Coming Home

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My father died on May 2nd, 2013.  He had been battling prostate cancer for several years.  His struggle had intensified pretty significantly in December of 2012.  My brother and I knew then that it was likely his last Christmas with us.  My former classmate and fellow alumna, Rebecca passed away almost seven years ago now.  She was only 34.  She had been vibrant, healthy, gentle & kind.  I hadn’t been in touch with her for a long while and was not able to see her or connect with her directly when I found out she was dying of colon cancer.  She and her husband had just completed construction on their beautiful new home.  They had spent one year in it together while it was finished.

The amount of sadness I have experienced around these losses and certainly others is large.  Of course, the loss of my father has been a huge turning point in my life for me.  I have joined “the dead parents club” as one of my colleagues put it.  It is certainly not a club one seeks membership in, but you inevitably will join at some point.  Along his journey, I ended up making a LOT of trips back to CT to be with him and my brother.  I fled CT years ago and typically dread going back.  The culture is simply not home for me and hasn’t been for quite some time.  I don’t have a place there.  I don’t fit and don’t have a desire to do so.  Vermont is truly my home.

Since my first visit the Marlboro College back on November 11th, 1990, I knew that Vermont, particularly this corner of Southeastern Vermont, was destined to be home.  Flash forward to 1998 when I re-met my future wife, someone whom I knew at Marlboro when we were both students.  She was in Vermont, I was in Boston.  Falling in love was the best excuse to get back to the place where I lost my heart the first time.  Since then, my wife and I have been establishing home here, living in houses or apartments where we could gather our friends together, cook tasty meals, settle in for quiet times after rambunctious days, creating a space which simply exuded that sense of home for all who entered.

That sense of home has been the foundation of our relationship.  As long as we had that strong, grounding place together, we felt we could meet anything no matter how challenging.  It was critical to be able to come home after the long weekends in CT with my father.  Even before then, that home place with our deep, thick community we have here held us when my wife’s mother suddenly passed away 13 years prior.  It has been in these most tragic, sad times that home, both the place and the feeling have mattered most and have been the most present.

As creators and stewards of home, we have longed to be actual home owners.  We have researched, deeply thought about, planned out designs, visited and house sat at so many beautiful and sometimes not so beautiful homes.  We have established a very clear sense of what the physical space of home should be for us.  However, it wasn’t until my father passed away and left us half of the proceeds from the sale of his home that we could even consider becoming home owners.  While excited about having the means to possess a space to truly create our own home, the sadness of the loss of my father was and still is present.

When the perfect home came into our search, we didn’t realize that it was going to be Rebecca’s former home she built with her husband, also a Marlboro alumnus.  But when we visited the home which we had only saw as a listing online, we immediately knew the story of this home.  The love and care that was put into its construction and into the deconstruction of the previous home was instantly palpable. They took elements of the old farm house and integrated them into this new, environmentally more sustainable, home.  There was such attention to detail, the color choices, the light switch plates, the gardens which had been planted by the owner before them.  The spaces were designed to have groups of people over.  There was an instant warmth, and instant welcome.  It was already our home.  Now that it is our home, I live with this ever present sense of joy in finding this beautiful space to continue co-creating home with my wife and loved ones.  I also hold very close the spirits of my father and Rebecca, wishing they could be here to see us.  I also know they are most definitely with us.

Jodi Clark
- Jodi Clark, ’95
Director of Housing and Residential Life

Some Lines Upon the Destruction of our Town, August 2011

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Rocks rolled and clicked along the asphalt road across from my rental cabin in what appeared to be a cosmic game of bocce ball. My wife and I had barely set up house and it was time for Sunday brunch at Marlboro College with the only-slightly newer first-year students. In four days, classes were to start, and this was Orientation Weekend. My own orientation as a new faculty member had concluded two days earlier, and I was keen to get involved and meet my students. The Vermonters I’d been meeting suggested putting aside a few milk jugs of water and cans of beans in case winds from Hurricane Irene caused power outages.

I walked up the road in that unrelenting rain to the intersection of Town Hill Road, where I could hear heavy equipment rumbling above and beyond me. A man in a backhoe was redirecting a blown-out ditch, trying to stop that dirt road from completely washing down to the bedrock. Another minute of walking brought me to the Meetinghouse, where cars with New York and Connecticut plates were parking, and I learned that they were there to find shelter—Route 9, the main east-west road over the Green Mountains in Southern Vermont, had suffered landslides and was impassible in both directions. It was at that point that I decided I could safely skip the new student and faculty brunch.
Two days later, I rode my mountain bike to campus to teach a haikai poetry communal writing exercise to new students who were seeing the first day of classes pushed back until the roads were reopened. Poetry. In the face of all the destruction, I wanted poetry, and medieval Japanese poetry at that. Jeffrey Yang, poet and editor at New Directions, argued for poetry in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene and in the face of a year that saw a record $200 billion in damage from weather/climate disasters in the US. “Poetry brings us to a certain kind of awareness . . . a lot of it is about how we heal . . . from these disasters.” Yang cited German expressionist poet Gottfried Benn:

The drunken torrents are broken,

grown alien, to you, to me,

our only possession the silence

of a bone washed clean by the sea.

The floods, the flames, the questions —

till the ashes tell you one day:

“Life is the building of bridges

over rivers that seep away”

(Trans. M. Hamburger, from “Epilogue”)

Safe back in the little cabin, my wife and I wrote poems, painted pictures, and secretly rather enjoyed the fact that we weren’t supposed to drive anywhere. We ate our ice cream before it melted. We looked at the black streaks on the exposed posts and beams of the 200-year old shed, now cabin, and I thought too of other disasters. Poets have created from destruction as long as there have been words.

My own work on early American literature made me recall Anne Bradstreet, the Puritan writer who wrote “Verses upon the Burning of our House, July 10th, 1666” and I felt a new kinship in the face of all the destruction we witnessed. That poem begins with the baleful lines:

In silent night when rest I took,

For sorrow near I did not look,

I wakened was with thund’ring noise

And piteous shrieks of dreadful voice.

Although Bradstreet ultimately finds redemption, she takes her time getting there and surveys the aftermath carefully.

My sorrowing eyes aside did cast

And here and there the places spy

Where oft I sate and long did lie.

Here stood that trunk, and there that chest,

There lay that store I counted best.

My pleasant things in ashes lie

And them behold no more shall I.
Poetry comes from the ashes and the torrents. Although our bridges and houses, our stores and pelf will pass away, the creative impulse will remain. Here are a few stanzas we created on August 31, 2011, sitting on the grass at our officially “cut-off” campus.

Wandering for hours

Alone in the dark

One flickery flashlight.                                   Ivy


A heron on the roof:

Why so much worry

Over a little mud?                                           Kyhl


A kinship with the mountain—

Ants excluded—

We revel in the seclusion.                               Marty


Suddenly brightness

Once gone and now returned

Everything is right.                                         Raina



– Kyhl Lyndgaard

Marlboro College Professor — Environmental Studies, Literature, Writing

Rust Belt Chic

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Four months after my graduation from Marlboro College, life unexpectedly led me to Cleveland, Ohio, for a three-week stint.  I lived, for part of that time, with a fellow Marlboro graduate who works as an abstract painter in addition to managing a portrait gallery in Cleveland’s arts district, Tremont.  I made my own money washing dishes at a restaurant on Detroit Avenue, a major West Side thoroughfare.

You might ask yourself: Really? Cleveland?  There’s an art scene in Cleveland?  Why would anybody graduate college and then move to Cleveland?  Why would more than one person make this terrible mistake?

Before I actually lived in Cleveland, I had wondered similar things.  The city of 390,000 residents (dramatically down from its mid-twentieth-century peak of 900,000), is currently in the midst of what has been described by different sources as an “urban renaissance” harnessing its allure of “Rust Belt Chic” to attract “millennials and recent college graduates” in search of a “quirky” or maybe “local” vibe.

The fuel for this process, the attraction of “Rust Belt Chic” is the stuff of great debate, but at its core is a familiar story.  Neighborhoods of color, of workers, of immigrants, suddenly share real estate with new faces.  These faces are usually white, young, and accompanied by a decent amount of disposable income.  Over time, the rents rise, and the old residents are forced out.  This process is often celebrated on promotional websites, in magazines, and on television as “revival” or “renaissance,” but it obscures the disruption of people, history, and tradition that characterizes so many gentrifying neighborhoods.  It obscures a narrative of destruction.

Part of this narrative is also creativity, of conjuring a new society from the ruins of the old.  In Cleveland’s steel mills, dilapidated Victorian houses, old laundries, and empty shops, new residents see a blank slate with a gritty, industrial appeal.  But at what cost does the empty slate come?  Yes, there is certainly cause for celebration in the opening of new businesses and the growth of cities’ tax bases.  But look closer and you will see the continuation of other problems: of incredible segregation, of extreme poverty and human suffering, of a historically racist police force.  “Renaissance” is only a partial story of the changes under way in American cities in the twenty-first century.


– David Amato

Marlboro Class of 2014


Finding Inspiration

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Sometimes, obtaining inspiration is tough, and it can often work against us and make us uninspired. We may feel what the point of even trying is. Sometime if you JUST try, you will find inspiration will begin to flow. To attempt, to make, or to do is the first step towards the right direction. It is always best to try  and attempt than to never try or to never attempt at all. To attempt, even the slightest is the first great feat one can accomplish. You will find all throughout life, that to try and put effort into whatever you are doing will be much more rewarding; not only to others, but to you, rather than sitting and being idle.

The first step could be finding ideas, like brainstorming. Finding an idea in itself can be a whole other challenge. Find something that motivates you or you are passionate about. It is much easier to do something that you actually like or are interested in. Write down a few ideas of what you are most interested in. Try to narrow down your list until you have thought of one solid good idea that you are confident about. Remember, always try, you have nothing to loose.

Just remember, that everyone struggles with finding inspiration on a project or a task. All of these require work and effort. The hardest work or the task with the most effort is always the most rewarding. If we are able to really work for what we want to achieve, we can over come and complete anything. Work and good effort takes motivation, concentration, and determination. With those three points, one can complete any task.


– John McGough

Marlboro College ’18

Winning the [Compost] Lottery

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If we saved all of the disgusting food scraps we scraped off our plates in our whole lifetimes, and placed them in a slimy, gooey line, they would reach all the way to the moon and back 27 times. That’s a rough guess anyway, but what a better use of time and space it would be to compost those food scraps instead.

Composting is a way to take the stuff that nobody wants to eat, the soggy French fries, moldy bread, wilted lettuce, wormy apples, and squishy tomatoes, and turn them into something really useful: rich, bountiful soil. It’s like getting something from nothing, like creating something beautiful from putrid decay, like turning destruction on it’s head, like winning the lottery. Well, maybe not like winning the lottery, but it’s still pretty amazing.

The key to composting is aerobic bacteria, tiny, oxygen-loving microorganisms that busily break down organic waste like the aforementioned wilted lettuce, and use some of the nutrients to thrive and multiply. To these bacteria, your disgusting table scraps are like an all-you-can-eat buffet of gastronomic delights. As the bacteria work their magic, the compost can heat up to 140 degrees, or hot enough to cause third degree burns. They don’t seem to mind, however, and the hotter it gets, the quicker the disgusting, smelly food scraps are destroyed and turned into lush, fertile soil.

Where do these amazing bacteria come from? They are just always there, waiting to be helpful. Actually, they’re just waiting to thrive and multiply, but if they are helpful to us in the process they deserve the credit. But beware gentle composters, there are also anaerobic bacteria always there, and they aren’t as apparently helpful. If your compost isn’t turned and mixed regularly, supplying the air that aerobic bacteria need to survive, it will instead be overrun by anaerobic bacteria that turn smelly food scraps into even smellier, partially decomposed food scraps.

So here’s how composting is NOT like winning the lottery: you are no more or less likely to win millions of dollars, but there IS a little work involved. But if you spend a little time turning your compost pile, and make sure that the balance of carbon and nitrogen-rich waste is maintained to keep your aerobic bacteria happily humming along, you will be amply repaid in rich soil.


