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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Snuggle Bunnies

November has proven itself to be my busiest, and most favorite, months in Prescott yet. While transitioning into the colder nights and slippery mornings (there’s sneaky frost on the ground!), classes are getting into the niddy griddy of their focus, and folks are gearing up for the holidays, I have very much enjoyed observing the seasonal changes while fully being a part of them. I have experienced feelings in the past of sadness and isolation as the transition happened from fall (my favorite season), to winter… and this year has proven itself to be more fruitful than I could have imagined.

I visited my home place, the Mid Atlantic, for a few days in mid-November, and the reconnection between my family and friends and myself, truly made me realize that you get back what you put out into the world.  So, I have focused on giving myself to my studies, the community, and carrying out intentions that I had set when I came here.

I have remembered to read books for pleasure and to take pictures. If people asked for help, I was always willing to do what I could. I began to give constructive feedback to those who are close to me, as well as coworkers, to improve our relationship (I think it’s working).  I have been working on letting go of relationships that have not been a positive addition to my life, and remembering to foster the relationship I have with myself.  

I thought about all of this the other night while I was talking to a friend about the elements within Chinese medicine. There is an element that is associated with each season, and winter is no different.  Water, the element that corresponds to winter, points us to that dark, quiet pool within ourselves where our essential self-identity resides. We can use the energy of this season to more deeply discover the essence of our self.

So, as the semester finishes up and the days get colder, I have changed my position to gain a different perspective of winter. I welcome the space to appreciate the solace that’s associated with self reflection.

Plus, I always enjoy the season that’s full of desserts and naps.

Happy Turkey Day!

 Rain in the Desert 
 Angelei Star

Coming to Prescott from Hawaii, I was ready for the drastic change of climate and environment. However, after spending three years exploring the Prescott area, I have noticed some key commonalities. First and foremost, there is water! I had this vision before I came that I was going to land in the middle of the desert surrounded by a few lonely cacti. They did tell me Prescott was a mountain town, but for some reason the Arizona stereotype was overpowering in my mind. I am still astounded by a phenomena that I first observed during my preview weekend in March: a prickly pear cactus surrounded by snow! Even after three years of seeing this, it still blows me away. When I came back to Prescott for orientation, I began to realize all of the creeks throughout the town. I also noticed, when I would climb up to the top of a boulder mound, that I could see for miles in every direction and every where I looked was vast pine forest. Going on orientation through the White Mountains reaffirmed all of this, and I finally accepted the reality that Arizona is not just a desert. In fact, I have heard that Arizona has one of the most diverse ranges of environments in the country!

Even though I know this, it still amazes me when it rains. There is a certain smell, unique, lovely, that only happens when the rain hits warm pavement or dry dirt. All of the plants bow in respect, and the people take cover in cozy homes. But I like to go outside. I celebrate with the trees, slide around in the mud, and watch the creek overflow. It's funny how much more I appreciate something when it's uncommon. Over the years I have realized that rain in the desert is much more common than I had thought. Every summer and late fall is a period of time that Prescottonians call the monsoons. From about mid July to mid September thunder, lightning and rain storms hit the South West. This year, when I came back to Prescott after the summer, it was so green that it reminded me of where I grew up, on the North Shore of Kauai, which is also known as the Garden Island. The bright lime green of the Cottonwoods danced in the wind, and the deep green of the elms shimmered in the sunlight. The ground, usually dirt and rock, was blanketed in a light velvet coating of green grasses. It was lush like a rain forest.
Almost every day before classes started, I would take my neighbors dog for a run to Granite Park and stand awe struck by the creek in a lush jungle of greenery. Vines and flowers, caterpillars on giant leaves, wet grass under my feet, and low leafy branches dripping and tickling my shoulders. It was strange to think about the horrific fires that had taken place just a couple months before not too far away from where I stood.

