by Anna Brown
When I was 15, I met two people who changed my life. My first encounter with Steve and Brooke was at an airport, where (you guessed it), they had come to meet me and five other teenagers for an SCA High School Conservation Crew at Wind Cave National Park.
by Anna Brown
When I was 15 years old, I met two people who changed my life. Their names were Steve and Brooke, and they were quite the pair. Steve was a graduate student from Washington State, somewhat quiet and reserved, but at the same time wonderfully sincere and full of random information that made him the best trivia player I had ever met. Brooke was a fearless twenty-something year old who was training for a marathon and had a chipped-tooth grin so wide and cheeks so rosy that her smile was contagious. My first encounter with Steve and Brooke was at an airport, where (you guessed it), they had come to meet me and five other wide-eyed and red-blooded teenagers for an SCA High School Conservation Crew at Wind Cave National Park.
There is more than I can list that was magical about that crew: being away from home for four weeks, sleeping under the stars, learning how to cook, building a bridge with nothing but hand tools and logs, wearing a birthday cape one day while working on that bridge (it was my sixteenth), climbing the highest mountain in South Dakota, discovering fluffer-nutter sandwiches, climbing a way higher mountain in Wyoming, spelunking in one of the world’s longest caves, and discovering unexpected friendships that would change the way I thought about the world. It wasn’t until years later, when I became an SCA crew leader myself, that I realized how much of that “magic” was not merely serendipitous, but directly attributable to the tireless and dedicated work of Steve and Brooke.
Though the intimate details of Steve and Brooke’s personal experiences with our crew will never be fully known to me, I’ve realized that part of their experience must not have been so different than that of SCA crew leaders today. Here at crew leader training, I suddenly sense that I am more united with Steve and Brooke now than I was when I was fifteen years old (though I have been out of touch with them for years). That’s because now, I share in their vision, as all SCA crew leaders of the past and present do. We’re part of a circle that never diminishes – it is only capable of growing larger.
The energy at training is contagious. Last summer, my crew members invented a word that is the best I have yet come across to try and describe the SCA energy that was present then and is here now: posi-enthusi-tude. That’s right: positive, enthusiastic, attitude. It’s the kind of feeling you get when you look out at the horizon and see endlessness. It’s the wave of heat that flushes across your chest when you realize something that makes you feel expansive. It’s spring. It’s starting over. It’s sensing the limitlessness in the complexity of a single flower.
We come from all walks of life. We’re college students, and school teachers and mothers and fathers, and gourmet ice cream connoisseurs. We vary from the wandering types to the family types to the professionals, and everything in between. We come from the east coast, west coast, no coast, and some of us have been coasting for so long it is hard to define where we come from. But we all have one thing in common – we are all dedicated to empowering young people and hold a conviction that the outdoors is our greatest classroom. We are united in our vision of the future - one where all people tread mindfully on this great landscape of life and hold each other up when we have to scale mountains. Above all else, we hold in our hearts an unwavering faith in the power of young people, and we find hope in that. The shirts on our backs say “SCA”, and we wear them proudly, because this is the organization that has brought us together to do the great work.
And when we gaze up at the stars at night, we remember that we are all sleeping under the same roof.
I’ve got three weeks left to prepare for the summer crew season. This time around, I’ll be leading crews at Yosemite and The Virgin Islands National Park. There is so much hard work that goes into these crews even before they begin. Contacting students, writing letters, communicating with agency partners, completing paperwork and planning logistics is all part of the job description of an SCA Crew Leader. But the most important component to our preparation occurs internally – it is the intricate work that we must do inside each of our hearts and heads before any of this can begin. So here I stand grinding my feet into the ground, and I pick up a Pulaski – the empress of tools.
Ahead of me on the trail I see the faces of all the 2011 high school participants, who will soon arrive wide-eyed and red-blooded at airports across the country. Behind me, I see Steve and Brooke, and I remember one of the first things they taught me about trail work. They taught me that trails are hand hewn. They taught me that the work is a slow, mindful process. And deliberate. But that when it’s all said and done, you’ll be able to walk an unwavering path. You’ll be able to stand and gaze out at the horizon, and know that is endless – that it stretches far beyond all these things that are immediately in front of us, these distractions that sometimes block our view.
In my mind, I’m out on that horizon, and I’m holding a Pulaski. I picture Steve’s quiet gaze, the way he listened so intently whenever we talked, like there was nothing more important in the world. And I picture Brooke’s rosy cheeks and chipped-tooth smile. I grin. We all grin.
We’re all in this together.
Crew Leader Training, Charlestown NH, May 13, 2011
Carpentry Skills Training
Rigging Instructor - Will
Amanda and JR