Philip Johansson

Writer and Editor, author of Potash Phil (



A Haiku: Cancer

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So much material –

I’ve no use for it.

It’s not where I wish

to dwell.



-Sunny Tappan

College Receptionist and Information Hub

Marlboro Class off ’77


Creation and Destruction: Like a Chicken and an Egg

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The cycle of creation and destruction is a bit like a chicken and an egg; it’s hard to determine which comes first. In the creation story in Genesis, God creates the world out of a void, an earth without form. It’s not as if there was nothing when God set to work but rather a disorganized mess. By separating out the elements, the waters from the land, the heaven from the earth, God created something where biodiversity might flourish. With the land separated from the water, the grasses and herbs and fruit trees could multiply. With the waters unclogged by land, whales and other swimming creatures were able to multiply. And with the firmament separated from the soil, fowl and other flying things were able to stretch out in the open firmament of heaven. By separating out the elements, a pastoral and God-loving civilization was able to emerge.

But even that Old Testament creation moved inexorably towards destruction. When God became seriously disappointed with the degree of piety in his well-ordered universe, he made the elements mash-up again. The waters rose, the dry land disappeared, and the world as the shepherds and goatherds knew it was destroyed. According to this biblical logic, creation begat destruction which begat creation.

But what if the void in the beginning began it all? Some scholars read Genesis as a description of the limits of the human imagination. When we can’t make sense of things, we call it chaos, bedlam, destruction, the void. By creating order, God made the world legible. With the water separated from the land, we feel a lot more in control. But that feeling that we can find our way in the world begins with the terror that the whole thing is madness. That may be the primal experience of life for the newborn. From that intense fear we are willing to follow the dictates of our parents, to absorb their rules, to imitate their inclinations. Maybe the terror of chaos propels us towards order.

Besides the chicken and egg problem, there is also the confusion in determining what constitutes creation and what constitutes destruction. Since climate change has entered our vocabulary, many of the creations of the past sixty years are looking more destructive. For instance, the strip mall that your grandparents called convenient is now seen as environmental degradation. That shift in awareness happened because environmentalists read order where developers saw messiness. We now know that bogs and marshes, the swampy borders between water and land, are not messes but complex filtration systems that separate out pollutants and absorb floodwaters. When we thought wetlands were earth without form, we imposed order by covering them up with parking spaces and aisles of laundry detergents. Now we impose order by keeping developers away. What God creates let no man turn asunder!

Creation and destruction are both intimately entwined and evolving. Once we understand the order, as was the case with wetlands, then we stop trying to organize it. If we just see it as messy, then we bring in the bulldozers to firm up the soil. What this suggests is that the cycle of creation and destruction has a lot to do with our experience of the world’s intelligibility and unintelligibility. When the elements are in their rightful place, the world feels manageable. But in the presence of chaos, we feel really, really small.

The superstorms of recent years, the tornadoes and hurricanes that mash up parking lots and strip malls, grinding asphalt against the deep waters of the sea, create unintelligible landscapes. In this part of Vermont, during Tropical Storm Irene, hillsides that dated back to biblical times were washed out to sea. The day before the storm, these close-packed hills with winding streams and occasional strip malls were completely intelligible. Once the roads washed out and the ancient oaks and propane tanks became like creatures that moved in the waters, we lost our bearings. Three years later, we’re still trying to make sense of it all.

The destruction of Irene begat new ideas about hillsides and roads that seemed permanently tethered to their streams. It made me think about asphalt differently and buying river-front property. It certainly gave me first-hand experience of the terrible wonder that fills a person when the landscape exceeds the intelligible forms in the head.

I’d like to tell you that I was able to increase my awareness so that great destructions are always within my ken, but that would be a bald-faced lie. What I think I can say is that destruction propels us toward creation. The trick is to create something that recognizes the limits of human understanding, or at least can handle the next storm’s force.


By: Meg Mott

Marlboro College Professor – Environmental Studies, Gender Studies, Politics


We Destroy to Understand

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We have all heard the phrase “good artists create, but great artists steal” at one point or another. In fact, we have heard it with probably just about every profession related to creation. Artist, musicians, writers, film directors, and philosophers: we say that the greatest of them steal what they create. But how? To simply steal would (and should) be considered plagiarism, no? It is because we have bumper-stickered this saying, and what it entails, for the sake of brevity.

When film a director pays homage to another film by use of a quote or camera trick, they are not simply stealing this piece, an entire process has happened prior to the choice to use this specific material. This process is the progression of understanding so that what is stolen may not only be used appropriately, but that its meaning is kept intact and germane. As in all pursuits in life, there are levels upon levels of processes and this is no different for understanding.

So what is this process that underlies our ability to understand? Destruction. Everything we ever come in contact with and everything we ever think about, we tear apart, strip it down and break it up so that only its most important parts remain. We watch films and will only remember a fraction of a full presentation, we remember specific melodies within specific movements in symphonies, and we focus on only certain objects in paintings. Why? Because those are what matter to you. Those parts sum up what the full piece means to you. What you remember is what struck you. We destroy a work of someone else, what is left is what we find impactful , important, and useful.

Let me talk about this idea of “destroying to understand” a different context. Academic journals acts as a strip shop of formalized and published thoughts. Every page you see is the product of this multi-level process of destruction, understanding, and subsequent creation for the simple goal of having this new product destroyed by both the new and old voices in a field of study. Scholars, academics, professors, they all sit and read these articles, making diagrams of causation and support. The mark down their questions, they compare their own knowledge, the try to find the claim of the author, trying to decipher its importance, validity, and over all integrity. After they do this, they may read the article a second time, they may just critique or question the author, they may never give it direct heed again. No matter what their following action is though, they are all left with some imprint from the text they read, they carry with them little, tiny, beautiful pieces that they will at one point bring into their own arguments. They use these pieces to construct a new article, and then they submit this article to an academic journal, and the cycle continues.

This process, this cycle is essential to how we learn, create, and advance. But what do you do with this? Well, do exactly what you were doing before. Change nothing in the way you create, because it is more than likely you already think about things in a similar fashion as I have outlined. Just recognize that this pattern (destruction, understanding, creation) is present, understand that it is natural, and understand that it is beautiful. We are creatures of creation, we are creatures of destruction, we are creatures capable of marvelous things. The prompt of The Beautiful Minds Challenge is not a challenge to change how you create: It is a task of how you think about creation.

Logan Davis
By: Logan Davis

Marlboro Class of 2017



Recycling Bin Inspiration

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Recycled Inspiration

I looked in my recycling bin for inspiration. I found crumpled up pieces of paper;

drawings I had begun and abruptly finished a few days ago. They were sloppy, messy,

and now crumpled. I flattened them out and again saw my point of frustration. I had

circled in red pen all of the mistakes I made.


However, the red circles were undeniably important. They were part of the

drawing, no longer excluded. I glued the drawings down on some cardboard and the

lines from the crumpled paper were now hardly noticeable. Now, my most obvious

mistake was gone. I arranged them close to one another on the cardboard and then cut

the excess edges to only leave a small outline of where the drawings lay.


The drawings now had a different feel. They seemed almost constellation-like or

that the red circles were indications of something entirely different. In re-working these

drawings that had neglected, there were less and less signs of destruction.



By: Emma Studebaker

Marlboro Class of 2018

Beautiful Minds Challenge Honorary Mention 2013-14

Thanks, 2014 Symposium Participants! We Had a Great Time!

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Twenty-three high school students from across the country (and the world!) joined us in still-snowy Marlboro, Vermont April 2-5 for the second-annual Beautiful Minds Challenge Symposium. Highlights of the symposium, according to attendees, were the improv comedy workshop, dinner at faculty member William Edelglass’ house, attending college classes, seeing each others’ presentations and meeting an amazing group of other students! We’ll let quotes and pictures speak for themselves.

Roundtable Cropped

Round table on journeys and the Road Less Traveled

  “I really enjoyed meeting other students from around the country and world. Sharing our experiences was seriously inspirational!”

Alex Presentation Cropped  “I was hesitant about participating at first (worried about getting judged…) As the days went on, I felt more comfortable and inspired to share myself with the group.”

Improv 1 Cropped

“Diversity and commonality alike were abundant and it made for an enriching, fulfilling experience.”

Anna Presentation Cropped

“This was one of the most amazing experiences in my life.”

Angie's Group Small

“Marlboro is completely different than what I expected, and I may not have talked to some of   these  people if I just saw them on the street, but they are all really cool and I learned different things from everyone.”

“I really was surprised at how close I was able to get with the other participants in only four days! This was truly a beautiful experience!”


“I learned how so many people can take such different meanings from a prompt and still make it so lovely and beautiful in a very different way from me.”

“There really are like-minded people in the world that want the things I do from a school.”



Climbing Wall Cropped

 “I had some knowledge and expectations, but nothing like coming and experiencing it! I know now I would fit in here (at Marlboro College). This is a really cool program.”

” This experience has given me so much hope and excitement  for the future.”

BMC group 2014

BMC Symposium attendees at Gallery Walk in Brattleboro

2013-14 Honorable Mention Entries

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The Life of an Observer by Grace John | St. Agnes Academy | Memphis, TN

Link to video here:

“To acquire knowledge, one must study; to acquire wisdom, one bust observe.” -Marilyn Vos Sevant

The road of observation has always been my road less travelled. It has always been the road I have taken, it has always been the road I have enjoyed the most. Through my observation of people, life and situations, I have learned many things about myself and others.

Concerning myself, I have learned that I enjoy watching people. I enjoy listening to the conversations they have with each other. I enjoy watching how people react to someone’s arrival or departure. I enjoy memorizing people’s quirks and habits. Observation has taught me that I enjoy all of those things, but more importantly, it has taught me how to observe myself. Through observing others, I have gained the skills required to observe myself and my own behavior, which allows me to better control my emotions and reactions. I observe myself in conversation; It’s as if there are two of me present at all times–one speaking and the other taking note of how the first replies to certain statements or questions so that I am able to improve my responses and make them more thoughtful. I also enjoy paying attention to the way that certain situations make me feel. If I begin to feel sad, I sit back and look at what is happening. I wonder why and I determine why so that, if I would truly like to, I can avoid these situations in the future or teach myself how to protect and prepare myself for them when the time comes for me to endure them again. I take note of facial expressions that I make at certain times or feelings that I get when I’m near certain people, thoughts that enter my head at certain times of day. Observation has, overall, taught me more about myself and my body and my reactions than, I believe, anything else ever could.

Concerning others, I have learned more about them through observation than I ever could through talking to them. As stated in my video, observation is beautiful because through observation you cannot be lied to. Entering someone’s bedroom alone can teach you a multitude of things about them. Their favorite color, their favorite band, their favorite texture, their deepest secrets, the things that they collect, the things that they don’t care for, the things that mean the most to them. If someone keeps movie stubs, they probably enjoy movies. If someone has a bookshelf full of books, they probably enjoy reading. Books on a shelf alone can tell you a lot about a person. What are their wildest dreams? What is that persons dream world? What does that person want to be when they grow up? I have learned all that there is to know regarding my friend’s interests solely by entering their bedrooms or reading their blogs. However, there is more to my observation of others than just their belongings. I also learn from the way they speak to me. I notice quirks. Grace Winburne repeats what I say to her when she gets excited. Marielle pronounces Mizzou as MIZzou and Mary faith as MARY faith. Nick used to stutter when he was interested in a subject. Chloe speaks slower when she is frustrated than she does when she is in a good mood. Noticing these types of things about people has taught me how to interpret their feelings and has also made it easier for me to communicate with them. As an observer I am able to predict moods and proceed accordingly. Being an observer has taught me many things and I am grateful that I have been blessed with the skills of an observer.

