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The Rope Swing is a Green Mountain College Student run blog. We hope that you enjoy learning about the college as you follow each of our eleven bloggers. Each student has a different unique story to tell and will guide you through their own journey at Green Mountain College. Read more  >>

 

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Thursday
Oct302014

Wise Words From A Younger Crowd- By Seraphina Mallon-Breiman

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about the idea of interviewing someone. I've interviewed my peers, faculty members of institutions I'm part of and even family members- however, I've never interviewed a child. Therefore, I decided to interview nine year old Olivia Rohde, the daughter of one of the Café Chef’s in Prescott College. I met Olivia briefly in the Crossroads Café. She had just come off the stage from her school’s production of ‘Peter Pan’ and exclaimed, “I’m a lost boy!” To this, I asked her if she’d mind if I interviewed her, to which she exuberantly nodded in approval. We spent a few more minutes together and really enjoyed each other’s company, and afterward I asked her mother if I could interview her as well. Her mother also replied affirmatively. Instead of focusing on one area in particular, I came up with an assortment of questions for her, feeling as though it may put her more at ease if I wasn’t querying about one element of her life. After creating a short list of questions, I spent time going deeper into her answers and eliciting further information by giving her my legitimate focus and letting her speak without interruption.

            First, I asked, “Olivia what is your happiest memory?” She said, “Um, being a baby. I remember some pretty funny things. One time when I was really, really, really little and I was in the backyard and my brother was there and I was sitting on a blanket, this is a happy memory, and I was sleeping and he started to snuggle me… and then I woke up. Also, me and my mom were having breakfast somewhere and we came home and we found my brother and he was putting my mom’s makeup on… it was pretty hilarious. There was purple and pink everywhere.” I asked, “Do you think it’s weird if a boy puts on makeup?” And she replied, “No it’s not weird- it’s just really funny.” I thought more about what ideas she may have as a younger girl about makeup and the ways women relate it to their lives. I said, “Does your mom ever wear makeup?” Olivia said,“Mhm she wears mascara. But I don’t need mascara because I already look like I’m wearing it, hehe. I told my dad’s girlfriend ‘you don’t need makeup to look prettier’, but she just said thank you.”

            Then I began wondering her thoughts on being the age that she was and if it suited her or not. I asked, “Do you like being a kid,” and she said, “Yeah, I like it because when you’re a kid you don’t have to work your butt off and pay for bills, and I really never wanna pay for bills, but you have to pay for kids and for gas and for bills, but if you’re a kid you just get to play around and your parents get to pay for bills. You don’t really pay. Yeah.” It seemed as though this topic weighed heavily on her, or at least that it elicited a very strong reaction, so I continued further. “Do you ever feel like you’re getting affected by the stress your parents may feel when they have to do those things?” She said, “Yeah but not in ways that you’d think it would, I get affected because then it’s like I get stressed out, and I get stressed out because I don’t want them to be stressed out and I just want to have a fun time because I’m a kid. And that’s what kids want.” This struck me as powerful because of how self-aware she seemed to be about her relationship to the outer world and the way it affected the grown-ups in her life. I asked, “What advice would you give to your parents,” and she said, “Um, to have fun and relax. Don’t get so, like, blahhhhrrhhhahh, just say ‘don’t do that again’ to someone and then stay chilled out.”

            This made me want to know more about her personal self-awareness. I asked, “If you had to describe yourself in one word, what would it be?” She said, “Amazing.” This was one of my favorite answers, because it was honest. This reply was not self-absorbed or obnoxious and in fact it was whispered while she was simultaneously smiling. She knew that she was positively experiencing life and she was grounded in who she was and where that happened to be.

            I asked, “What do you love most about your siblings?” Olivia said, “I only like one of my siblings. I like my baby brother. He’s cute and he does whatever you want him to do- and also because he giggles. My older brother is mean, he’s always pushing me around and telling me what to do like he’s the boss.” I asked, “What was the nicest thing you ever did for someone?” To this she replied, “My mom’s ex-boyfriend’s dog was really, really old. Her ex-boyfriend’s name was Cole, he died a long time ago, like two years ago, because of cancer, but he had this dog. We were playing at a river or a lake and he really wanted to get down to the water, but there were a bunch of logs and rocks and he couldn’t really cross because he didn’t know if the rocks were stable or not and he had paws and those are hard to use instead of feet and he couldn’t get down, so I helped him.” This surprised me. Before answering, she became very thoughtful and quieter than during any of her previous answers. I could tell she was truly considering what she had done and somehow this story came to her mind.

