We often spend our days of academia sedentary, stimulating only our brains, and that’s on the best days. For many of us on this course, sitting in one place being showered in fluorescent light is one of the hardest tasks of the day. Sure, if you asked me to haul an 80-pound pack up 8,000 vertical feet in a day, I would do it. But sitting in a plastic chair for two hours of PowerPoint guided lectures? I’ll pass on that. Of course, this is no revelation. This topic has been studied, discussed and experienced by many people for years.
The true realization though, comes with living in a state of both education and exercise in the field. On our layover day of the Scapegoat backpack, we participated in an hour long study of a single plant. This was one of the most interesting academic exercises I have ever done, and still, I could not truly focus. I gained a plethora of information and certainly appreciated it, but I was not feeling satisfied immediately after. The afternoon held a hike up Scapegoat Mountain for 5 of us. Leaving camp sometime around 3 pm, time wasn’t plentiful, but vertical gain to the top certainly was. We endeavored on a roughly 6-mile round trip with 2700’ to climb, and then descend. As we motored out of camp, lactic acid and heavy breathing came very quickly. The focus I had lacked that morning came even faster though. The lung-busting, screaming-quad climb was as much mental therapy as I have ever had. My mind was instantly able to focus on the Shrubby Cinquefoil, my plant friend from the morning.
As we sat atop the striking Scapegoat, one of my biggest life lessons of the course this far was certainly not novel, but it was starkly clear. Our mental and physical selves are much more integrated than they are separate. This course and form of education in general, give us the invaluable gift of working both concurrently and equally. The words “holistic” and “unity” are often condemned as “hippie ideals,” but, as we are in touch with ourselves, the two halves integrate so instantaneously. Do we really believe that the minds of young women and men will be more open while in physical captivity? Certainly the education system is much more good than bad, but this is a huge oversight it has.
As I move through the landscape dominated by towering limestone cliffs, I can’t help but relate to it. These striking features formed through eons, first born as an ancient sea bed. The land lay dormant and gathered huge amounts of material as creatures passed away and sediments settled. Physical motion caused the uplift 170 million years ago that made this into an inspiring landscape able to share its lessons readily. Much like these mountains once buried and since uplifted, it is our motion and exposure to the real world that makes all of the material we have gained in school usable and impactful.