A Path Less Traveled – JCOS Lake Powell Trip 2013 by Bailey Bermond | Jefferson County Open School | Wheat Ridge, CO

Link to video here:


Back in the 70’s when the Open School was conceived, a tradition was born known as the Boundary Waters Trip, where students spend three weeks paddling and exploring the pristine waters of this canoe area wilderness in Minnesota and Canada.

We can notice a visible shift in climates around the world, and the BWCA is one of those places. The lakes were completely iced over, with a good four feet of snow above them in May when we have always gone. People were greatly affected in the area, and inevitably our trip was to be canceled. That is until we came together as a group and created something new. “Boundary Waters South” was off and rolling as we hit the road where no BW trip group has ever traveled before. We explored Utah—Lake Powell our destination—where we canoed about 60 miles.

Collectively as a group I think we all learned a lesson in letting go of expectations, and this yielded one of the most spontaneous, rewarding, and special journeys of our lives. This remained a theme during my four day solo experience when I had certain patterns in my thinking I was holding on to, which I describe in the film as fear. As I let go, instead of just surviving, I was finally living in awe of this incredible planet.

Throughout my journey, I have expanded my appreciation for the life-long learning JCOS teaches us and the important role nature plays as our classroom; for these are places that truly cultivate beautiful minds.

I am honored to share something so dear to my heart with you all at Marlboro College. Enjoy, and please watch in HD :)

The Never Ending Wave by Alexander Gold | Viewpoint School | Calabasas, CA

Alexander Gold

Most people think of the camera as an object that can catch individual moments of a trip or journey. However, I think of a series of images as a journey rather than individual pieces. Through the lens of my camera I’m showing a journey, whether it is hardship or success. In order to capture this moment I created a time lapse with shots from the break of dawn until the dark midnight sky. My grandpa, the man who taught me all about photography and the beauty one can show through art, taught me many things in life, but, there are two ideas that I worship most. He always told me that my life is unique, my path may be the same as someone else but the journey is always unique. Another reference he always told me about was the life of a wave. He said that like a human, the wave can fear its end because it never knows what happens once it crashes onto shore. He said that there is no end, because although that wave crashed it goes back into the sea and becomes another unique wave. After he passed I was inspired to do a shot like this that incorporated both of his lessons. I am fortunate enough to be given this opportunity to shoot the ocean because just like your path in life, each wave is unique. I like to think of the relationship of the waves in the ocean like my relationship with my grandpa because although he crashed like the wave, his ideas and his image live in me forever just like the wave goes back into the ocean.

I Don’t Ever Want to Be a Human Being by Yoni Bork | Agoura High School | Westlake Village, CA

Hello, my name is Yoni Bork and I am a sixteen year-old junior at Agoura High School. I wrote a song for the beautiful minds challenge. When I first took on the challenge, I was thinking for hours and hours about times I’ve taken “the road less traveled by” in my life, and I came to the conclusion that my whole life is a road less traveled by. The song talks about how I don’t self-identify or connect with most teenagers my age and how I see myself as being made from such a completely different mold than my peers are. While my peers are out gossiping and partying, I’m at home thinking up ways I can better the world. The title, “I Don’t Ever Want to be a Human Being” refers to how I don’t want to live my life in the same generic way that everybody does. I want to make something out of my life and I feel like I really have the power to “wake up” the world with my music if I put my all into it. Thank you so much for considering me in this challenge, I can’t wait to hear back from you!

A Musical Journey Down the Path Less Traveled by Oliver Zeichner | VAST Program | Northfield, VT

Music is a path that takes you to distant lands. When you are hot and dusty from travel, it leads you by a waterfall; when you are cold, it leads you to a cozy seat by the fire. Whatever you are capable of imagining is possible. That’s the feeling I get when I play traditional Irish music.

One of my favorite instruments in the tradition is the uilleann bagpipes: It’s clear sound is versatile enough to bring out the feeling in slow, emotional airs, as well as rousing, lively, make-you-want-to-dance jigs and reels. The sound is one that caused me to start my journey in folk music and start learning the instrument.
The path is like the trickle of a spring, slowly filling into pools and then growing from a slow moving stream to a chattering brook, and then a river which eventually washes into a bigger river and finally, to the ocean. When I began piping two years ago, I could barely coax more than a squawk out of the chanter, but in time my understanding of the instrument grew, and I could play simple pieces. With patience and an open mind, I have come to where I am now, somewhat proficient on the instrument and able to enjoy the results despite the challenges and work involved. The path to perfection is never ending, but like an experienced traveler must, I have learned to stop and look back at the view along the way.

Learning the intricacies of the tunes is a journey that is still ongoing for me, and I have certainly not mastered the uilleann pipes. The number of younger people playing the music in the area is not large, and often as not I am the youngest musician in the room. My instrument and the musical genre I play in are definitely the path less traveled for my age group, where most would rather partake in rap or other music associated with popular culture.

How I’ve Coped with Anxiety and Depression by Emma Studebaker | Alexander Hamilton High School | Los Angeles, CA

Link to the video here.

Over the course of the past month, creating this Beautiful Minds Challenge project has become very tangible proof of how far I’ve come in a year.
Last November, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. I turned to therapy to try and alleviate my symptoms first. We later added psychiatry into the mix. Although I continue with therapy and take medication now, I’ve realized that clinical treatments–what may work for most people–don’t necessarily work for me.

I need something that helps reach the goal of not being stuck in these treatments forever… something that allows me to depend on myself. When I’m trying to perfect my kicks at karate, making art that deconstructs and rearranges the subject, or playing with sounds and chords on the piano, I feel an inner calm that lasts much longer than when I simply take medication or go to therapy.

Aside from the emotional journey that was the focus of this project, the creative process was a journey too. I had to storyboard my concept, map out when I could film, coordinate borrowing a camera to use, organize my time to accommodate homework among other things, and edit everything together.
As I reflect on this process, I see that my “road less traveled” lies in discovering concrete remedies for my maladies.

Me & Nicodermus by Ciat Conlin | Homeschool | Falmouth, MA

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It was late September, and I found myself with quite a bit of time on my hands in Tallahassee, Florida. I was visiting a friend of mine who was attending college there, and had arrived around ten that morning. She had classes for most of the day and suggested I hang around the campus, but I’ve always enjoyed exploring new places, so I decided to find out what Tallahassee had to offer.

About 15 minutes into my adventure, I was hopelessly lost. I was looking for a comic book store which was either on Moore or Mason Street. I was somewhere on the main drag, but not exactly sure which way I had come from. Behind me were a check-cashing store, a gas station, and a textbook store; ahead, a homeless shelter and a Popeye’s. But there was also a bus stop with a person sitting in it, so I opted to head that way and see if he or she knew where the comic book shop, and I, was.

The figure at the bus stop was a large man in a black novelty t-shirt that read “I’M RIGHT 97% OF THE TIME WHO CARES ABOUT THE OTHER 4%?” Though he was able to direct me to Mason Street (as its name turned out to be), I forgot his directions almost the moment after he told them to me. He offered to show me the way himself if I would buy him some lunch, and having nothing much else to do for the next several hours, we went to the Popeye’s that was beckoning to the right of the bus stop.

Once finished, we set off towards the center of town and for the next few hours he gave me a tour of the city, from phallically protruding state capitol building downtown, to the graveyard (where Ted Bundy was buried), the governor’s mansion (where my tour guide regularly spoke with the governor himself while he was gardening), the federal courthouse (where John Gotti was tried), and the best soul food restaurant in Tallahassee, where he said to take me in repayment the next time I was in town.

As we strolled down the sun-bleached sidewalks, I talked with him about his life since he’d moved to Tallahassee. He said his name was Nicodemus Milton, and he’d moved to the city to be closer to his kids, who lived over the border with their mother in Georgia; prior to that he had been a linebacker in the Cincinnati Bengals. He was trying to get a job in construction, but there weren’t many openings, and he had been living at a homeless shelter across the street from the bus stop where I’d met him. We stopped for a few minutes at a convenience store where I chatted with a couple of his friends while he went in for a beer, then made our way back to the college, being careful to avoid the drug addicts who lined the sidewalk like dead leaves on the rough side of town. As the evening approached, we returned to the bus stop, and I thanked him for showing me around and headed back to the college.

Two days later, I was running to catch my bus at 6:30 with two minutes to go before it was due to depart, and several blocks separating me from the bus station. I was carrying two heavy suitcases, and it didn’t look like I was going to make it. But as I turned a corner, I saw my friend Nicodemus again, and he offered to help me carry my luggage. Together, we were just able to get there in time, and I waved to him as my bus pulled out of the station.

Despite the fact that I only knew Nicodemus for a few hours, this encounter has stayed with me. In between the tall tales was a real person who’d lived a decidedly different life from my own, and while his history of the city was fiction, the history of his life was genuine. Had I not gotten myself lost and chosen to take the road less traveled by accepting his help and company, I most likely would just have passed him by, and would not have had the experience of getting to know Nicodemus for those few hours in late September.
I’ve written songs, stories, and essays trying to convey my experience with Nicodemus Milton, but nothing quite captures the time as clearly as I can picture it in my head. These four pictures represent my personal perspective of the places, and my memories of Nicodemus’ and my adventures on the streets of Tallahassee.

Fallen by the Weighside by Ariel Lancaster and Karuna Kindfield | The Farm School | Summertown, TN

Ariel_Lancaster-Fallen_by_The_Weighside_(Opens PDF in a new window)

Creating the submission itself was a road less traveled, because neither of us had worked with making a digital presentation prior to this project. Included in our presentation is both photographic representation of my journey and prose telling what I learned and how I got where I am today. In writing about my journey I had to explore depths of my mind that I had willingly left as uncharted territory. My partner, Karuna, had to explore her creativity as she incorporated my prose into a digital presentation.
In submitting my personal story to your judgment, I have stepped well outside my comfort zone. I’ve gone from being the girl who shared nothing about herself to sharing one of my most personal stories with a group of strangers. Life is a journey, everyone has the choice to either stick to the well-paved road or follow a new path. We are both happy to have the opportunity to step off the trail and test new ground.

Border of Light by Eugene Lee | Centennial Christian School International | Gwangmyong-si, South Korea

Call I do the light entrance

Hear I do the light border.

All I long is scent of citrus

But all they tell is good of order


In this dark hollowness

The passage of empty wind

Where we bear callow teeth

Since light has fled as if it sinned.


Old and wise all held my wings;

More I hear the treasure it brings

I know my eyes are not for shines

But dust I’ll find in dark of mines.


Bats are poor creatures. Even though an awesome superhero Batman was named after them, their living is pathetic. They lurk in dark caves, upside-down, eating worms and bugs that live in their dungs. I bet Batman himself doesn’t like bats, to be honest.

Still, in my poem, the narrator is a bat who wanted to escape from the dark, gloomy cave. The reason why I chose such miserable thing as my poem is because some of the bats, depending on the species, can actually live outside the caves. Our bat, the narrator, does not know whether he is right kind of bat to enjoy the light. Bats around him, especially the older and wiser ones, advise him to stay where he is. Usually it is safer to do what others do and what others ask you to do. However, the bat that stays in the cave will not even have a chance to find out whether he’s the right kind or not. Sometimes, it is necessary to challenge what others do not usually do to see beyond.

I just wanted to say this through my poem- don’t be afraid to take a road less taken. Not every steps we take will be the same as other’s; I sincerely hope not. Sooner or later we all have to take our own steps and make our own roads. The roads may not always take you where we want to go, but surely it will be a valuable experience for other steps.

The Journey is Life by Katherine McCaffery and Mary Kate Dockery | St. Agnes Academy | Memphis, Tennessee

Link to video here:

As teenagers, it’s not common to stay at school on a Friday night, and even less so to stay there to ponder the meaning of life. But that’s what we did. We struggled with the idea of a ‘road less traveled’ and in searching for this road we realized something unexpected: the ultimate road you travel is life, and as original beings, the road each of us travel down is a road less traveled.

