The signs are everywhere that my time as an Earth Lodger has come to an end. Classes have piled on the homework and projects, clubs have elected new officers, dining dollars are being scavenged for, and talks of beach week and summer plans chatter throughout the air. We as Earth Lodgers now spend time to reflect upon our time together, our legacy as a class and prepare a new class to be even more than we could be. I can’t speak for other living and learning programs but Earth Lodge is more than just a program. As a family we have laughed, argued, cried and tickled together. Four generations of Earth Lodgers have come together to share experiences and create a space at the University of Richmond for students like us. Who we are is hard to explain but the simple truth is we are Earth Lodge.

Every Earth Lodger Eternally Encourages Everyone to Effectively and Ethically Experience the Earth Exponentially. We Earth Lodgers are passionate for every experience with this speck of dust in endless universe, called Earth, we can get. Of the millions of places we’ve ever seen it appears as though Earth is the only place that can support life. The only place! Oh sure, there could be other life-giving planets we haven’t seen yet, but the point is that Earth could easily have been a clump of sulphur gas, lying in darkness forever, or have a winter that dips a couple hundred degrees and lasts twenty years like Uranus. On this planet Earth, the only one in the giant dark blackness where anything can live, we ended up being humans. Congratulations, us! We are the only species on the only life giving planet who is capable of surfing the waves and dancing at raves, planting trees and keeping bees, driving cars and exploring Mars. This planet is incredible and each day is an extraordinary experience, we as Earth Lodgers seek to respect and appreciate. Exploring the intricacies of our own mandalas, the complex and contrasting characters of the James River Watershed and the earth under our feet each provide knowledge, connection and admiration for the beauty of the world we live in.

Apples, Adam, And Always Aligning Agricultural Actions Alongside An Area’s Aspirations. An aspect of Earth Lodge this past year was a dedication of service to the environment and we chose some beautiful projects. Our first area at the William and Byrd Community Farm brought us close to an interesting fellow and fellow Earth enthusiast, Matthew. The Farm serves local Richmond residents by providing gardens in which they can grow their own fresh vegetables and herbs in an urban farm setting. Not only does planting yield food, it can also help filter the runoff that will eventually go into our waterways. This site provides for an essential need and gives residents the ability to take ownership of a plot of their own, all while cleaning our watershed. The Farm also works in conjunction with the William Byrd Community House program in which young children can learn about farming, growing their own food and how other cultures grow food (an African Keyhole Garden). The Farm has several current projects, including building a worm composting center, greenhouse and weeding the rows, which the Earth Lodgers and myself had fun working on for a few hours. Matthew’s knowledge of the earth and respect towards every plant and animal opened our eyes to a new way of interacting with the Earth. On the Farm, trees grew around and encompassed fences, spiders were carefully moved out of the way and roots were carefully avoided instead of cut. Every interaction with the earth was purposeful to avoid footprints upon nature and serve the education and nutritional needs of the community.

Relaxing Rain Releases Rushing Rivers Rightly Rinsing Rocks Repeatedly Reproducing Rich Refined Reconstructing Resources. Our study of the James River Watershed has been fulfilling as we explored through research, hands on experience and guest lectures. The professionals brought to class were leaders in their fields who have actually convinced me to do an Environmental Studies minor. From Champ Bailey and his passion for the Gambles Mill Corridor to the photographer’s desire to share not just one moment in time to the viewer but a series of moments even a whole minute. From the trip up to the Potomac where we boldly embraced the snow rushing down the canyon and time spent at Pony Pastures dodging inchworms, like we were in the matrix, we have always stayed true to the River. In many of our reflections we have talked about our connection to water. Shannon says it best in her latest synthesis, first paragraph.

Technology Titillates and Terrifies, Tortures and Treats The Terra; Thoroughly Testing Today’s Temper and Temperature: Thoughts? We Earth Lodgers explored the connections between man, nature, and technology. The interconnectivity that helps and harms each other brought about the steamiest of debates in our humble abodes. As Ravenclaw (science kids) dueled Hufflepuff (Arts kids) and Slytherin (Business kids) dueled Gryffindor (leadership) the complexity of what we originally thought was common sense arose. The concept of technology of human nature of right versus wrong of responsibility, ethics and morality are all toys we played with during our late night talks.

Heroes Heal the Hacked Habitats and Halt Haters Hence Humanity Hath Health and Hope. We are the new heroes of this world. We are the leaders to a new culture that respects and admires nature for what she offers and ethically interacts with her. We are the only species on the only living planet capable of so much including destroying ourselves. The story of the Easter Islanders is a warning to our own system of production. Like Easter Island the earth has only limited resources to support human society and all its demands. Like the islanders, the human population of the earth has no practical means of escape. How has the environment of the world shaped human history and how have people shaped and altered the world in which they live? Have other societies fallen into the same trap as the islanders? For the last two million years humans have succeeded in obtaining more food and extracting more resources on which to sustain increasing numbers of people and increasingly complex and technologically advanced societies. But have they been any more successful than the islanders in finding a way of life that does not fatally deplete the resources that are available to them and irreversibly damage their life support system? These are the questions we must explore, answer and then respond to. Our challenge as an Earth Lodger is to be that hero.

Earth Lodgers have a special connection to the world around us and to each other. We are a family of explores, adventures and enthusiasts working together to change the world. While this year has come to an end, we head off around the world for a while and maybe will never be one complete unit; we are still connected through our hearts and through the earth. My brothers and my sisters are strong and will survive on their own, but I know, just like for me, Earth Lodge was, is and will forever be our home.

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