March 15th, 2013
"Singular" is what we like to call a "Deep Springs word" for at least two reasons. Of course, there's the fact that most students only learned it after coming here, which certainly breeds thorns of self-consciousness in our sides, but the more important reason is that, without it, I'd really be at a loss to describe so many things at Deep Springs.
This week is far from an exception, also for at least two reasons. First of all, the Academic Review Committee is tracking students' schedules, asking volunteers to submit records of how they spent their time since last Friday. Although I doubt habits have changed significantly just from this monitoring, the subject of time management certainly has entered into student conversation; personally, I'm excited to see whether this simple exercise ends up having some long-lasting effects.
The second reason is, believe it or not, that it's actually Hegel Week: the Antigone and the Freedom and the State classes are reading works by this Deep Springs favorite. I can't write that without feeling a self-aware sense of detachment, but it's a real thing and, actually, most of the students affected by this development have been enjoying themselves, but almost certainly at the cost of alienating all of the visitors into the valley we've had lately -- an unusually high amount.
Finally (and this is a minor one), we're looking at an unusual amount of business for our SB meeting this week, and I'm finding it impossible to predict how long the meeting will take. Better bring my knitting. Apart from these idiosyncrasies, though, I'm starting to get a pretty good idea of where this term is going as a whole. It's Week 2 and we're all settled back in to our Deep Springs schedules; applicant season and the subsequent trustee weekend will soon be over.
For about half of the first-year class, this is their last term before summer break, so, while we're in for a long haul this 8-week term, I don't expect it to drag. Besides, Term 5 allows us the unique privilege of observing a very ephemeral desert springtime -- one that we hope will usher in a period of unprecedented growth for all living things in the valley.
It's been warm enough to lose the Carhartts for a while, but now we're growing anxious to take our first dips in the reservoir.
February 1st, 2013
Spring seems to have come early to the valley. After a couple brutal cold snaps, the days are now sunny, warm, and calm. The vibrant and expanding knitting group has begun to spin its own yarn. I'm sure they will make good use of the spring shearing of the ewes. Many students and community members have moved on to sweaters, after beginning with hats. The new calves, recently moved to a field behind the dorm, are greeting the change in weather with glee -- they put on a daily display of frolicking before dinner, after soaking up the sun all afternoon.
Last week we passed the halfway mark in our term. It seems to have sneaked up on most of us without us realizing it. Well, I can't speak for any other students: I, at least, was surprised. Soon -- later today -- applicants will arrive in the valley, and the process of choosing next year's class, with its accompanying implications, will become all the more real. Many of the second years are now applying to other schools or jobs for next year, less and less bound to the confines of the valley.
Yet, there is always work to do here. It is difficult to grow too distant from this place when you are responsible for its care -- although that relationship may shift from joy to frustration to boredom to revilement, and everywhere in between. Life goes on. Cliche, of course, but true. There was certainly a degree of shock following the coed ruling last month -- few, if any, expected a negative ruling -- but all of our daily routines still need to be completed. If anything, there's perhaps more of a focus on our present -- here and now -- responsibilities: with the structures and activities that have carried this institution for almost a century, and remain vital to it.
Soon the fields of alfalfa will need irrigating, the garden will be planted, the cows will turn out onto their desert pastures, and another spring will have come.
In the winter, it's all too easy to forget how green the desert grows.
January 20th, 2013
We've finished week two of the new term... and many of us are noticing, even among the rust that coagulates in some of our minds and joints after Christmas break, its wonderful to be back! Not only do everybody's faces bring a new joy to me, there is, as someone commented in evaluations, a great energy, maybe eagerness, that has come back with us--even among the freezing air and cold winds of the January desert.
Some of us spent break out of the country: Some, in Cuba for Christmas, others in Costa Rica and Argentina, and many others visiting home here in the US. For a couple of us, after being in the valley from the minute we started our studies at Deep Springs, Christmas break was a necessity--if for nothing else than to see DS in a different light. What can we do here, how can we shape ourselves, have people touch and mold us, and how can we shape others? What do i want, what do others want, how can we make this happen? And we also have a new energy in SB, the perennial problem of "how can we create community?" being answered--and lived out--in creative ways.
Our first weekend back, be we either glum or glad, we took a SB trip to the Hot Springs over in Fishlake valley. After an hour drive, we stepped out into the chilling night, and found in front of us a small concrete tub in the middle of the desert. As we lowered ourselves into the squelchy warmth, with a mixture of delight and disgust, it struck me how fortunate, yet in a strange way, we all were to have a couple years here at DS. We were like those polar water monkeys: sitting around in a hot spring in the frigid night, scratching, farting, and commenting on our frozen hair and the absurdity and beauty of life.