We share a common identification as ‘old souls.’ We listen to older music and read classic literature. Most importantly though, we think about what most teenagers don’t: the meaning of life. The following two paragraphs are our own personal views of a ‘road less traveled’:

Mary Kate:  In an era where phrases such as “YOLO” and “SWAG” are so prominent, the main focus of teenagers is to live in the moment, to only think about the here and now.  Therefore, the road less traveled that I took was choosing not to be so close minded, to think about the entirety of life. There is so much more to life than daily high school routines. People have taken some amazing roads less traveled in the past, such as discovering America, writing symphonies, and building rockets. Even in the future, people will choose new paths. However, the first step of taking the road less traveled is thinking, and we have taken that first step down our road of life.

Katherine: Personally, I view life as a journey determined by the choices we make. I am a romanticist, however, and I believe in fate; some things are meant to be. They are set in stone and immovable. Others are flexible and bending, yielding to the will of those who have the strength and determination to change them. Fate and human intervention combine to form what we know as life. Humans have the power to change fate through the choices they make. These choices may go on to completely change not only their own path, but the paths of all those who come after them. Though contradictory, these two philosophies contain in them my view of a ‘road less traveled.’

Life is a road; it has turns, stop signs, and hills. Each of us travels down the same road of life, but none of us have the same journey. Some people take the highway, going through life at breakneck speed, never looking back but only ahead. Others prefer the city streets, with various stops and turns. Still others take the country roads, the ‘scenic route,’ where they take time to admire the scenery and maybe even stop for a picnic. Death is not the end of the road, nor is it the beginning of a new one–it is a continuation of the road we are already on, but it is a road no one can see until it is upon us.

No one experiences the same experiences, says the same words, sees the same sights, or thinks the same thoughts; so, in effect, every life is a road less traveled. Every journey is new as every person is original.

Helping the Homeless by Catherine “Lee” Chiozza and Jennifer Jones | St. Agnes Academy | Memphis, Tennessee

Link to video here:

There is an average of 633,782 homeless people in the United States in 2013. Many of them are lonely, suffering mentally and physically, hungry, and being ignored by people in the community. We witnessed homeless people on the streets in Memphis, Tennessee. There were homeless women and men asking for money for food, and they were being shunned or neglected in the community.

We witnessed a woman standing on the side of the street holding a sign that says, “Homeless and Hungry.” Many cars driving by did not stop to help the woman nor did anyone attempt to give her money or food. In fact, most of the people in their cars turned their head or did not look at her. However, we wanted to reach out and take the road less travelled by giving her some money to have a warm meal.

The homeless man, seen in the video, named Morris has been without permanent shelter for over ten years. He spends time outside a Memphis Midtown office building. He is well known to business people working in the area. Morris is known to be harmless and friendly on most days. We saw him asking individuals for money. He looked unkept, cold and hungry. Most people avoided him or did not want to help with his requests. We approached him with a bag that included snacks, canned food, utensils, toiletries, a blanket, and a few dollars.

We wanted to bring some joy to those less fortunate believing they were indeed hungry. We know we cannot make an impact alone but hope others will take the road less travelled. We hope to offer some generosity and kindness to those in need.

Offering Hope to the World by Princess Mae Visconde and Sherlynn Garces | James Campbell High School | Ewa Beach, HI

Link to video here:

For the beautiful minds challenge we decided to choose the journey of our faith as the “road less traveled.” From our perspective we find that in today’s society there are not many teenagers who go to church or respect the churches view on life. We chose this as our journey because we wanted to show how we took the road that is less traveled in today’s world. Throughout our journey we learned more about our faith through catechism classes, church retreats, events, and church ministries. As Catholics, our faith journey is our growing relationship with God and through our video we allowed you to take a glimpse of our continuous journey.

High school was where we both started to learn more about Catholicism and figured out where exactly we stood in our faith. Throughout the years, we were both able to strengthen our faith within ourselves and our God through our faith journeys. We are able to fall back on our faith when everything around us falls apart. We chose to take catechism classes and to get confirmed in the Catholic Church to further commit our lives the way Jesus wants us to. Through this commitment, we are on a continuous journey with Christ. We were chosen by God to walk on this faith journey with Him.

Through the course of our journey we learned how important it is to have faith. Having faith is everything. We learned that no matter what, God is always going to be there. God is there through our struggles and he is there through our victories. Through this journey, we have learned and experienced how great God’s love truly is and how all He wants is for us to be with Him in heaven. We have learned to accept that God allows hardships to happen to show us that we are strong and that we are blessed. This journey has opened our eyes, our minds, and our hearts more to understand what God has in store for each of us.

We are able to see ourselves grow in our faith but we are also able to bring others along this journey to grow as well. We offer hope to one another through prayer and through our never ending love for God and others. We seek that everyone finds hope in Christ, the way we did. We offer hope by sharing our faith journeys and how this journey has changed our lives for the better.

Our journey of faith has been nothing but beautiful. It’s beautiful to see how much we both have grown in our faith and to see the outcome of it in our own lives. It’s beautiful to see how our own hardships and struggles can be true blessings that are in disguise. For others to see how strong of a heart we have for God at our age is amazing. This journey is beautiful because we’re helping to grow the kingdom of God. Our faith journey is truly amazing and we have seen it inspire others to start walking their faith journey.

It Feels So Scary, Getting Old by Hannah Hudson | Lakeside High School | Martinez, GA

My journey in discovering music, and myself in the process, has helped me in so many ways. Music has changed my life exponentially. A song can encapsulate a single moment, a single emotion, and allow you to relive that moment over and over again. String these moments together and you have a story. It’s fair to say that everyone experiences this, but it’s also a fair assessment to say that not everyone truly lives in the singular moments that music presents us with. As Dave Grohl said, “That’s one of the great things about music. You can sing a song to 85,000 people and they’ll sing it back for 85,000 different reasons.”

Music gives voice to the thoughts and emotions that you didn’t have the words to express. It can ground you, and it can give you wings. It’s difficult to fully express how music has impacted my life and my love for it (unfortunately I have yet to find a song that does this for me). Music has become my friend on those days when I don’t quite feel like talking to anyone else in ‘real life.’ It drowns out all of the useless chatter that pounds against my temple otherwise. It makes me feel safe. Bands, in addition, have opened up to me what doing what you really love looks like. That’s not to say that they’re the only ones who love what they do, they’re just the ones that made me realize that not everyone does things purely for the money. They inspire me to pursue what genuinely makes me happy. When you see such small-town nothings rise to fame, it’s hard not to believe in your own dreams of success and happiness.

I hope that through this playlist you are able to experience with me the journey I have gone on, from before I discovered music, to afterwards. Though, once I managed to discover music and hear its message, I found that music wasn’t the summit of my journey. Music is the rock that supports me as I decide to make that journey. It’s the voice that whispers comfort in my ear. Music is what makes the journey possible.

First, a brief explanation of my submission, the playlist itself, since it’s a bit abstract:

Everyone listens to music, but no two people hear the same song in the same way. For some people, music is just nice; for others, it’s like their lifeblood, as essential as air. Personally, I could listen to music all day, uninterrupted, if I had the right playlist. Every moment between classes that I can steal, I listen to music. Not all people truly love and experience music, and that is why this is my interpretation of “a road less traveled.”

Of course, it would be very difficult to construct a playlist centered around the love of music since not many songs actually focus on this concept, much like it would be hard to find a book on books. So instead, I chose to do the next best thing: create a playlist that depicts the journey and struggle of growing up. More specifically, growing up with music.

The playlist flows from childhood, to adolescence and the inevitable uncertainty that comes along with it, to when you tentatively test the waters for the first time, and unfortunately discover a shark that bites you on your first try, making you hesitant to try again.

But then, there is music.

It is a revelation. It is empowering. Solace and adrenaline and courage, all condensed into one slick, vinyl package. Suddenly the world is open; it’s an adventure, a challenge just waiting to be answered. You realize that you can do anything, and that you don’t want to miss any opportunity. There’s fresh air in your lungs and a full feeling in your chest.

Finally, you get away, away from the incumbents of the past, away from the familiar. You’re not afraid this time. You travel the world – and you conquer it. You have surmounted every obstacle life has thrown at you, and all because of music. Music is what liberated you and gave you the strength.

“It feels so scary, getting old” // The Road Less Traveled: a playlist.


  1. Hands Remember – Seabear
  2. Kids – MGMT
  3. In the Summer – Finish Ticket
  4. Pioneers – The Lighthouse and The Whaler
  5. Ghost – Aisling MacAonghusa
  6. Young Lion – Vampire Weekend
  7. Ribs – Lorde
  8. Reaching the Potential – A Silent Film
  9. Big Bad World – Kodaline
  10. Iscariot – Walk the Moon
  11. Wild Country – Wake Owl
  12. Mad Sounds – Arctic Monkeys
  13. If You DIdn’t See Me (Then You Weren’t On the Dancefloor) – Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
  14. A Song is a Weapon – Stars
  15. Overcome – New Politics
  16. Unbelievers – Vampire Weekend
  17. Band New Day – Kodaline
  18. Life in Technicolor ii – Coldplay
  19. Come Together – Echosmith
  20. We’re Coming Up – For the Foxes
  21. Young Volcanoes – Fall Out Boy
  22. Do or Die – Thirty Seconds to Mars
  23. Dreams – Youngblood Hawke
  24. Nova Scotia – Magic Man
  25. Carelessly – Prince of Spain (ft. Dresses)
  26. The North – Stars
  27. Away We Go – Prince of Spain
  28. Next Year – Two Door Cinema Club
  29. Texas – Magic Man
  30. We Come Running – Youngblood Hawke
  31. Anna Sun – Walk the Moon

The Voyage of a Lifetime by Quinn Oliver | Compass School | Marlboro, VT

The_Voyage_of_a_Lifetime (opens a PDF in a new window)

My name is Quinn Oliver and I live in Marlboro, Vermont. Enclosed please find my creative submission called: The Voyage of a Lifetime. I sincerely hope that you will enjoy reading it and gaining a bit of insight into my journey.
On this voyage I have learned quite a lot about myself and who I am, and I hope to learn quite a lot more. I have been out to sea for well over a month and a half now and I’m finding myself appreciating it more and more every day. After the initial struggles of packing up and moving on to a boat for five months and the realization that for the next five months I would be practically be without friends due to the majority of my friends living in vermont and the fact that after a week or so we pack up and sail further southward, the issues have seemed to be sucked away by the beauty of the water. It’s hard to not realize that this is an incredible opportunity, however as my friends don’t understand, even an offer similar to this has quite a few severe draw backs.

I feel that during this journey I have begun to conquer some of my personal fears. Though I have been raised around the water, doing something like this is a completely unknown to me. The fear of the unknown is personally one of my greatest fears. Couple that with my fear of change and those two are a might brew. By undertaking this adventure, I have had to address both of these fears head on. The constantly changing and unreliable schedule has certainly tested my fear of change, while the entire voyage has made me push past my fear of the unknown, for now at least.

I feel I have also learned about myself in a more concrete manner. Before this voyage, I had minimal sailing experience. But now I would even seriously consider the sailing lifestyle for my life. Granted, I would more then likely have to have a close friend or girlfriend aboard with me. The loneliness at times can be intense. However I have found if you keep busy that feeling of dreaded loneliness quickly disappears. Before this trip I had believed in myself to an extent, but now I believe that I can do almost anything I decide to put my heart into.

My Path Through Make Believe Reality by Anna Keeva | Evanston Township High School | Evanston, IL


Some people travel by sidewalk or train, but I dance, or fly, or ride on the back of a talking pig to get to where I want to go. The road I travel is an imaginary one. As I’ve grown up, I’ve held on tightly to the made up games and imaginary friends that flooded my childhood. I always have a song in my head and a fictional world in my eyes. I use my creativity and imagination to propel me through life. My path is always expanding with new turns and discoveries and then I get so full of ideas that they bubble up out of me and transform into art. Instead of getting caught up in the repetition and stress around me, I dance and sing down my own magical path.

