Semester 39: “the most welcoming community”

Last Sunday night, a delicate dusting of snow settled on top of Mt. Massive and Mt. Elbert, powdering the mountains in some of the first tentative snows of the year. We all shuffled along the wooden boardwalk in the crisp morning air on our way to morning workout on Monday, paying close attention to our feet, trying not to slip on the layer of frost that had branched out over the ground at night. As we all took our eyes off of our feet, we looked up to see the lightly dusted mountains that rose up in the distance and for a minute, forgot about our feet entirely. The mountains commanded our respect and there wasn’t much space in the moment for feelings other than awe. A fierce red morning glow barely caressed the jagged peaks and edges that some of us just recently navigated on expedition, highlighting snow covered ridges and cradling deep crevasses in shadow. That morning we witnessed the Colorado mountains teetering on the brink of seasons, slowly being pulled closer and closer to winter. There is a feeling of anticipation on campus, of excitement and also slight apprehensiveness towards the dropping temperatures and incoming snow. Seeing nature settle from fall into winter is helping us all transition from expedition life into school year habits and frames of mind. We are all ready to settle into campus life together, and to be a part of the winter landscape that is slowly forming around us.

This week during AMX (morning exercise), we began our training that will prepare us for the Fun Run at the culmination of the semester in December. So far we’ve gone on three runs, each about two miles long. As we ran a mile down County Road 5A to the beaver ponds on Monday morning, the sun began to rise and snow-covered Mt. Elbert looked over us. We were welcomed back to campus with warm French toast for breakfast made by the morning cook crew. Each student is assigned a cook crew in the rotation, so everyone has the opportunity to cook two meals each week. Breakfast ends and is followed by chores in our designated locations throughout campus. Singing along to the playlist of the day (normally including at least one Disney song), we clean tables, mop floors and scrub showers.  In the afternoon, we take a break from our classes to meet for the first session of our chosen “Electivity” (elective-activity). This activity meets each Monday for three weeks, with each session building on the last one. There are three different electivity periods throughout the semester, so we get the opportunity to try something new from combining math with food and fun (which resulted in an exploded watermelon) to crafts and climbing and even mentoring students at the Lake County Middle School. They give us an opportunity to take a break from our busy day of classes and try something new!

At some point in all of our classes, we have had a moment that we rarely experience. This moment consists of acknowledging the beautiful world around us and being so thankful that we are learning in such an experiential and tangible way. These moments happen while English class looks at the snow on Mount Massive and Mount Elbert for examples of imagery, during Science lab while searching the floor of the Arkansas River for Benthic Invertebrates, and even this morning while in the downward-dog position of “Spanish yoga.” Although we have enjoyed all of these classes, one of our favorite things about the academic experience here at HMI are the teachers. Yesterday after lunch, for example, one of us continued a conversation from class with a teacher, which was followed by nice game of hacky-sack. It’s amazing to have teachers that we consider friends and it makes us feel so much more welcomed into the community. For many of us, this is the first time in our lives where we look forward to the next class, where we can learn in a hands-on environment, with the most welcoming community we have ever been a part of.

The HMI community had our first weekend back on campus after returning from expedition. On Saturday morning, we all had the opportunity to go rock climbing! With the help of instructors, we learned how to boulder as well as climb on belay, all the while taking in the breathtaking view of Bald Eagle Mountain. On Saturday afternoon, we all took our first trip into Leadville. For many, this was their first time experiencing the town. Naturally, the line at the pizza restaurant as well as the ice cream shop was quite long, consisting mostly of HMI students. Saturday night we all loaded into buses and took a trip to the local Turquoise Lake, where we all had a cookout. As our apprentices graciously cooked food for us on the grill, we all sat by the water listening to music and basking in the joy of simply being together. We ended our cookout by roasting s’mores, and watching the sun dip below the trees. When we returned to campus, we did what is essential to any successful Saturday night: had a dance party. We all put on the most absurd outfits we could come up with, and danced and sang and had an absolute blast. On Sunday, we all tried our hand at fly fishing, since the novella we recently read in English class revolves around the art. While it took some time for us to get a hang of it, we all had a fantastic time giving the sport a shot while also engaging in English discussions pertaining to the novella. We were also introduced to our “solo spots” for the first time on Sunday. Each student has a spot around campus, out of sight of anyone else, that becomes their personal haven for the semester. On “Sacred Sundays” we have an allotted amount of time to spend at our sacred spot, during which students are encouraged to engage in personal reflection. Overall, the HMI campus saw a fun-filled weekend, leaving us all looking forward to the good times to come.

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