I Was a Teenage Mountain Recluse

IMG_7661 LRHow many red-blooded American teenagers do you know who would take a week away from smart phones and in-your-facebook and other exercises in self-absorption in order to climb mountains and gain perspective through poetry? Zero, right? Well, I know 10 now, 10 fine young people from Vermont and Connecticut and Virginia and Texas and Kentucky and California who participated in one of Marlboro’s amazing (pre)college summer programs called “Poetry on the Peaks.” Led by fearless writing professor Kyhl Lyndgaard, I joined these intrepid youths for a hike up to the dizzy heights of Haystack Mountain.

IMG_7683 LROur man Kyhl chose Haystack because it reminded him of the work of ancient Chinese mountain recluse poet Hsieh Ling-Yün, who lived in exile in the fifth century and built himself a thatch hut to write poetry in. Get it—Haystack; thatch hut? I mean, Kyhl has a writer’s knack for metaphor. He pointed out that many poets and other writers have found their way to Vermont to follow in ol’ Hsieh Lin-Yün’s footsteps, metaphorically speaking, and get away from it all, get out of their own heads, get away from the notion that everything is revolving around them, and ignore their emails. I don’t know if any of them have built thatch huts, but you get the idea.

IMG_7689When we reached the top of the mountain, all hot and sweaty and flushed and panting and more sweaty (and that was just me), Kyhl didn’t waste a moment before reading poems by David Budbill, one of Vermont’s own mountain recluse poets. The teens took turns reading lines, then jumped right into writing some of their own poetry and journal entries—I have never seen a group of teenagers so quiet before. All you could hear was the heat rising off the rocks and a Swainson’s thrush fluting down the slope. I’m not kidding, a butterfly was making a colossal racket flitting around the group. I would not be surprised if some of these reflective young folks, many who had never seen a mountaintop before, might be next to follow the path of ol’ Hsieh Lin-Yün.

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Keeping Bizzy

IMG_7632cropI know you’re probably thinking that Marlboro is basking in the hot, sultry, humid idleness of a Vermont summer, and you would be right about the hot, sultry, humid part. But things are still humming along here, with the summer programs going full tilt, the maintenance department fixing everything that sits still long enough, and Marlboro Music participants playing breves and semibreves and hemidemisemiquavers everywhere you turn. I mean, you can barely hear yourself think about whether existence precedes essence with all the humming going on. But there’s one particular humming that out-hums the rest, and that’s the humming coming from the greenhouse.

IMG_7628croppedAs part of her Plan of Concentration in visual arts and biology, Shyloh Favreau explored the hummy world of bees, including the installation of an exhibition hive in the greenhouse. Holy honey, Batman, you have never seen anyone so busy as a hive of honey bees on exhibition, doing their round dance and waggle dance and tremble dance and I swear I saw some of them doing “Gangnam Style.” If you ever think you are being wonderfully industrious, like, writing a whole paper on Virginia Woolf in a single night or something, come down to the greenhouse and check these little buzzers out for a dose of humility. While they are busy this summer building labyrinths of wax and pollen and honey and larvae, more labyrinths than I have managed in my whole life, they are also pollenating all the veggies in the garden in their spare time.

IMG_7625lcSpeaking of busy, Shyloh also did some awesome, beautifully buzzing  bee-motif tiles for the greenhouse ceiling, inspired by her class trip to Turkey last spring to study ceramic tiles in Seljuk and Ottoman mosques and mausoleums. We don’t expect any empires to follow or anything, but just one more amazing example of the impact one Marlboro student can have on life and times up here on th’ Hill.

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