Colorado drifted away under the oncoming clouds. I began to reflect on my family, and my values, and I realized that the best thing for me was to return to FMA and do my best for the rest of the year while overcoming my fears and all the other challenges along the way.
I had to run to my next flight, and before I knew it, I was landing in Tri-Cities. The wind was blowing hard, and gusts of snow hit me as I stepped off the little plane. I saw Carlisle, Jordan, Jacob, and Mr. Kevin looking for me, and the smiles on their faces when they saw me lifted my spirits. At that point I could not wait to get back to the school and eat the warm spaghetti waiting for us.
My attitude had already shifted, and I wanted to make this next term ten times better than the last. This journey was a necessary reflection on my attitude toward “the big three,” and it gave me the motivation to drive forward and face the obstacles ahead.
During the week before break, a group of us assisted in the slaughtering of one of FMA’s hogs. It started out rough, because after it was killed, we had to crawl into the mud and haul it out. Once we had it hung up, we helped remove the head and intestines. Then we worked to skin it, being careful to leave the flavorful fat behind.
Over the course of the next few days, working on Mr. Mike’s crew, we cut off roasts and other valuable cuts of meat, and then four of us ground the rest into sausage. For the sausage to be tender, it had to be ground twice to ensure that all the tendons were removed.
At the end of each day, we got to sample our work. Believe me, on a cold December day, nothing can beat fresh sausage hot out of the pan.
It was as I was using the floor as a mirror while combing my hair that I realized the true significance of floor crew’s job. Mitch, Joshua, Aiden, and I, the current floor crew, comprise the most crucial and advanced team at FMA. We clean the floors, refill and wash the lamps, and clean the chalkboard and classroom tables.
Without floor crew, FMA would not have light, cleanliness, or any sign of sanitation. We would all be very sick. Unsanitary conditions would lead to epidemics of a wide variety of illnesses, such as emphysema, lung cancer, brain cancer, and skin cancer. The more I think about it, the more I realize how remarkable it is that our vital work seems to be so completed underrated.
We are, in fact, accountable for all the hard work done at FMA. It is the floor crew that provides the safe learning environment where students can excel without the risk of illness. All of this is done from a spirit of generosity on our parts, because all we want is a better tomorrow where no floors are dirty.
(What was I thinking when I wrote about Farm Crew?)
There are some things that come easily to people, and some things that don’t. But there is a reason that I keep getting out of bed in the morning, and that reason is simple. I’m worth it. Here is another part of that, and I’ll tie it all together: forgiveness.
It’s funny, really, that these two ideas are what I’m choosing to write about, because while I may not have thought about them much before, I have found that they are what I need most.
It’s not that I’m particularly awful, ugly, or unintelligent. Sure, I’ve made mistakes, and maybe I’m not a genius, but there is this thing about me which others find difficult to accept, and I’m working to understand and accept it for myself.
I’m not asking for forgiveness from anyone else; I’m learning to forgive myself.
Every day I work very very hard to tell myself I am worthy. It’s hard for me to do this sometimes because of mistakes I’ve made in the past, and that’s where forgiveness comes in. The truth is, I am the only one I know for sure I’m going to spend the rest of my life with, so it would be a good thing to love and cherish my inner self, my accomplishments, and my talents.
This doesn’t mean I’m “letting myself off the hook,” but merely that there are some things I cannot change, and it would be better for me to move on. I am learning to forgive myself because I am learning to truly understand that I’m worth it.
What about you? What did you do today?
I recently read The Way of the Shadows by Brent Weeks, and was instantly mesmerized. This fantasy novel follows an eleven-year-old “Guild Rat,” named Azoth as he grows up and becomes what is known as a “Wetboy,” or assassin. Throughout the story there are periodic shifts in perspective, and different narrators to cover a wide variety of heroes and villains.
Although I have never read any of Brent Weeks’ other books, in my effort to expand my novel reading, I have found a new favorite author. His vivid descriptions, including the strange culture of the Sethi, the way Azoth’s mentor, Durzo Blint, concocts a poison to confuse party goers, the wide range of strange weapons, and even magic, work together to enhance the reader’s experience.
This is the first book of a trilogy, and I will definitely read the rest of it, and read some of his other books as well.
The movie Wag the Dog is a very funny comedy about what happens when the President of the United States is caught having an affair two weeks before Election Day. His advisors call in “Mr. Fix It,” who works to rescue the President’s reputation by starting a “war,” then winning it, and bringing home a “captured war hero,” who is nothing more than a messed-up convict with a serious drug problem.
The humor makes this movie work, because, even during the most ridiculous moments, the characters roll with whatever happens. They keep making the lies bigger, even filming part of the “war,” to be shown during a television broadcast, on a soundstage, and recording a brand-new song that they claim is an old blues recording from the 1920’s. All of these actions are designed to divert attention from what is really happening, and to ensure that the President is re-elected.
While this movie is a parody, it made me wonder if I can really be sure some of this doesn’t happen in real life.