I have learned how not to be lonely or bored. I can sit by myself in my room, but be entertained by the communities and creatures that exist in my thoughts and in my art and in my body when I dance and move. I have learned how to appreciate and enjoy even the dullest of places by becoming an explorer and creating my own stories and history. I have learned to make a long car ride in the dark a magical and exciting adventure. I have learned to understand and connect with the various people I meet that resemble the characters I know so well in my mind. I have learned how to make anything exciting and entertaining. I have learned that “real” has many meanings. And I have learned that with creativity and imagination, a straight, dull path turns into a twisting, exciting one and that on this kind of path, life is a whole lot more fun.

It’s a Feeling by Alek Lockhart | Southwest High School | Minneapolis, MN

Link to video here:

My road less traveled was a river. I was on it for 30 days with some friends. I learned on that journey that a road less traveled isn’t a just remote area that not many people have been to; it’s a feeling. I can only draw on my experiences, but I get the same feeling that I got on that trip when I do something new on my skateboard, or come at a math problem from a new direction. Anything can get you there; it’s all up to you.

I learned that whatever I do, I could get that feeling from it. That changed my life. I strive to do things in a new and different way, because I love the feeling of walking on that road. I hope you like my movie.

Going on Foot by Louisa Perry-Farr | Lexington Catholic High School | Lexington, KY

Here is the saddest moment of my life: a fly with only one wing.

I spread strawberry jelly over a piece of bread as I watch him. Crawling.

Crawling after flying.

After being able to lift and dive and swoop.

After taking flight at the slightest hint of danger, he crawls. I put a piece of bread on top of the jelly.

How cruel, for him to have lost his livelihood and not his life.

There is no hope for a fly who cannot fly, yet he continues.

He cannot understand how soon his life will end. I cannot eat the sandwich.

We sit together- he crawling, continuing to tramp his perpetual journey.

Me crying, knowing that his journey will be as short as his life was unappreciated.

Knowing that I once crawled.

Knowing that I only had the courage to crawl, because I knew I would fly again.

My journey is an unconventional one. The journey that I wrote about is not only mine, but what I imagined the journey of my companion (the fly) to be. I have always been empathetic to the suffering of other creatures, but it was watching that particular fly that both brought me to tears and to a realization about myself. I learned that I am not “more than” that fly. Human beings have a bad habit of placing ourselves on the top of the totem pole, when we should be the farthest on the bottom. I don’t say this because I’m an eccentric loner who hates other people (because I’m not). I say this because human beings are the only creatures with the ability to fully comprehend the difference between right and wrong, and yet we continue to commit heinous crimes against each other and other creatures. What I mean when I say I am not “more than” that fly is that my suffering is not more important than his. His life is not made legitimate or illegitimate by my observing him. He is his own being, and his pain is as real as my pain would be if I lost a leg. In fact, his pain is greater, because I can survive with one leg. His chances of survival disappeared when he lost his wing. In observing him, I thought about the times in my life when I had lost something dear to me. My only feeling towards that fly is admiration, because I never would have had the courage to crawl, if I hadn’t had the foresight to know I could fly again. Of course, the fly didn’t know about his impending doom, and he can’t think about the future. But knowledge isn’t what makes a creature great. When you have done exactly what you were born to do, and harmed none in the process, that is when you are great. I can honestly say that the fly has beaten me to greatness, and is far nearer to spiritual perfection than I am. But that is where our journey intersects. His ends with crawling.I am crawling towards who I am meant to be now. I can at least hope that my journey will end in flight.

Just the Way You Are by Jennifer de Haro and Judith Olascoaga | Arroyo Valley High School | San Bernadino, CA

These days, all people do is try their best to fit in with what society shows. They need to have the latest trend. They need to be the type of skinny they see on their television or magazine. They need to have better clothes than everyone. In our opinion, life shouldn’t be that way. Mostly everyone tries to take the easy road and be like everyone else. They don’t see what they really are in the inside. They care about what others see in them when they should care about how they see themselves. Calling themselves ugly, fat, fake, etc. doesn’t help them. Rather, they should focus on the good things about them like their personality, their beautiful eyes, hair, etc. They need to be unique. Going through the road we took we realized being yourself is something we should all do. This experience showed us fitting in with everyone isn’t how life should be. One of us was close to taking the common road but knew that wasn’t the right path.

The reason we wrote this is to help others. We need a world where being ourselves isn’t something strange. These days you get judged by anything! This road we took should be taken more. Who cares if you aren’t what people want you to be? Be yourself. That’s what this is all about.

Check Out the 2013-14 Winning Submissions!

Posted by & filed under Challenge.

All of the language and art are represented here as submitted by the entrant.

First Place – Left and Right by Erica Schneider | Voyagers’ Community School | Brick, NJ

Many would say there are two sides to a person. To me, this is true in the way of a past and present self, or more accurately, who you once were and how it’s affected and related to who you’ve become. Time changes so much in a person’s life, especially when it’s concentrated in the urgent period of four years that make up high school. Each person who enters a building as a freshman and emerges a graduate goes through an assortment of life-altering experiences. Whether this includes hardships, falling in love, or discovering a talent and passion that could turn into a lifelong career, the high-school journey is one of self-growth, self-discovery, and revelation.


What I’ve produced represents my transformation from freshman to senior year. On the right side is a distant version of myself, seconds away from entering that high-school door for the first time. When I did walk through, I was weighed down by a heavy striped jacket two sizes too big. My impression of the new environment was obscured by the tangle of chopped hair blanketing most of my eyes. My silent plea was to be left to dwell in my lonely artist’s mind, undisturbed by any interference.

To this day, I will deny that I was ever transgendered. Even back then, prior to wisdom and awareness, I knew that gender identity crises were, more often than not, phases. With that in mind, I still summoned my best efforts to appear as the opposite gender. My hair was styled as any typical boy’s was at the time; my baggy, oversized clothes shielded any questioning eyes from my feminine stature; and, when spoken to, I responded in a voice deeper than what was natural.

Even though it certainly appeared that way, my intention was not to be a boy, but simply to be hidden from any external forces. One thing I learned about people during this period was that when they looked at another and felt unsure about his or her gender, they would rather avoid than approach. For me, this was absolutely perfect! Until it wasn’t.

I really didn’t want isolation, and I wasn’t satisfied with who I was pretending to be, but I also didn’t want to return to the person I was in middle school, either. So I began to experiment, constantly itching to be someone more interesting, more talented, and more confident. I pulled together outfits that resembled a frightening cross between Carrie Bradshaw and Brandon Teena from Boys Don’t Cry. There had to be some better way to express myself, and I finally found it in a most honest and natural way: writing.

Being a writer was something I’d wanted to do since I was eleven years old and devoured my copy of Pretty Little Liars. My choice in reading material has matured tastefully since then, and so has my writing. I explored my personal identity confusion on paper.

Over those next three years, I created the story of Oliver, born (a female) Olive, the mute photographer who does everything in his power to become the person he’s always aspired to be. When I suffered, triumphed, or felt any array of emotion, so did Oliver. This helped me discover who I wanted to be, which was something I realized need not be rushed or predetermined. I made this true for Oliver too, who by the end of the story, found his voice and acceptance from himself and others, as well as something even more elusive… happiness.

On the left side of my portrait, I’m smiling, adorned by a sensible accessory, and not only comfortable but excited to take on the world as a writer and a young woman. I’m college-bound and appreciative of each aspect of my life. I see not good nor bad, but opportunities for joy and growth. I have a boyfriend, an artistic career as a backup and side plan, and an extraordinary future ahead of me. I’m also well aware that although I’ve moved on from my ninth-grade self, it’s still a part of me, and so, the two sides of my portrait are equal in size and detail. They are not defined by labels such as up and down, bad and good, immature and mature, but simply left and right, because it takes all the parts to make a whole person.

Second Place - A Compromise Revolution: The Beauty of Diversity by Saron Zewdie | Francis L. Cardozo Educational Campus | Washington, DC

Link to video here:

Every vision I express originates from my personal experience. I was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. When I was four years old, I was diagnosed with high myopia, an eye condition that causes severe nearsightedness . Although I am a very vibrant person and always smile through hard times, I had a fairly difficult childhood, because my classmates joked about the thick and large glasses I used to wear as a little girl.

I accepted my condition. The glasses are wore were the best glasses for my prescription which started from a negative eight since I first got diagnosed.But others failed to see that my condition was beyond my control. Why couldn’t they accept how I was? I did. So how hard could it be for others to accept me as well?

When I was seven, my parents entered me into a German Church School hoping to find a sponsor for me. Although I’ve had my share of good and bad experiences, there was one thing about me that stood out: For some reason that is unclear to me, I’ve always had a greater, more natural fluency in English than my peers. Because of this, I was always the one called upon to introduce our class whenever people from Germany came to visit us. That was surely a privilege, but the other kids hated me for it, and things went on like that.

As I got older, I began noticing the look in the visitors eyes as well. The looks made me feel like they were looking down upon us, and it was more directed to me because I was the one I was the one standing doing the introduction. It is amazing how much one look can say. Finally, one day, I just couldn’t do it anymore. I remember, I was in seventh grade, three German visitors came inside our class, escorted by our Director. It was Science period, and as usual I was called upon to introduce our class. But this time, I refused. They were standing there looking at me, this time with more of a surprise. That felt much better and so I continued to do so, my teacher did everything to get me up since they couldn’t hear Amharic, our language, she ordered me, she even came around and screamed at me.

For the first time I was not standing, but sitting down for something. But I was young and not sure how to express myself, so no one could understand why I did what I did. Although expressing it would have gotten me in more trouble, I believe that there is a way that we could have come to an understanding and some sort of compromise.

In this same way, I believe that a compromise amongst the diverse races of our world and the desire to live together in peace is at the essence of what true humanity.

Through five millenniums of human history, there have been 620 known and recorded revolutions. Although there is an assumption that one side was victorious, virtually all revolutions have resulted in major loss and devastation on both sides. And, after centuries of understanding ourselves and our inseparable connection with each other and the world around us, I believe that it is about time we achieve a new kind of revolution— A revolution that is created for the favor of all. I sincerely believe that even those who like fight for separation will appreciate the virtue of compromise, once they get used to it.

There is a need for a revolution, but a revolution that neither keeps Rosa Parks sitting while the white man stands, nor one that gets her out of her seat for him. We need a revolution that provides a chair where both people can sit. I know that today, sitting together on a bus is nothing new. But I also know that throughout my stay in U.S., equality and harmony still have not been achieved.

If we looked at how things work in harmony in nature, we’d find it to be the source of eternal growth and peace. Every human invention is not necessarily an original idea, but merely proof of what this wonderful world has already provided us. Therefore, we must preserve it and discover a way for civilization and nature to co-exist. If we fail to do so, not only will we fail to grow, but we will fail ourselves and humanity as a whole.

Shall we ever learn the positive lessons found in compromise, the result will be diversity of thought, diversity of expression and ultimately, diversity of the human race. In this diverse state of being, we are all beautiful.

Third Place –  Three Roads Not Taken by Alessandro Pane | Mt. Blue High School | Wilton, ME

NOTE: Audio recording contains some profanity.

I was first introduced to Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken when I sang the Randall Thompson setting of the poem in my high school chorus two years ago. Over the past few months I’ve found myself thinking back to the poem as I am now a senior in high school, and facing one of the first important crossroads as I look at my post-graduate possibilities.

My piece consists of three episodes: a Dante-esque descent into a rigid music-only education, a gap year in Joyce’s Dublin, and a beat-poet-inspired exploration of a life rejecting expectation. These are roads I do not intend to take, but instead are responses to “And looked down one as far as I could / To where it bent in the undergrowth” as examinations of roads that are ultimately not traveled, yet inform the eventual path. During my examination of these potential roads through the lens of travel literature (The Inferno, Ulysses, and On The Road), the project took many forms, often integrating disparate disciplines to express a single idea. In reflecting on this journey of creation, I have learned that I too must forge my own path: a road inspired by the others not taken.