            Overall, the simplicity in each of Olivia’s answers is what has lingered in my mind past our conversation. Her answers were not pre-scripted, as were many of the adults I have previously encountered. She had so much passion and none of it had been infected by the stresses in her life. If anything, they only upset her because they upset her parents whom she cared about. It feels cliché to claim awe by how purely innocent and youthful she expressed herself, but I truly felt amazed by the wisdom in her answers. I encourage everyone out there to go engage with more of the younger people around you.

Thursday
Oct302014

Organize, Organize, Organize!

By: Natalie House

This past Monday, Bill McKibben spoke on campus about the climate crisis. Directing his advice towards an audience of college students, he said that there is no time to waste in taking action. Individual actions don't matter anymore – instead, organizing is the most crucial thing anyone can do to help push political power forward.

 

Activism Club members did just that at yesterday's rally in Montpelier, Vermont's capitol. The rally, titled “Time's Up, Rise Up! Rally and Sit-In for Climate Justice,” was hosted by 350 Vermont, Rising Tide Vermont, and the Vermont Workers' Center. Vermonters from all over the state gathered on the Statehouse lawn and then inched their way towards the building. While many remained outside of the building, some were able to enter Governor Shumlin's office.

Despite the ban against fracking passed in 2012 for the state of Vermont, the Shumlin administration is in favor of the fracked gas pipeline, which will bring tar sands from Alberta through Addison county. Both fracking and fracked gas pipelines have been proven to leak toxins into watersheds and cause serious health consequences for humans and wildlife. The rally was a stand against this proposition, and a push for healthy communities and hope for future generations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As students at an environmental liberal arts school, it is vital that we be leaders in the energy crisis. The only means of action that are going to change the power dynamics of the oil industry and our government are ones that demand physical presence and numbers. We can all contribute a powerful voice to the climate movement in Vermont and beyond – the first step is to organize within our community. Activism Club is one of the most popular and growing clubs on campus, and is giving students a voice to do just that.

 

Tuesday
Oct282014

Beliefs on BODY HAIR - By Seraphina Mallon-Breiman

When I was little, I have a distinct memory of one of my mother's friends mentioning my underarm hair to me during puberty. No one had ever mentioned it to me before, especially considering there was practically nothing there at that point, but I began to think about it. The comment was minimal, merely suggesting I use a razor to shave what was there because it wasn’t ladylike, but the intonation and averted glance made me feel as though its soft, dark presence there was shameful.

I’d respected the man who'd mentioned it greatly and believed his comment to be a kind suggestion, a helpful hint toward social normality. I told my mother that I wanted to buy a razor and she was perplexed, never having shaven her armpits in her entire life aside from a fancy event she’d attended once or twice in her youth. She asked me why I wanted to, curious as to what sparked my sudden desire and I simply told her it was time that I began.

Even though this man’s comment sparked what felt like my own liberating decision, I can’t help but think back on the shocking discomfort I felt both mentally and physically upon first hearing his words. His choice in glancing down and away from my eyes when he shared his thoughts made me feel like I was being punished- as though perhaps he shouldn’t have had to tell me that having hair under my arms was fundamentally inappropriate. My reaction was so accepting of the wrong that I seemed to be doing that the concept of feeling angry or insulted didn’t even register in my consciousness. From this occurrence up until the very past few weeks of my life, hair has inextricably been tied into my understanding of gender and my identification as a woman.

Body hair has always made me feel uncomfortable, whether it was on my own body or someone else’s who was a part of my life. However, my anxiety greatly changed depending on if the hair was on the body of a female or a male. A male’s armpit hair made me uncomfortable mainly because I associated it with smelling bad or being excessively dirty, and I rarely thought twice about a male’s leg hair. However, when a female in my life had leg or armpit hair, I felt immediately awkward and mildly offended. Whether it was someone’s mother, a mentor, or a friend- if they had armpit or leg hair then somehow I felt as though they were less significant individuals than myself or another woman who was choosing to shave. This feeling of superiority was the feeling that accompanied my own personal squeamishness, the uneasiness that I couldn’t understand. Creating this self-authorized power allowed me to stop questioning why I felt awkward and why the presence of hair should even matter to me. Instead, I went through high school identifying with the “popular crowd” and followed the social norms I came to love and respect. My legs were always perfectly smooth and I shaved my armpits every other day. Some of my best friends and I even began using bleach to lighten the slight mustaches on our upper lips to get rid of any possible masculinity we may have harbored there.

