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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Upon the Horizon

Something I’ve learned since I’ve come to Prescott College: Life doesn’t always wait for you to be ready when it decides to send you somewhere new. Its a strange moment--the one you feel coming upon you when there is a big decision on the horizon. And its something that has continued to creep up through my veins ever since I entered Prescott College.

Orientation-Winter 2010

The cold. It crept through the moist wet sand across the banks of the Colorado. It left an icy crust upon the lips of my sleeping bag--my breath condensed and frozen from the night. A faint drizzle tapped against the nylon sheeting of the shelter with rhythmic drumming, dripping beads of water in a tight sphere around it. My eyes were crusty. My hair frazzled. My body lined with weathered thermal underwear and umber dust. I pulled back the flap of the tent to see the bleak sky that cut through the walls of The Mighty Grand Canyon--grey stratus clouds sewing their way through the chiseled valleys and crumbling towers--a mosaic of orange and red and maroon and green on an off-white canvas of foam. There was the feeling once more, brought on by a silence that placated the difficulty and the grandeur of the scene before me. I felt like Amundsen or Clark or some other long-forgotten explorer discovering the way into some different and distant inner world.

And that is, of course, what I came to do--become an adventurer, a wilderness leader, a mountaineer with dreams of the Karakorum and the Himalaya. It was a desire sewn into the arteries around my heart, tangled around my love of natural experiences, self-discovery, and the sheer mathematical beauty of a mountain’s absolute size. I wasn’t wrong to be daunted that morning beside the Colorado. In the cavities between the canyon’s towers stood Coronado Butte--a stratified precipice painted red like the rest--a high point adjacent to our exit trail on Horseshoe Mesa. A thick sheet of dense, pure white snow gently fell in small and delicate layers throughout the course of the day, staring down at us as the clouds and the snowline dropped lower and lower and lower until reaching the bottom of the canyon floor. The next morning there would be six feet of it. And two days later, when we ascended the Mesa to hike out for re-supply, we would have to dig and tunnel and fight our way out of the icy limbo for eight and a half hours.

But I knew this already. I knew the difficulty was always going to come. I knew it the moment I opened up the Prescott College catalog and decided to come to this school. I knew it when I meant my fellow students and the faculty during the first few days of Orientation. I knew it when I peeked my crusty eyes out of the tent flap that morning. This was a place that would challenge my inner most beliefs in myself. It was a place that would form me and change me and mold me into whomever I chose to be. It would ask me to prove myself and find myself time and time again. And it always reminded me that I was at Prescott College not just to get an education, but to gain an understanding about what I want my future to become, and what role I want to play in it.

~Daniel Roca, 02.17.2012

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