However, even with great moments like the Hot Springs, there is a certain regularity and rhythm that carries life along these days. We are all either entrenched in academics, overwhelmed by labor, attempting to bring ones own ideas into the mess, or just too tired for it all. The question is, how can life here be valuable by making as much positivity and growth out of all the evident responsibilities, but at the same time not get too entrenched in them to continue having a larger perspective than what daily life alone can offer? Whats going on my my Latin American brothers right now? Every once in a while, I must remember to raise my head from the cup I'm scrubbing, close my eyes, and think of the harshness--rape as a weapon, the hunger of millions, the poverty of my sisters that aren't as fortunate as I--and the way in which I may feel, and the desire to give myself, or throw myself into the hard and beautiful world in the immediate and also the long term. What does service mean? The sustained pursuit and practice of a vision, both personal and communal, both of daily life and of a broader picture, is a tricky issue
November 28th, 2012
It's cold here. There are no more pairs of long-john's left in the bonepile. The second years remark that this is about the time when the Student Body members inexplicably begin to wear one set of darkly toned clothes. There's usually a fire in the Rumpus Room now and more and more people are fleeing their rooms towards this warmth, anticipating the Winter Break Cuddle: the few who remain here for the holidays usually hibernate in a mass of blankets, a nest of books, movies, and snacks to which they return to after labor in the unreasonable cold of the desert. However, since it is still term and we recently appointed a machine to be our orderly, the multitude of personal affects that are piling up in nativity of this nesting are being corralled into the lost-and-found box. Pioneers of the effort to colonize the rumpus room find this frustrating. Conflict adumbrates, to which one can only hope that a settlement between the force of Nature that is Mr. Diabate's ability to establish Holy Harmony of Cleanliness and the mere mortals that are the rest of us. Perhaps the colonial metaphor breaks down here and the situation begs further mythologizing. The Characters: The Forces of Decay, the Student Body, and "the calling" of the orderly. The SB is appropriately introduced in the middle of these two titans. Though we may be the lauded "promising young men" we are also shameful agents of the forces of disorder and we smell bad. The Forces of Disorder and Decay are implacable; they are never at rest. It seems there need be...a hero. A shining knight. A guardian over the student body, their keeper, their cleaner. And yet, we resist him. Because, he's the hero Deep Springs does not deserve, but the one we need right now. So we'll shun him, because he can take it. Because he's not our hero. He's a mildly perturbed and increasingly sardonic guardian. A pretty preachy and omnipresent protector. A Clean Wipe. A Mom-Type. A Mop At Knight. This has gone on for far too long.
OOh yeah school. That's still going on. Not for long, so we're all going to miss the short-term professors: Mr. Mortenson, teacher of Consensual Public Policy, rifle safety and skills, life-wisdom, and many decades veteran of the Foreign Service; Mz. Mullins, teacher of the creative writing workshop on Compassion and Cruelty in Literature and independent studies in Identity and Community, playwright, screener of excellent films, quoter of every-brilliant-author-ever, and proud chicken-dog owner; and Mr. Dore, teacher of the Beautiful Proofs, muse of the elegant conclusion, master of the mystical math medium, considerer of the infinite, and general purveyor of handsomeness. All of them incredible people that deserve much more reverence than this snarky author can give. Suffice to say they are inspiring and they believe in us, a generous and incredible thing. Having such excellent professors is the sweetest of barbed cupid tools that their presence may be so deep their extraction may be what truly wounds us. [Pomposity, pomposity.] We hope they will visit, return, not so utterly desert us for their productive and succesful lives beyond the valley, though we can't hope to repay them for what they have already given us. I hope we at least let them ride a horse or something.
After Thanksgiving, everyone is a little shell-shocked: from 50 odd community members to over a hundred in a day was wild and tasking but incontrovertibly worth it. As my mother says, "Stop blowing bubbles in your milk," but also, "I gave you life!". Family and friends at Thanksgiving are a wonderful manifestation of the unique joy of serving others. Especially for the ones who did much of the serving: Mr. Marsico and Mr. Byers oversaw, with the Captain Cook Mz. Blagdan tirelessly working behind the scenes, this legendary feast: over 7 turkeys, innumerable classic dishes and creative iterations, and then lots of apple pie. I once made a bowl of Mac n' Cheese where I put more butter in it and it was fantastic so I'm not sweating it either, but these guys did okay. They handled turkey drama and an over abundance of helpful parents with grace and humor.
The other community members who not only graciously invited family members in their home, but also took dedicated time to learn names and embarrassing childhood stories demonstrated the unparalleled example they set for the students here. Sometimes we forget what greater feats of service the staffulty dedicated to our project here, but they are so integral to what we do we cannot help but begin to notice more and more as their work humbles each of us.
Applications are arriving and the process is beginning. Though we await news from a judge (a really chill dude, he gave us all college advice about not worrying about a major. Take that dad!) as to whether he will issue an injunction against our current acceptance of applicantions from women, it 's been, again, humbling and also hopeful to read about all the intelligent and sincere kids that would undoubtedly all have something to offer here. Mr. Bergman, ApCom chair, leads the charge and steers us toward Stoicism as we face the unique and demanding responsibility of considering the mountain of essays before us.
I hope there's snow soon. The pervasive beauty here forestalls in a strange way any ability to elevate any one type of breathtaking experience above another. I've passed out from breathlessness before. In seriousness, it isn't a question of the valley getting even more stunning in the snow, just its continuing ability to evoke trust in everything's evocative character, beauty within maybe, I dunno. It can't get any more beautiful here, but it will.
So farm team is winterizing and the cattle are being moved to the lake, south of the college. Cowboys have been chosen and were sorting calves today while the Horse(wo)manship class drove a few more down. Mz. Hunter the ranch manager tired to tell them to wear gloves. They didn't and remembered that it gets cold in the desert.