Artist Tristan ‘Dirk’ Stamm (’12) ponders the likelihood of producing perfection

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“There is no end or purpose to existence, only ceaseless creation and destruction, governed entirely by chance.” Stephen Greenblatt, paraphrasing Lucretius’ On the Nature of Things in The Swerve: How the World Became Modern
The chance that a saguaro seedling will survive to adulthood is almost non-existent. First, the seed has to find its way into the shade of another plant, manage to survive months of dryness while only being able to store a couple of drops of water, and stay warm enough not to freeze during cold winter nights. The seedling must deal with these challenges for anywhere between 38 to 135 years. The probability that a saguaro survives to adulthood is so slim that the forests of 60 ft tall saguaros in the Sonoran Desert seem like they shouldn’t exist.

My work explores the chance of survival, the probability of existence, a struggle with unpredictability, specifically those surrounding the human body, coming to terms with control, power, and lack there of, and the likelihood of producing something complete or finished.

These themes are questioned through building a surface out of layers, pulling forms from the background, accenting particular moments, and by the use of previously conceived societal frameworks and images.

-Tristan ‘Dirk’ StammMarlboro College Class of 2012


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Journey to The DeMar

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Journey to The DeMar

“The support of friends, strong motivation, and a good pair of shoes have indeed given me super powers.” I said this well over a year ago as I was chronicling my “Champion journey,” part of the Healthy Monadnock 2020 program to make southwestern New Hampshire the healthiest region in the nation. It has now been over three years since I started, three years of making healthy changes and especially three years of race walking, a long-distance, hip-swiveling, foot-racing event. Three years, and NOW, I’ve race walked a marathon. How did THAT happen??

After several more races of varying lengths, I decided I wanted to set the bar really high. I wanted to celebrate this new strength and wellness I have been feeling. I wanted to see just how far I could go. At first, I tentatively said to a couple of people, “I’m going to race walk in the DeMar Marathon this year.” I’m not sure I believed myself at that point. I don’t know if others believed that I believed it either. But then, at a particular friend gathering, emboldened by their support, I declared it aloud. “I’m going race walk a marathon before the end of the year.” Specifically, I knew that I needed to do the DeMar in Keene, New Hampshire. Keene is where my wellness journey started, where so many friends have watched and supported me on my path to strive for my healthiest self. Keene is where I learned to race walk with the guidance and camaraderie of my friend, Linda. On May 10th, I officially began training.

My actual training was mostly solitary, accompanied only by my tiny iPod Shuffle and various world music club dance bands. My journey to DeMar was made possible by an intricately woven community. Whatever I needed, there was someone who would slip into play, ninja-like, with exactly what I needed. Words of encouragement? There were at least five to six different friends willing and able to give those at any given time. Recommendations on training? Two other friends were RIGHT there. Recommendations on the best non-soy protein bars? More friends! Parking for positioning my car at just the right juncture for my longer training race walks? I even had that. I had at least two different driveways I could have used! Overnight shipping replacement Nike Frees when I needed them IMMEDIATELY for a 15 mile training day? I definitely have to shout out to fellow champion, Ted McGreer and Ted’s Shoe & Sport for that one. From loaning me a Camelbak for training to mapping out training routes in Maine and California when I was on vacation, there were always friends and family right there with me.

I also felt that with each increase in mileage, with each passing week, I was more and more capable of doing this major, difficult, thing. My own fire and determination kept on burning no matter what. If I can radically change my diet and wellness and lose 102 pounds, I can surely race walk 26.2 miles! Even on the REALLY rough days, like the 14-miler when I didn’t have any food and got sick for two days or the 18-miler when I pitched forward and crashed to the road trying to race walk and fiddle with my Camelbak, and chew my snack, I STILL felt okay. I felt more than okay.  In thunderstorms, coldness, darkness, 90 degrees and burning sun, on dirt, pavement, hills and flatness, I simply KNEW I could do this and I was never alone. I carried the support of my community with each step.

On the actual day of the race, of course I was absolutely not alone. My friend Linda, who decided to join me for the last eight miles, recommended I find another friend in the race to keep the miles flying by. And I did just that. For seven miles, I befriended a wonderful man from just outside of Boston. We shared race and life stories while we kept pushing each other with our respective paces.  After he dropped back, I knew it was only a few more miles until Linda was jumping in to join me.  Plus, there were the countless enthusiastic, supportive race fans, friends and complete strangers, cheering, singing, dressing up in amusing costumes, holding up signs, and holding all of us up as we all continued on this difficult, exhausting and exhilarating journey. And so I’ve come full circle and can say once again:

“The support of friends, strong motivation, and a good pair of shoes (even ones shipped overnight!) have indeed given me super powers.”


Jodi Clark, Marlboro College Director of Housing


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Note:  Race walking marathon training plans are available here:


The Presence of Step

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In Step


In walking, according to cultural theorist Paul Connerton, we constitute ourselves as a coherent organism. Walking is at once an act of organic self-unification and an act which builds up for us a coherent environment. Walking, for us all, demonstrates our total organism.

Next time you walk, whether its 10 feet or 10 miles, allow yourself moments within steps to bring an awareness of your presence. Walk slowly and patiently, taking a breath as you lift your foot, and exhaling as your foot meets the earth.

In walking, we draw with our passing our very own time line. It’s mind boggling to take a few moments, turn around, and see the many empty spaces in thought we have all too hurriedly ceased to acknowledge.

Christian Lampart, Marlboro College ’16

Climbing Out of Technophobia

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I am pretty darn old and have had plenty of amazing physical journeys in this world. I have been stopped by gun-toting border patrols in Cote d’Ivoire and gotten lost backpacking along the “Lost Coast” of California. I swam with whale sharks in Western Australia and tracked snow leopards in the Himalayas. But I want to tell you about a recent journey that beats all of these experiences for shear, unmitigated, nail-biting suspense and drama: I learned to video.


Sure, for most of you who grew up with iMovie and Roombas and smart phones that do everything but walk your dog for you, that may not sound so transformational. But for me, a relative luddite, one could say a technophobe, learning how to shoot, edit, and produce videos that don’t look like total doo-doo was a huge and very satisfying accomplishment.


I’ve climbed lots of mountains, and learning to produce videos was a very similar kind of journey: namely steep. There was the moment near the beginning where it all looked so big and overwhelming and lost in the clouds that I considered waiting until another time, when I was more sure. There were many times when I was in the thick of it, deep in the forest of new techniques, overwhelming material, head-down plodding, when I didn’t know if I would ever come out on top of it all. And there was the exhilaration of reaching the top, and being able to see all that I had accomplished with new perspective and sense of purpose.


Unlike a mountain, which has a finite top, videos can always be improved upon, adjusted, tweaked, fine-tuned, honed, and otherwise fiddled with. In fact, one of the greatest challenges is knowing when to stop. At any rate, I share this sample of my work as an example of my journey, and perhaps how far I still I have to go:

Philip Johansson, Marlboro College staff

Sacrifice is a journey

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the feathers are spread out all over the gravelly ground. spatters of blood add color to a landscape dominated by browns, grays and soiled whites. the air is thick and the mood is somber. death hovers; tears perilously balance on the edges of eyelids. people of many ages stand with me–girls as young as 10 and older men and women in their thirties, even forties. and then, the people my age–we’re all here to bear witness, but we’re also here to make sacrifices.


the life of one chicken seems insignificant. chickens, after all, are certifiably stupid animals. they do little but walk around on their spindly little legs, clawing at bits of earth and, every so often, attempting to fly–a feat they cannot accomplish, in spite of the fact that they do indeed possess wings. a fairly low maintenance farm animal, even the smallest backyards can accommodate chickens and chicken coops. some chickens lay eggs, some chickens are pets, and some chickens are raised to be killed.


some people would call us murderers. standing on that ground smeared with blood and fallen feathers, the slitting of a neck and the squawking–those ceaseless high-pitched screams–as the only consistent sounds permeating the stiff air, it would be hard to argue otherwise. we raised these chickens, named some of them, fed them, loved them. and only to stand by each other, as we each take turns slitting their throats.


i do not derive joy from slaughtering chickens; rather, an emotional void takes over my body in the face of this action. but in the moments following their deaths, i am reminded that this road less commonly travelled is an important one: these killings will fill my stomach and the stomachs of many others. and at these times–when the animals die in my hands–i can eat honestly, filling my consciousness even more than my stomach.

Emma Thacker, Marlboro College ’14


My best days are the ones that feel like journeys

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I can wear it like a badge: I traveled,

A badge in exchange for airfare, gear, museum tickets, and visas,

Airfare, gear, museum tickets, and visas in exchange for 12-hour shifts,

And feeling lonely.


I set a timer,

It went off, I’m home.

I will occasionally remember a good meal, a bike ride, a hot sun penetrating into my scalp.

But only occasionally.

I’m busy negotiating a deal for a new badge.


My best days are the ones that feel like journeys,

But lately my days are infiltrated with preparation for journeys,

And they don’t feel like journey days.


I’m on the phone for two hours with a grump because I must track down my passport.

This will let me step over boundaries.

I’m on the phone for two hours because I must renew my credit card.

This will let me buy trinkets which I don’t have the money for.

I’m looking for a doctor who can tell me about vaccinations.

This will let me be like the natives.

Journey Trips can only be taken with the proper safety-wear.


You are arming yourself to make this the smoothest experience possible.

Once you are properly padded, you will be ready for all of The Things that might happen.

You must have it on at all times, including before lift-off.


I’m thinking too hard about the safety-wear.

I’m thinking about how it feels tight around my rib-cage.


I need to walk without it for a moment,

Rage has come and gone.

I have that journey-feeling.

My breathing is lifting me again,

Like on journey days.


I remember things from today,

A good meal, a bike ride, a hot sun penetrating into my scalp.


Nancy Son, Marlboro College ’15


Beauty is The Place Where Nature and Human Elegance Connect – First Place Winner

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Nya Cooks | Connection Academy ’16 | Upatoi, GA

1st Place - Nya Cooks

According to the dictionary beauty is a combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form that pleases the aesthetic senses, esp. the sight. To me, beauty is the place where nature and human elegance connect. My creation exemplifies this.

The top portion of my gown is made with leaves. Not just any leaves, Fall leaves. Fall leaves represent wisdom, experience, character, and uniqueness that only comes with time and exposure to life. Their unique, deep purplish-red color give them the look of a tough sturdy leather, leather that is like the thick skin of a person who has endured many test and trails. These leaves represent the beautiful memories of the past and the promise of a new beginning in the future.

The sheer, bottom portion represents the free flowing grace that is poured upon each one of us in abundance. It heals the hurts, strengthens the weak, and shows favor to so many. Its song soothes the soul, and brings peace and joy to the heart. Beauty is the place where nature and human elegance connect.

Beauty is a Cycle — Second Place Winner

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Erica Siclari | Fiorello H. LaGuardia H.S. ’13 | Brooklyn, NY

For the Beautiful Minds Challenge I decided to bring light to something I find very beautiful, cycles. I find cycles to be beautiful mainly because cycles are imperative for understanding our world, and with that understanding come discoveries that have and will continue to predict future events. Without cycles, scientist would not be able to predict anything. Facts would be random pieces of information instead of important clues to a puzzle. Cycles are beautiful because they are the key to knowledge.

In my video I recreated a cycle of plant life in an ecosystem. Each plant is going through its own biological cycle along with a cycle in its ecosystem. In addition to the plant life cycles I needed to present the cycle of time (day-night) and water in the video in order to indicate that cycles are not only found everywhere but they all work together to sustain life.

I wrote a short poem to emphasize the beauty of a cycle in a more creative genre of writing:

Beauty is a Cycle

Beauty is a cycle
A sequence of events
Folding maladroitly into a flawed shape
Each cycle resembles a circle but isn’t
It is
These imperfections are what make it unique

Cycles are unique but they are not random
They are mathematical
Whether the object is biotic or abiotic
The same basic rules apply:
Something is

What was once created will never again be once it has been destroyed
Something else will inhabit its space and claim it theirs
Oblivious to a time before its own

Something so real
So natural
So common
Is often overlooked
But taking a moment to witness something as real
As natural
As common
As a cycle is true beauty

Breaking Free — Third Place Winner

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Emily Ross | Home School | Gray, ME

3rd Place - Emily Ross, Image 2

Beauty cannot be defined in simple terms, as the meaning of beauty varies between each individual. However, most individuals circle back to a generalized meaning of beauty, settling on expressing the ‘true you’ behind the layers of society-driven examples: being yourself without any sort of filter or alteration to make yourself fit in.