When block started, I was pleased to find out that I had gotten into the class of my choice 'Wetland Ecology and Management.' I was even more excited when I discovered that we would be spending much of our class time in the luscious areas I had been playing in for the last couple weeks. In the class, we visited wetlands all over the Prescott Area, and again I was surprised with the amount of water we encountered. It was amazing to see how many creeks, rivers, reservoirs, springs, and marshes there are within a two hour drive of Prescott College. As we explored in these areas, we learned about their ecology, natural history, human history, current uses, management, issues, protection, need for protection, species, and all the systems at play. My emotions went from awe and wonder to devastation, to hope and excitement as we explored and learned about these beautiful places that were either in danger of being destroyed, or in the process of recovering.
The Verde River is one of the places that brought tears to my eyes because of it's outstanding beauty and importance to the environment (including the people), but with an extremely high risk of being over exploited and eventually destroyed. The Verde River is used by people all over the area for drinking water, irrigation, and recreation, not to mention its ecological importance, being one of the largest rivers in the area still running. However, due to waste dumping and other pollution, over use, and other such factors, without adequate management, this river faces irreplaceable damages.
On the other hand, it was encouraging to learn that community members, scientists, and environmentalists, were stepping up to the plate. We learned about the 'Save the Verde' project and got to participate in a snake survey, which could prove the area as habitat for endangered species and therefore grant it protection. It is a complex issue, because the river is used in so many ways and the needs of so many people and environments must be taken into account when thinking about management. This is true for almost every place we learned about.
It takes related policy like the endangered species act, the swaying of politicians, the research of scientists, effective and constant yet adaptable management, and above all in my opinion, the will of the local community. It was a combination of all these things that brought the heavily degraded Hassayampa River back into productivity and into the status of a Preserve. Only a few decades ago, the Hassayampa was used as a four-wheeler playground, dumping ground and resource for exploiting. Now, it is a thriving ecosystem with infinite benefits to the local community and beyond, including an educational tool for students of elementary schools to colleges around the area.
Exploring and learning about the wetlands of the area gave me an even deeper appreciation for water. Learning about their fragile yet resistant nature, the adaptability of their species, and the work of humans to  both degrade and improve them, helped me understand their importance. My fascination with Arizona's environment is ever expanding and my appreciation for rain in the desert blooms again every time it rains :)

Monday, November 25, 2013

So Thanksgiving is this week! The approaching five day weekend has everyone scrambling to figure out their big plans. This year I am heading out to California with a few friends for a homestyle family dinner with little kids running around, eating pumpkin and cranberry everything, and then falling asleep by 6 pm. 

 Last year I was living in Kino Bay during the fall, and we all wondered what Thanksgiving would be like in our little group in a foreign country. Throughout the semester we all contacted our friends and family inviting them down to the field station, and sure enough the confirmations rolled in. Two days before Thanksgiving we held a group meeting, now consisting of about 30 people, and created a giant list of groceries, decorating tasks, and food dishes. In total we had 4 turkeys and 2 tofurkeys. The day of Thanksgiving we all went swimming and played beach volleyball until the sun went down. And the sunset was, as usual, epic.

Many students stay in Prescott for Thanksgiving and prepare feasts using local produce from surrounding farms. It is truly apparent during these holidays that the friends we have made are also our family.

This year there are also students that are heading up to the Black Mesa reservation. Visits to the reservation usually last for more than just a weekend, but Thanksgiving is special opportunity to help support indigenous resistance to coal-mining, as well as to help harvest fall’s final crops. The idea of going to Black Mesa during Thanksgiving is to view the history of our holidays through a new lens and attempt to decolonize them.

                                                               Happy Thanksgiving!                                                                

Friday, November 22, 2013

Perspectives From All Over

Prescott College is an epicenter of epic, drawing in people from all over the country. People flow in from the mountains, prairies, oceansides, cities and middle of nowheres. In that flow is so much perspective, so many different points of view that come together to learn and potentially solve the world's problems.

The college holds a level of inclusiveness that draws so many to feel welcome in the beauty of these cacti and pine scattered mountains. Prescott is often said to be a vortex, bringing together people from so many different demographics to one place where they can all agree on something; that Prescott College is an inspiration to understanding how we connect to our environment, to social justice, to liberal arts.

It is refreshing to get so many different ideas and views on how the world works and what can make it better. The folks here all draw from a depth of diversity, often coming upon deeply ingrained questions of what it means to really be open minded. Opening oneself beyond what one has grown up with is a beautiful challenge, and here the opportunities abound to let oneself let go of what you've always known and take a bound and leap in someone else's shoes. Those shoes, like you could imagine, might do more than just surprise you. They might inspire you to waltz and run and rock climb all over the country, to explore all the places that the community here comes from. What an epic gift, these perspectives from all over...Brittany Davis

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Coming To Prescott

This past week, one of my best friends from back home, Maura, came to town to check out Prescott on a little bit deeper level. She has been considering coming to school here and it was really neat to hear her thoughts as she delved a little deeper into the Prescott community. Many of these thoughts she was sharing took me back to my experience of first truly discovering Prescott and how amazing this place is. 

