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Friday, July 26, 2013

In the Face of the Fire

The land around Prescott was set ablaze with a fire started from a lightning storm. Ravaging Yarnell Hill, southwest of Prescott, was a huge forest fire that had blown out of control. Nineteen Prescott firefighters -- all but one of the Granite Mountain Hotshots -- died working to get the blaze under control and stop it from destroying the homes of many in the community. This was a tragedy that made national news, devastating the community as well as the country.
Through tragedy, however, there is sometimes found a strange spire of strength. This stronghold was built up within the community, doing everything they could do fully support the families of those who passed. Such a stunning things to see, so many stepping forward to hold up and love those lost in grief. Such an amazing thing, seeing how the Prescott community could come together so quickly to have ceremonies of respect for these men.
One of the most beautiful things was how Prescott College stepped up to help, as well. The college provided free rooms and food for family members travelling to Prescott for the funerals of their loved ones, as well as those who had lost their homes in the fire. The college dorms were decked out to be a comfort in a time when grief was so strong, and provided a sense of stability for those who were in need. A recent Prescott College graduate, Samuel Coodley, was also asked to use his skills as a film maker to document the monument of memorabilia that had surfaced in remembrance of the firefighters close to downtown. His short documentary showed the endless amounts of compassion streaming forth from the people of Prescott.
Altogether this tragedy has shown one very powerful thing: the Prescott community really cares and is willing to be there through thick and thin. This resonates fully through the college as well, as more and more people come here to find a connection to caring that is altogether unique and beautiful.
Brittany Davis 7.26.2013

Monday, July 22, 2013

Sycamore Canyon

Prescott, Arizona is surrounded by intense natural beauty. Flowing from the riffs of canyons and bouncing off the geological masterpieces tucked in the great pine forest that cups this lovely mountain town is a sense of wild that is oh so lovely. When one wants to embark out just a little further from Prescott, one finds so many places worth dedicating time to exploring. One of these is Sycamore Canyon.

Sycamore Canyon is located a little ways from Prescott, but most definitely worth the trip. When hiking down into the canyon it feels like stepping into The Land of The Lost, or through a portal into some sort of paradise dimension. The canyon walls are a bright rusty red, juxtaposed against the green of the plants and the Verde River that flows through it and the many blues, purples and pinks of the river rocks. Breathtaking, to say the least. Like walking into some sort of oasis, it often reminds people of a picture of the Amazon. Lush and green, yes, this is the high desert.

Many Prescott College students come to this place with much respect for the wildlife and beautiful hiking that can be found. Also, a rejuvenation of the spirit. Sycamore Canyon has long been said to be very sacred to humans who live in this region, even from back in the days when the Apache and Yavapai Indians roamed free until now they speak of its power. Just breathing in deeply in this wonderland one can feel the absoluteness of this spirit. Another reason to love Prescott, the fact that Prescott College’s students hold such importance in connecting to the natural world around them. In this connection lies the answers to our happiness and the contentment that can be found in this extraordinary desert paradise as well as the world at large.

Brittany Davis 7.22.2013

Monday, July 8, 2013

Tsunami on the Square

Once a year there is a fantastic festival that explodes in downtown Prescott called Tsunami on the Square. On the courthouse square a giant stage is erected and performers from all over come to do powerful shows. There are acrobatic stilt walkers, fire dancers, capoeira performers, live music and thousands of people decked out in their most outrageous attire. When one steps into this rush of awesome, there is wonder at how such a cool festival could be happening in small Prescott, Arizona. Not only are there wonderful performers, though, there are also many booths and independents who support ecological movements. It’s an all around funfest, from the beginning parade to the end of the night full-on fire performance, all with an eye for how humans affect their world.

This year I was very lucky to be a part of the end of the night fire performance. I spin with a local fire troupe called Pyroklectic, and a group of about 20 of us put together a 30 minute choreographed performance piece for the festival. The performance was called “What Do You Do With Your Light?”,(yes note the fantastic pun) and centered around the transformation of people through ceremonial life events and honoring the escape from being a “drone”in a system that doesn’t have your best interest at heart. With huge pyromaniac tricks and unique tools like a giant flaming umbrella to go along with all the general fire goodies like fire fans, swords, staffs, and poi, there was quite a stir caused in the crowd for the end of the night.

What I love about this town doesn’t just end with how amazing Prescott College is or how beautiful the scenery is, but extends into the super creative and very conscious community at large that has been attracted here. Thankfully, these conscious people are not too new-agey, but genuine and humble in their connection with nature, the arts, and the people around them. What a balance to strike, and what a cool gift to live in a place that honors these values.