Through extensive planning and underpainting, I built up layers upon layers of paint and ideas atop the canvas. It acts as a background for the sculpture element of my piece, showing a pair of mannequin hands puppeteering a pair of marionette handles which control a group of businessmen. The businessmen are all drab and exact replicas of each other, doing mundane activities that take little to no effort or creativity. Breaking out of the canvas is the representation how creative, unique, and different people feel: smothered by the pressure of today’s mundane society and expectations. All the feelings of these individuals are condensed into the body and mannerisms of one orange-haired man.

Ridding himself of his necktie (which is far too similar to a noose for his liking), suit jacket, and crisp white shirt, he has broken free of the grasp society held on him. Underneath the uniform that he’s forced himself to wear, is a bright patterned shirt – just the start to his individuality escaping its confinements. Atop his head is his bright orange hair, the only thing he could get away with in the dull, cubicle work he had previously. He would get dirty looks for its bright color and longer-than-crew-cut style. But he didn’t care. He was going to express himself however he could.

He was someone who wanted to attend art school (maybe even Marlboro College) but settled for a desk job to appease his parents, friends, and the expectations of society. But not anymore. Now, he has broken free. He severed the ball and chain attaching him to some no-name company and he is on his way to being himself, without hiding anymore. After all, being yourself is the most beautiful thing of all.

2012 Runner Up Submissions

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The following submissions — posted in alphabetical order by the entrants’ first name — each earned a invitation to the Beautiful Minds Symposium at Marlboro College, February 21-23, 2013. Enjoy the incredible thoughtfulness, creativity and diversity of ideas!


New Year’s Party in The Jolly Old Beast

Alexander Peters | Tampa Preparatory School ’13 | Tampa, FL

Runner Up - Alexander Peters (1)The 1850’s would mark the beginning of a new relationship between mankind and the earth. No longer was our planet a divine utopian vision fashioned for our existence, but rather an inherited sphere that had in fact fashioned us. Dinosaurs, the “terrible lizards,” as the scientist Richard Owen dubbed them, apparently had once ruled the landscape in absence of the many examples of fauna that would be recognizable, ourselves included. What posed a problem was the public’s lofty grasp of this concept. Nothing seemed to compare to these animals and all that was available to observe were unskilled scribbles and lumps of rock that meant nothing to an untrained eye. The pioneers of this field were lost in what they were looking at. It would take the hand of an artist to reach the masses and share this novel and humbling concept.

Runner Up - Alexander Peters (2)Benjamin “Waterhouse” Hawkins, a born illustrator and sculptor of the natural world, took on this challenge. Working in his homeland of England, the hub of prehistoric discoveries at the time and the very place where anyone had ever identified a dinosaur, Hawkins began his work constructing life size models of the monsters. What was there to go on? Hawkins observed a set of bones belonging to a gigantic herbivorous creature discovered by a man and his wife in some roadside gravel. It had a spike, not too dissimilar to a rhinoceros, broad weight baring bones, unique hips that distinguished it from other reptiles, and teeth of an iguana. Hawkins brought forth a stunning life size menagerie, producing many prehistoric beasts. Among them were the iguana toothed giants, aptly named “iguanodon,” Hulking quadrupeds sporting a nasal horn on their mammoth, beaked heads. Megalosaurus, a disgustingly huge carnivore also swaggered the grounds of the newly constructed Crystal Palace Museum in London.

On New Year’s Eve, 1853, Hawkins invited the founding fathers of the science of paleontology to an unforgettable dinner party, which he hosted inside of one of his pieces, in the open back of his fabulous iguanodon. Some of the most respected scientists of the era, including Curvier, Mantel, Owen, and many others, rejoiced in the event, their eternal legacy now represented by something more than ill attempted drawings and scientific notes. It was the melding of the left and right brain. Art assisted science in a mission that dethroned man from his throne as the principal product of creation, giving us a much grander title. We are certainly not the only species to have ever ruled the earth, but we are the only that can look back and marvel at the wondrous variation of life, as participants and observers. That night almost two centuries ago, myth met fact, extinction met the living, imagination met examination, and the hands of creators met the hands of surveyors. Truly a moment of beauty.

Things have changed quite a bit in that time as far as understanding dinosaurs and their kin. Specifically, iguanodon is now more accurately delineated as a partially bipedal, swift moving plant eater that sports a spike on each thumb, not on its nose. Megalosaurus is currently depicted as a warm blooded predator related to the dinosaurs that would become birds. The original data of those early explorers of the past has been cast aside but there spirit could not be any more inspiring as our understanding of just how grand life on this planet continues to amaze. It is probably best summed up by a song those scientists made up at that New Year’s party, “The jolly old beast is not deceased/ There’s life in him again!”


Pressure Points

Alex Ruiz and Odette Blaisdell | Bard High School Early College ’15 | New York, NY

Alex: The question of why our piece is beautiful was extremely frustrating to answer. We couldn’t come to a consensus, we couldn’t even think. Part of the reason that we could not decide whether our piece was beautiful or not was because I felt un-entitled. Who am I to say what is beautiful? What is beauty really?

Odette: Confronting this question forced us to consider what beauty itself is. Answering this made beauty into a looming, frustrating creature, so when we tried to define it, I began to resent beauty overall. Trying so hard to define such indefinance takes away its power. Beauty was no longer beautiful when we attempted to explain it.

Alex: Instead, we examined what is ugly. We thought, perhaps, we could define beauty adversely in this way. Our efforts were futile, not because we couldn’t list things that were ugly, but we quickly discovered that ugliness itself is as indefinable as beauty itself. And though we couldn’t explain it, we still desired to reconcile our feelings with something tangible. Thus, that’s how the process of creating the piece began.

Odette: Our piece began with the image of hairy fingers. This image was completely arbitrary, chosen when Alex said she pulls the tiny hairs from the spaces between the joints of her fingers. Though this idea was no more inspiring than any other image, maybe because it was so random we thought it was an appropriate beginning—something we could expand upon and change. And in a way, the ugliness of this image made it easy to just start working recklessly because there was no pressure to actually capture beauty.

Alex: The impulsivity of how we worked was both frightening and exhilarating. In a way we stepped into this project blindly and because of that it required an incredible amount of faith in something we knew nothing about.

Odette: The many layers and the extended process are part of the beauty of our project. First, we had a month long mission of drawing fifty fingers each. Next, we collaged them in the form of a hand, and filled in any negative space with charcoal details of palm creases. We briefly included words of things we considered ugly, but ultimately we decided to cut them out and leave the hand isolated. Then, by chance we found an old window screen and brought it outside with a tube of black ink to experiment on our piece. The video shows the rest of the process in a compilation of photo and video that transformed our still image into something locomotive. In a way, this is what beauty does: it moves. When something is beautiful, it absolutely pulses with motion–it cannot keep still. Of course, our piece is not beautiful because it literally moves in the video. It has a movement beyond the video. It has motion in the fingers all pointing at each other, and in the viewer’s eyes tracing the directions of the charcoal. Of course, seeing one movement doesn’t encompass everything that’s ever moved, so our piece only has some of the many traits of beauty.

Alex: Despite all of the confusion about how to define our piece, I think a few aspects of the piece possess qualities of beauty that can be found in all objects. Amongst these universal qualities of beauty, I think lies chance, which was a major part of our piece. This is the part of the piece which controls itself, transcending us, the viewer, and even the subject. For example, the chance that our video may have captured some of the fluidity and warmth of the light on that day, which left shiny imprints on the ink as Odette spread it, or the tension with which the screen shifted over our collage, or the fact that fingers, each made individually and without much relation to the others, were able to fit together into to the shape of a hand, or the softness of the paper- all these small elements which were not necessarily in our control, but by chance we were able to capture, resembles a sort of beauty to me. These aspects of the piece which weren’t planned are just as evocative to me as I hope they are to some viewers- my experience when viewing the piece for the first time in it’s completion was just as infantile as your experience viewing it will be.

To expand on the idea of honesty, I think this piece should also be considered beautiful because it was made in the way Odette and I saw it. This is not to say that it is beautiful because we created it, or that it is beautiful because what we personally think is beautiful defines beauty for all of humanity. Rather, I think it is beautiful because Odette and I tried to create it with unbiased eyes- my own perspective and subjective take on beauty I am sure is just as muddled, conflicted, and enigmatic as any other individual’s.

As we stated before, much of the process of creating this piece was random. Therefore, I think it can be said that much of the essence of our piece lies in the idea that reality as we see it, with it’s randomness included, is enough in itself to be considered beautiful. Ultimately, in making this piece we were exploring and becoming comfortable with the idea that what we see is enough to be beauty. A simple finger is enough. Beauty does not have to be eternal, rich, or even rewarding. The ecstatic feeling which comes from viewing beauty, at least I think, lies ultimately in that honest, unrepeatable chance that we get to experience something new, and strange, and in that specific moment that we see it in- beauty is when we feel that moment of impact as so many elements outside of us converge inexplicably, yet undoubtedly. When I witness beauty, I feel fully alive, and fully aware of that convergence: beauty is a pressure point.


Beauty is Healing

Alyssa Jarvis | Antigua Girls High School ’13 | St. Peters, Antigua

Runner Up - Alyssa Jarvis

Beauty is a thing of elegance that many people yearn for.
A passage way to possibilities, that can’t be bought by rich or poor.
Beauty is perfection only placed upon the chosen.
And just like age it evolves, never frozen.
Time is but its slow death, causing it to fade in the blink of an eye or wipe of sweat.
I believe beauty is our demise fighting to get what was not placed upon us.
Wanting a birth right of beauty.
That we can never trust.
Beauty is my angry scars on my hands and face
Beauty is the horrid past that I cannot erase
Beauty is sin.
Indulgence of vanity.
Decadence of impurity
Beauty is our biggest whim.
We are wrapped around its finger.
And our patience stretched thin
We yearn for beauty.
We die for beauty.
We change for beauty.
Beauty is Beautiful
But the most beautiful part of all
Is picking yourself back up no matter how hard the fall
So I’m stitching up these scars
And making myself new
Because deep down, though you may not see it
I am beautiful too.



Anna Berger | Burr and Burton Academy | Dorset, VT

Growing up in Vermont, I have been accustomed to a landscape so beautiful I could not imagine a childhood without it. We are surrounded by rolling green mountains of forest and ever flowing springs. Needless to say, this is accessible in many backyards. As I’m headed towards another step in life, I have come to realize the importance of this environment. That in order to sustain this beauty that we have known for generations, we must work to create the smallest of human footsteps. Not just take from our land and resources, but also give back so that we can not be left with nothing. Rather leave these lands in better condition to improve both habitats and natural life cycles. To create a beautiful life for ourselves, let us start with changing aspects of our daily lives. Every decision we make to improve the way we live will lead us to another. With positive energy and the drive to make a difference in our own communities, we can experience a life more beautiful than we have ever known.


Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

Cat Clauss | International Polytecnic Highschool ’13 | San Dimas, CA

Runner Up - Catherine ClaussHello my name is Catherine R. Clauss and I am 17 years old. I live in San Dimas California and I go to the International Polytechnic high school in Pomona California. When I first heard about this contest and decided that I would enter a piece, I honestly had no idea what I was going to describe, or depict. But as I sat there in my desk at school and looked around I remembered every thing I had learned from my past group members. I remembered their different opinions, and their different ways in which they saw the world. Each was unique and to me… beautiful. So I created this painting. I know when you first look at this and think of the prompt you may think “This girl didn’t understand the prompt.” But I did. What you see is a bunch of different people, of different ages, and ethnicities, with different things around them. Those different things are the things that individual would think is beautiful.