It seemed very natural to me to maintain my body in this way. I would never have thought to expect a man to shave his body the way I shaved mine and if he had I would have considered it to be peculiar or effeminate. This mentality has shaped who I am today and it began without my awareness or my consent. It could be said that the man who made this comment is at fault, and perhaps he is because he never thought to question his own social constructions of reality, but in fact I blame society as a whole and not his misguided advice.

The belief that female body hair is gross or downright unacceptable only began to change when I went to college. Upon arriving at a small environmental liberal arts school in Vermont, I was suddenly surrounded by men and women who all began shattering my cultural beliefs of what was right and wrong. Very few women shaved their body hair and yet they were still acknowledged as “popular” or powerful people by everyone in the community. They still wore dresses, they still had love-interests, and they still painted their nails and took showers. In this new place, it didn’t mean you were smelly or unclean if you had body hair, in fact, it didn’t mean anything at all.

I began realizing how much of my life had been oriented around the acceptance of hair. I began noticing how many of my personal relationships with people depended on how they chose to maintain their hair. Most importantly, I began feeling stupid and overwhelmed by how much of my own self-worth I’d allowed society to determine while I was growing up. Since then, my life has become far more open to what is and isn’t acceptable. A few weeks ago, I realized I’ve still never fully grown out my armpit hair and so I began doing just that. Now, when I go into the bathroom to take a shower, I still look twice in the mirror upon seeing it.  I still can’t say I’m completely comfortable with its presence there- but by consciously letting it stay I can firmly say that I am fighting those feelings and the societal belief that claims it shouldn’t be there. 

Sunday
Oct262014

Time's Up Rise Up

by Krista Lee

On Monday 27, 2014 twenty Green Mountain College students will go to Montpelier to protest the VT Fracked Gas Pipeline. This weekend students gathered to make a banner for the rally and sit-in. Students are actively working to engage other students in active learning through critical thinking. Having a group on campus that is motivated and engaged in the campus community, and Vermont community is what we are striving for. The twenty students who attend the rally and sit in will be able to come back to campus with information to share with the rest of the community. 

Thursday
Oct232014

Ecology of the Southwest - By Seraphina Mallon-Breiman

Over the past few weeks, my understanding of ecology and my environment has begun to incorporate the southwest desert and the land of Arizona. I'm taking an ecology class here at Prescott College with a John Muir impersonist and I’m beginning to think more about geology and rock formations instead of the greenery of New England. I’m learning that rock formations are merely ancient sedimentations of material and that they’re all actually very different. Most importantly, I’m learning that the basic understanding of physical geography, geology and plant species that I learned in high school were not enough.

 

There is so much wonder, so much natural beauty within the daily landscape of our human lives that we choose not to see. We forget to consider the ages of the trees we walk by or the placement of the bushes we pass. Our anthropocentric modernity has shaped our entire culture into a boring, and bored, unconscious group of people. Aldo Leopold writes, “The drama of the sky dance is enacted nightly on hundreds of farms, the owners of which sigh for entertainment, but harbor the illusion that it is to be sought in theaters. They live on the land, but not by the land.” I feel that most of my generations’ problems have come from a dullness they don’t understand and can’t explain. Humans have been given so many different types of technology that we’ve stopped concentrating on our most basic and natural forms of entertainment. For most people, wandering outside and exploring nature is rarely considered to be an equally enjoyable alternative to a movie theater.

 

There are things around us all the time that we’re constantly taking for granted, or at least not observing very well. So many creatures and beings and plants and matter make up our world and interconnected universe. Every minute organism plays its role in the procedure of our lives, yet we are probably deeming that creature as less important or unnecessary. It is so important to remember that every tiny creature or seemingly insignificant being or part of nature holds a significant place within this world. It’s so important to put away our smart-phones when we get to the top of places like Thumb Butte and just spend time sitting and looking at what is in front of us. It’s important to look at what we are hiking past and spend time counting the rings of tree stumps and identifying riverbeds. Nancy E. Langston writes, “…The world is dramatically affected by humans.” To ignore this is irresponsible; we must understood the role we play within this world without thinking anthropocentrically. We must continue exploring unobtrusively and we must continue asking questions in order to better understand and change the global crisis we’ve created. Humans must discontinue attempts to conquer the land and instead begin understanding ourselves as an active part within its system.