Brittany Davis 7.8.2013

Tropical Biology: The Natural History of Costa Rica

Prescott College offers a range of truly awesome summer classes, such as Aboriginal Living Skills; Maasailand: A Study in Community Activism, which takes place in Kenya; River Guides Training, which takes place in Utah; Predators & Prey, an ecology class which takes place in the Colorado Rockies; and Tropical Biology, which takes place in Costa Rica. This summer, I was lucky enough to take the Tropical Biology course and spend three weeks studying intensely in Costa Rica.

We travelled to eight different locations, ranging from the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, to Volcan Arenal (an active volcano), to Finca Luna Nueva (a biodynamic farm), to La Selva in the lowlands. We saw tons of breathtaking wildlife, including hundreds of species of plants, too many birds to count, snakes, frogs, and mammals such as sloths, three species of monkeys, and the rare margay.
Baby spider monkey at Arenal Volcano National Park
The class was academically rigorous as well, and each student walked away with a field journal full of species accounts and notes from our trips. We hiked in the morning and had class in the evening, taking the occasional night hike as well. We learned so much about biology, ecology, Costa Rican history, and political and environmental issues regarding agriculture and deforestation.

Our classroom in Monteverde

I could have simply learned about tropical biology in a classroom, but it wouldn’t even have come close to the experience I had on this trip. I wouldn’t have been able to be a mere three meters away from a margay, or feel the thick, plasticy leaves of a Faramea, or witness a pair of resplendent quetzals interact with each other. I will never forget those experiences. And that’s thanks to Prescott College’s philosophy of experiential education.
Male three-toed sloth at Finca Luna Nueva biodynamic farm
Ruby Teegarden

Monday, July 1, 2013

Then something amazing happened…

Everyone has an interesting story of how they came to Prescott College. Whether one has their heart set on Prescott College from the get go in high school or just find themselves falling perfectly into this place from a wonky curve in the road, there is a definite mix of fate and free will that bring students to the precipice of such an amazing educational community.

My own path here was a wonky curve in the road, laden with a hybrid of disappointment and excitement. The disappointment was laid down by a longtime history of going to inside the box schools, ones who raised young people to be blindly guided into a dogged workforce agenda. Filled with tedious lecture and regurgitative classroom structure as well as hostile authoritative propaganda, these places were a slow dragging of the soul in the doldrums. When one has known schools as being just so, one often has a hard time finding something outside of this constrictive box, especially when most everyone around them sees these institutions as the only way to be truly “educated”.

Then came my complete rebellion against the system. After having completed high school and gone to my first semester of regular college, I could no longer stand the emptiness that was being served up and chose to leave even though I would look crazy and be seen as an irresponsible, uneducated citizen. This is when I happened to pick up two hitchhikers who changed my world and started the journey towards Prescott College. Northwood and Snatch(like Gingersnatch, he was a redhead) were their names, traveling with a tiny husky puppy named Sydney. I must admit I never before had picked up hitchhikers, but I was sold when I saw the puppy. Upon picking them up I was surprised how young they looked, and even more surprised when I found that they were only a couple of years older than myself. Over the next hour ride they told me many stories about how they too had left the system, to find something better, and had found themselves in a community of modern gypsies who traveled from National Forest to National Forest, pulling themselves off the grid by living in a highly spiritual nomadic way. They invited me to a gathering of these modern gypsies in the Shawnee National Forest just beyond my initial destination. I threw caution to the wind, so captivated was I by their stories, and drove us all the way to the gathering in the thick of the forest. There I was greeted by so many amazing people, some of the best music I had ever known, and food cooked over campfires that would compare to any fine restaurant. I was so struck by these people’s ideals of respecting the earth through leave no trace philosophies, and at the end of the gathering the only evidence left from them was a soft pounded space free of trash. I had found a kind of heaven.

They asked me if I would like to travel with them, and I made one of the best decisions I ever made. I went back and quit my dead end job as a waitress, packed a backpack and left to see the world…

It was epic, a true epic. It was gnarly, hard, and oh so beautiful. I began studying my passion of holistic medicine through different herbalists and farms we came to along the way. We danced and sang under the moon in a crowd of trees more times than I can count, and met the most amazing people with amazing stories. Traveling to Prescott was initially just a move towards finding another gathering of these gypsies that was happening in the Prescott National Forest, but what I found here talking to a young woman was much much more. This young woman, aptly named Rae, for she was a ray of sunshine, told me about Prescott College and the wonderful things you can do as a self-directed and experiential student. She also told me about Prescott College’s commitment to Holistic Health education, something I had never before heard of in an undergraduate school. I felt the meandering road had finally brought me to a place I could set roots and learn so much. One of the greatest lessons I learned was that there are fantastic institutions that let you learn from outside of the box, but that are still powerful enough to be acknowledged as fully legitimate sources of education. Prescott College is one of these. Prescott College is also a bridge, a bridge where young people can come to learn not just how to live within their societal systems, but how to learn about them and how to change them for a better, brighter world.

When it comes to my path in life, assuredly, this has made all the difference.

Brittany Davis 7.1.2013