One of the main things she said constantly- everyone is so nice and genuinely interested in me! Introducing her to many of my closest friends here was a treat, watching her immediately welcomed in with warmth. The warmth I speak of is so true to Prescott, people in the Prescott College community are generally of very open minds and hearts. Prescott College students really seem to thrive in diversity, and new concepts and people are met with open arms. This is so cool to see, and speaks to why I personally believe Prescott College creates a place for intense growth in an exponential manner. People truly thirst for knowledge, working hard and questioning the standard, which is another level of higher level thinking which I see more and more often here.

Maura also spoke often of the consciousness of people here, the awareness. Whereas in our hometown there are a lot of cookie cutter colleges which house thousands of young students with no clear drive and lacking vision, here the passion of the students in their work is tangible in so many ways. There is a very powerful saying: when the people lose their vision they die. At Prescott College the searching out of life's work is to be found here in full force, drawing from so many intense intrinsic issues within our culture and modern society. Vision lives on. 

This is what I found to be so striking, living vicariously through Maura's excitement. Here vision lives on, and in that envisioning, is birthed hope. Hope for a bright future, for solutions to disasters that have been plaguing our young generation for so long. In this hope I see the faces of all the new and prospective students coming here. To envision this, truly, is to see inspiration in its most raw and fine state. Cheers to Prescott College, and to Maura, and to all the new students who will make Prescott College what it will become. - Brittany Davis

Friday, November 15, 2013

Brain Time.

So there I was, on the computer… again. This is the other part of my life that I don’t tend to talk about much. Maybe I don’t because I feel like it’s implied as part of a working student’s collegiate career.  Or, maybe I don’t REALLY notice it until I have been over satiated with too much screen time. Either way, I don’t think I was mentally and emotionally prepared as I resuscitated my collegiate career.
When I previously attended for a few semesters, I was focusing on a competency of Psychology and Adventure Education, eventually deciding to take a sabbatical from school and go work in the field for a few years… to really make sure it was where I wanted to channel my future scholastic energy. Taking that leap provided me new insight, and upon my recent return, deciding to focus my attention on a Cultural and Regional studies competence.
Alongside this decision that has only taken me 10 years to bring to fruition, I have been bringing in the bucks as a work study in Admissions as well as serve Big Brothers Big Sisters as an AmeriCorps Volunteer, planning events and promoting partnerships within the community. Throughout these various activities, I have realized that technology has such a large, underlying theme to most of my involvements… I began to wonder what kind of impact this is having on me. So, ironically, I Google’d it.
The NY Times has an entire series dedicated to the ‘Brain on Computers’, discussing topics like how technology makes us more impulsive and forgetful; the risks of being a parent who’s constantly plugged in; how digital natives apparently have a higher risk of being more distracted than those from previous generations; and finally, my favorite… how being outdoors can help reduce or possibly reverse the effects of technology by learning how digital gadgets affect how we think, feel, or behave.
The most noticeable effect was stated to have been the amount of attention that was available, without distraction, to be present… to be in the moment. Also, it was theorized that when too much technological face time occurred, studies had shown that ‘real time’ reasoning skills could possibly be hindered, making problem solving and creativity harder to conjure.  I thought about this for a while, and I instantly knew that that was something I struggled with. Although I don’t have a smart phone, I do listen to my iPod a lot, work on my computer in my home space often, and am constantly communicating through colleagues, family, and friends through digital interface.
My goal for the rest of this semester is to create a workable and livable balance… to use my intention to manifest a daily regimen of space, reflection, and nature. I think school will become even more fantastical once I figure out a plan of being.

Until then…

Friday, November 8, 2013

Spotlight on A Locally Started Non-Profit

Amazing things come out of Prescott, it's true what you heard. There is a very powerful non-profit that is making headway, started by local enthusiast and extraordinary man Jacob Daveaney, called Culture Collective.

Jacob Daveaney has been an active part of Hopi and Navajo life in Arizona for years, constantly supporting these peoples against adversity and poverty. Even that which is caused by our own United States government. Jacob was inspired years ago to take a broader look at things in the world, starting with the experiences he had here in Arizona about what it means to accept and support cultural diversity.

This culmination of thought and action created the Culture Collective. This collective speaks to the traditions that cultures have, celebrating diversity and bringing awareness to cultural practices of the world and subcultures. Through learning about these practices, people have been able to broaden their perspectives to an inclusive rather than exclusive understanding of the world and its ways. Many of his projects support digital media film scores that are incredibly educational, a way to reach the masses in a stunning fashion.

Jacob Daveaney has been actively mentoring Prescott College students for a long time, and I am happy to say I have also been inspired by him. I am excited to see where our work goes in the future, as he is supporting one of my senior projects connecting the earth harmonious practices of cultures. 

What a light to the world, this non-profit and this man. Prescott continues to turn out all the extraordinary people and projects it can...

Brittany Davis