I never could have dreamed of waking up, the way I did yesterday, to the glory of a pink sunrise streaked with orange, the lines like those left after someone has waved a sparkler. When I was younger, I hated the city. I wanted to leave, to climb trees, to milk cows, to wake up to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s tin-basin bath. But I have grown used to the city, taking too much for granted the proximity of museums and how easy it is to find an excellent school – or, rather, a whole host of them. And in the past few years, I have taken art history, coming, through the class, to a better understanding of the beauty of the art in those museums. I have relied on multiple public library branches for research papers, resources that may or may not be available outside of New York. I have even started walking to school through the park in recent years, watching the sun rise up 96th Street. In short, I have come to appreciate the city and its way of life. I have lost touch with the desires that pushed me so forcefully away from it, and I have settled into its conveniences. I felt Nature’s absence less strongly, compensating, for its lack with my daily half-hour walk through the park. (I have, since third grade, intentionally capitalized Nature’s first letter.)
Life at the Mountain School is rougher. I don’t yet have the spiritual capability or possess the physical strength for life in Vermont winter. I can love the season’s visual aspect, but I am in no way prepared for snowshoeing up hills and pushing myself to the top. I have worked to find intellectual challenge; now, physical challenge has found me. I like the idea of it, and I hope that I will be able to meet it. The sense of time here is different and more beautiful. Not only am I allowed to admire the sunrise and look closely at the trees but I am expected to. Managing homework, in terms of time constraints, is still a challenge. But the challenge now is balancing school work with the outdoors, not schoolwork with more schoolwork. I have seen few sunrises but have had to rush onward to arrive at school in time for some sort of meeting or other. Now, I can stop for a few moments just to stare at the heavens. That’s the real difference between the Mountain School and New York City living.