Where else can you expect to experience Dungeons and Dragons, skateboarding, swing dancing, yoga, poetry, karate, chemical sensitivity, boxing and drum’n’bass a capella, all in the same tastefully renovated barn? Of course I’m talking about the annual collective mingling ritual known as the Stuff to Do Fair. By all accounts, yesterday’s fair was the biggest turnout of students and awesome, available “stuff” in recent memory, I mean a veritable mosh pit of “to do” potential. There were so many tables that it was hard to weave around them without a little “contact improv,” and if you didn’t know what that was there was a club for that there too.
Perhaps most exciting were the opportunities for students to get involved in aspects of the wider community, get off their ivory farmhouse, so to speak, and interact with people who have no idea who Marcel Proust or is. Jodi Clark ’95, director of housing, was there signing people up for this weekend’s United Way Day of Caring, and Michelle Holzapfel ’73 was looking for help with Marlboro Cares, a volunteer organization providing assistance to local residents. Once he explained that Big Brothers/Big Sisters had nothing to do with George Orwell’s 1984, Program Director Rob Szpila got a nice list of students interested in helping out. In-Sight Photography Project and River Gallery School was looking for students interested youth programs in the arts, and the Marlboro Magpie Affinity Group was drumming up support to close down Vermont Yankee. There was something for everyone, and the only problem was narrowing down the choices. If you ask me, the farm committee had an unfair advantage, luring in unsuspecting future weed-pullers with summery-smelling cucumber-basil-tomato nibbles.
What would Ghandi do? That’s more than a rhetorical question for a group of new students participating in a Bridges orientation experience by that title, or “WWGD?” for short. This kindhearted crew of students, from as far away as South Korea and Slovakia, are spending the week in a whirlwind tour of local community engagement efforts, getting to know the area from their hearts. I mean, they’re doing the kind of hands-on, service-learning, make-a-real-difference, stoke-your-inner-glow projects that would make Ghandi smile: making ceramic bowls for the Empty Bowls Dinner, exploring community land stewardship at Hogback Mountain Conservation Area, and cleaning and painting the stables at Farming Connections, a Guilford farm that provides “animal mediated therapy” to area youth. Closer to home, at the Marlboro organic farm, what Ghandi would do is apparently stomp in wet clay.
That’s right, new students got their feet wet and dirty mixing together gooey clay, sand and straw for a corn cob oven, one of the many improvements to the farm planned by farm manager Simeon Farwell-Miller. The students built a heat-holding base out of stone, sand and firebrick, then constructed the clay oven over a dome-shaped sand form. Later, they will cut a door in the clay and scoop the sand out and fill it with fire and pizzas instead. Students also harvested a boatload of perfect potatoes, and helped apply a stucco finish to the foundation of the new greenhouse. Whether Ghandi would do all of these things or not, participants are at least finding out that there is plenty for considerate students to do in the area.
But of course that’s just a teeny sample of what new Marlboro students are experiencing in Bridges, the awesome orientation program now in its fifth year. Other groups are doing rock climbing, cave exploring, paragliding and contact improvisation. The ever-popular “Rites and Rituals” trip includes hiking, campfires, sweat lodges, storytelling and a two-day solo vision fast. “Apocalypse Soon” teaches students how to survive in the wild by gnawing on nuts and roots and building cozy shelters out of twigs, skills that will serve them well in Vermont winters. For the more armchair-adventure types, “Write Right Now” is an intense week of exploring writing, and visiting local literary sites, including using the imagination-goosing Storymatic game created by our own Brian Mooney ’90. All together Marlboro stands to have a very well-rounded group of new students starting the semester next week.