Darling, I love you, but I just can’t smile.

Adventure is the word of the semester. The challenge course we attack on Tuesday is challenging, each of the three routes to the top of the Alpine Tower adventurously unique. We spend the entire class exploring different routes and belaying for our classmates while they do the same. Next week we begin climbing in pairs and learn rescue maneuvers.

That's me talking to our assistant instructor, Dylan, about my belaying technique.
That’s me talking to our assistant instructor, Dylan, about belaying techniques.

On Wednesday, I cuss the cold water all the way to Water I class. Last week, I wore a base layer, two long-sleeve moisture-wicking shirts, an outer rain jacket with tights under my board shorts, and Chris packed a splash jacket in his dry bag for me just in case. I’m just saying, I was not hot.

After our quiz (1. What does PAST stand for? 2. Name 7 water features.), Stephan drew pictures on the white board and taught us all about the eddy turn, which is like parallel parking a race car in the movies. Later, on the cold Nantahala River, we took turns guiding the raft into every eddy we found. After a brief respite in the calm waters of the eddy, we would “peel out” and ferry into the next eddy. We spent hours zigzagging our way down the river. It was great fun.

By the time I reach Thursday, sitting in the classroom is sheer bliss.

Thursday’s class begins with Paul’s infamous quiz and then we play a game. This week’s game required that we stand in the all-familiar Outdoor Leader’s circle, Paul in the middle explaining the rules of the game. The person in the middle, with their best persuasion, says to someone in the circle, “Honey, if you love me, won’t you give me a smile?” The target of this classmate’s affection must then reply without one hint of a smile, “Darling, I love you, but I just can’t smile.” Some of us resisted a smile better than others, but we all laughed a good bit.

That is a tough climb!
That is a tough climb!

After our game, we spent the last hour of class in what Paul calls ‘seminar-ing’. I admit I was very skeptical of this process after the first week, but have found we are growing into this new skill.

Each week there is an assigned reading for which we write a reflection. During the seminar-ing, each student gives the class a short overview of their reflection and then we break into contemporaneous discussion about the material and our thoughts.

Last week’s reading was about the Philosophy of Adventure Education, which is surprisingly not a new concept based on quotes from Plato, Aristotle, John Dewey, Kurt Hahn (Founder of Outward Bound) and several others. These famous philosophers and educators raised several good points about adventure education, including one of our favorites, “Too much safety results in killing student’s souls. Too little safety results in dead bodies.” We spent some time talking about the fact that risk is a legitimate educational tool.

Brandon on the Alpine Tower.
Brandon on the Alpine Tower.

For my reflection, I presented thoughts regarding the pendulum effect. I told my Millennial classmates how they are shaping up to be the most educated generation in history, and how an inordinate percentage of them have more than 8 tattoos (although they are quick to explain that they can all be covered by clothing), and that a recent study shows more than half of all 7-12 year olds have never climbed a tree.

It got interesting with the statistic that despite America being in the middle of two wars, only 2% of all male Millennial have joined the military,

The focus of my reflection was that each generation decides to “correct” things they did not like about their parents’ parenting, and in the process over-corrects. Eventually, the pendulum corrects back to center only to over-correct with the next generation. Baby Boomer parents have raised children that do not take risks. It’s not their fault, we raised them this way.

Johnny observed that you rarely see kids with broken arms or legs. Kathryn said, “I think we’ve raised a bunch of weenies,” prompting Jay to suggest we find a way to stop the pendulum!

After a deeply heartfelt and touching conversation about what they fear most, I realized these kids are not weenies. Their comfort zone simply exists in a different place than mine.

The last time I wrote about the pendulum effect was in December before going back to school. My conclusion about the pendulum of my life was that each time the pendulum swings to the far side, I explore new ideas, new routines….my life expands. During the swing back to center, the best of these new things filter out and life settles into a new perfect.

If not for the venture onto the far side, we would not grow….our clock, our progress would stand still.

This semester, my classmates and I are pursuing adventure education. For some of us that adventure is on the river or the ropes course, while for others it may very well take place in the classroom… and the pendulum is swinging.

 

Water I Quiz Answer Key:

1. Position, Angle, Speed, Timing

2. Wave train, eddy, strainer, hydraulic, pillow rock, horizon line, sieve

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2 thoughts on “Darling, I love you, but I just can’t smile.

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