The old Indian women has her young granddaughter behind her, ready to carry on the traditions of her people, who are shown in a large crowed below the girl. This represents the old woman’s idea of beauty because she loves her customs and religion, and thinks that it is beautiful that her granddaughter and all the generations after her will learn and uphold the traditions she holds so dear. While the 20 year old Asian is surrounded by his home, technology (including the computer coding behind him in the back round.), and some of his culture’s traditional items, like the Kimono. (The middle eastern dragon is often depicted in the Asian culture as a serpent shaped creature, with a brilliant mind, and sometimes even a protector.)Things that surround him in his life and his family’s history and culture that help shape his opinion. The Middle aged Native American is surrounded by scene of nature which he would consider beautiful due to the fact his culture is very oriented on persevering nature. The Caucasian female, would think works of art or writing would be beautiful, as she is surrounded by a painting palette and a quill. The African American teenager is surrounded by fashion and music, and a car she would really like. Last is the young Mexican boy surrounded by different toys and extinct but cool, creatures. Also shown is a scene where he sits with his mother on a wooden rocking chair. These are things that express the beauty of a child’s mind.

Some may think that I am just showing off what others would think are beautiful but I am not, I am showing the beautiful fact that everyone has their own opinion or idea of what beauty is. An idea that is shaped by the ways the person is raised, and the things that surround them as they grow. Things like tradition, family, friends, school, the area they grow up in, all these things help shape their opinion of what beauty is. And their opinions change as they grow and develop their minds. Even when they are as old as 80, their minds and opinions are still changing. This is the beautiful thing I wish to show all of you. The individuality of each person and their thoughts on the question “what is beauty?”

Thank you for your consideration and I hope you enjoy my piece as much as I enjoyed creating it.



Daniel Wallock | Besant Hill School ’14 | Santa Barbara, CA

Removed at the author’s request. Watch for his book, coming soon!

Shattered Beauty

Jacob Kydd | High Mowing Waldorf School ’15 | Arlington, MA

Runner Up - Jacob Kidd

Beauty is not necessarily perfection. Sometimes an object’s flaws are more beautiful than its flawlessness. The natural perfection of an apple itself is beautiful, but its flaws make it unique and therefore more real and tangible. The question is: why do flaws accentuate beauty. I believe that although absolute perfection can be beautiful in a way, it is never unique. Flaws are what really bring out the individualistic nature of something. A unique object is more beautiful than a perfect replica. A hand-made flower pot is more beautiful than a factory made one even with, and because of, its flaws. In my painting the cracks on the apple demonstrate how flaws can increase something’s beauty by unifying the perfect and imperfect.


The Hidden World of Fluid Dynamics

Josh Wolper | Moravian Academy ’13 | Easton, PA

Science and art are one and the same; they only differ in perspective.
Fluid dynamics surround us everyday, from pouring cream into coffee to navigating the flow of traffic on the way to work. We sometimes find difficulty in appreciating things that we take for granted, such as the fluid flow of blood, working its way through us even now. Yet, the wonder of fluid dynamics does not stop at their incredible importance, they also encompass an incredible beauty. This beauty, when examined, inspires a desire to look closer at the things we see everyday. We miss so much in our lives. We are constantly in motion, hurriedly moving from point A to point B. But this leaves so many gaps in our lives- we miss out on point C, and point F, and even point U. It is important that we appreciate the beauty that surrounds us everyday. This is possible if we all just STOP for a moment…

…and breathe.

And take that second glance at the dew on the grass. Or notice the way the wind dances with the leaves in late autumn. Or watch that cream spread and swirl throughout the mug. Or to even watch the orchestrated chaos of traffic and its incredible fluidity.

Everything around us is beautiful, we just have to take the time to see it.


Beauty is the Awe Inspiring Warmth of Sun Touching the Soul

Kinsey Thomas | Sandia High School ’16 | Albuquerque, NM

Runner Up - Kinsey Thomas



Beauty follows rules unknown to man, and cannot be defined by the perfect slant of a woman’s nose, or the depth of the cleft in a man’s strong chin. Beauty is the asphyxiating pressure on your chest when looking upon something that raises the serotonin levels in one’s body to immeasurable levels. The truth is beauty cannot be calculated, there are no rules and the guidelines are fuzzy at times. Instead, society has created a face that “is beauty,” dubbing everything else as not worthy of being beautiful. Being beautiful is not a shade of platinum blonde or being able to bench seventy-five percent of your body weight. A sterile but professionally designed house doesn’t make it a beautiful home, just like the perfect curvature of a freshly trimmed juniper is not a true look at nature’s physique.
Beauty is raw and powerful, not brittle like that bones of a little girl starving herself because beauty has been defined by a malnourished model that wears her skeleton outside her skin, with every bone visible. It isn’t the boy consuming unnatural substances so that he can gain muscle mass when he doesn’t even realize what his body so chalked full of hormones will become. Beauty is less of a look and more of a feeling, the awe inspiring warmth of sunlight touching the soul. The sun is vital for life on the planet, and the warmth of its rays can make even the grumpiest of cats bask in life. Beauty is life, and everything in it.


Beauty in Chicago

Mary Malina | Providence St. Mel ’13 | Forest Park, IL

Before I started my submission, I couldn’t find a way to put my perspective of beauty into words. Because of this, I decided to ask the people of my city what they thought of beauty. I asked both strangers and people that I knew. Through this project, I had the opportunity to learn about different opinions of beauty from all types of people. My submission is beautiful because it sends the message that no matter where you’re from, how much money you have, or what your ethnicity is, you are able to see the beauty in others around you as long as you open your heart.


Beauty is Science, Art, History and Nature Combined

Mohammed Ismail | St. Joseph School ’13 | Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Runner Up - Mohammed Ismail  (5)Runner Up - Mohammed Ismail  (2)Runner Up - Mohammed Ismail  (1)Runner Up - Mohammed Ismail  (4)Runner Up - Mohammed Ismail  (3)We, human beings, have discovered many things, and based on that knowledge we acquired through time, we have given all of them names. We have been naming them from the beginning: technologies, celestial bodies, places, ideas or anything we can all hope to imagine. Our beautiful nature is our ideology the way that we feel and imagine or philosophize. So it is unquestionable that beauty exists, but what does beauty mean? What is beautiful? These are the questions that we seek answers for.

Since the beginning of our formal education, we have been taught to answer questions by demonstration, rather than defining them. Beauty is hard to define, and demonstration leads to defining. Every one might have his own feelings, his own ways to explain almost everything, beauty is one that might be a mystery to most, everyone tries to uncover beauty, but” beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. But if you show any one something beautiful, he/she will surely tell you if it is beautiful or not.

I went for a tour to the Fasilades castle, and I took these pictures, when I showed them to other people, the comment I always got was, “what a beautiful picture”, but for me they were just like any other pictures I had taken. These pictures were with my godfather, and once when I needed them most, I had a difficulty in attaining them, because he was not around, I tried to look for other replacements, but there were none. It reminded me of an old saying in Ethiopia which goes like this, “Gold in your hands is just like copper”, which is obviously right. We know the beauty of something when it is not with us or when we have lost it. So when I found it, it was more beautiful than ever for me, because I thought I had lost it, when I needed it most. Is there beauty in losing? No, it was truly beautiful, losing it just showed me what was there, and what I didn’t realize.

Some people say beauty is art, some say science, most argue it is nature, and few, in history. What if there is something that combines all these, something that has all this at its disposal, and shows it proudly and gracefully for those who know where to look, and truly want to see. Then it must be the one, the most beautiful thing known to man, and that I believe I have found. This is the center of the once great empire of Fasilades, situated in Gondar, Ethiopia; this is one of the most prized possessions of our country, this is one of the reasons why Ethiopia is symbolized as a beautiful lady, with her skirt the shape of Ethiopia on the map. Within its walls, are six castles, these castles had been built by generations of emperors that reigned over its empire, it has the history of at least six great kings, including the great king Fasilades himself, who brought peace and prosperity to the time. The architecture and the technologies used in building these castles were very advanced for that era. The engineers used these great technologies to build these wonderful castles they had planned and dreamed for their great kings. They chose the best area, for politics, society and luxury. Science is beautiful. These castles were designed in the most skillful and artistic way to reflect the society of that great age, to last for the coming generations, to remember them by. Art is beautiful. These palaces were created by mankind, but it is nature that perfected it. Most say nature has degraded it with the help of time; it is now in ruins, its greatness is gone, it is just a place to remind us how great we were, but that to me is ignorance. Off course it reminds us of our past, and how power full we were, but it only adds to it its beauty, adds to its historical beauty that already is there, if you can see open mindedly and deeply. History is beauty. It is ruined but is whole, it is modern but ancient, it is artificial but natural, and it is somehow a reflection of physics: to be at the same place at the same time, just like Albert Einstein predicted. Of Biology: To be alive and dead like a virus. Of chemistry: to be in different phases at the same point. To see a stone organized by men, to make a wall to protect them from the enemies of nature and man himself, now gives life to nature, to bear a plant, that is full of life and hope from a stone, that is cold and dead, how ironic, but life is beautiful, nature is beautiful. This Place is Beautiful.


The Shoe-Box Song

Nathaniel Brown | Home School | Potsdam, NY

Beauty is a multi-faceted thing. It is the traditional definition; of beauty in sight or sound. Beauty is also in emotions. The most beautiful thing is, I believe, happiness.

I was recently asked to do an announcement in church for Operation Christmas Child, a program our church participates in. It distributes donated shoeboxes filled with presents to poor children all over the world. For this announcement, I wrote a song.

This is beautiful for three reasons.
1) The cause is beautiful, bringing happiness to poor children.
2) Music is beautiful.
3) Laughter is beautiful. People were audibly laughing in the pews.

U’i i ka hana no’eau (Art is beautiful)

Nikki Ama | James Campbell High School ’13 | Ewa Beach, HI

Runner Up - Nikki AmaMy drawing shows where I’m from and who I am. The theme is Hawai’i and the aina, which means “land” and how the land shows off the natural beauty and culture of Hawai’i. Self-expression is also a way to show a beauty that many people never see.

The Hula dancer represents the culture of the people who live here. Hula is the traditional dance of the Hawaiian people and every movement tells the story of great battles, inspiring tales of strength and cunning, and the struggles that the Hawaiians have fought and overcome. With Hula comes chants, or oli’s which are the voices of the Hawaiian people and also tell their tales.

Musical instruments like the hollowed out gourd produced beats and rhythm for the oli’s and in their own way tell a story with its deep monotone sound. The Hula dancer’s hair flows into the wave-woman because the people of Hawai’i and the ocean are one and like the Hula dancer, the oceans of Hawai’i tell their story with every crash against the islands rocks.

The rocks, too, are like art. The Ko’olau mountain range looks as if it had been crafted by the hands of a larger being and show off the islands beauty and strength. The canoe represents the craftsmanship of the people and is considered an art form and in the drawing, the stone hands use a canoe to create mountains and ridges.

I formed an “A” with the surf board, fish, and canoe for the word aloha since that is the theme for Hawai’i. The surfboard is also symbolic because people here like to surf since the oceans are beautiful, and that is another type of self expression.
All these illustrations pull together what I see in Hawai’i. All flow with each other and reside with each other, because the people, the culture, the land, and the sea are what makes up Hawai’i, and that is what I call beautiful.


Beauty is…Simply Me

Octavio Duarte, Eric Rivera and Christian Alcaraz | Arroyo Valley High School ’15 | San Bernadino, CA

Beauty can be a single image or drawing that can capture and portray the different cultures, backgrounds, and the life-styles of just one person.

My fellow partner Octavio Duarte, is the artist of the image and the teenager we will be evaluating for this project. Octavio is literally the “man behind the display.” Art has become a very huge influence in his life, and the image that will be shown is a collaboration of his backgrounds, cultures, and his life-styles. We began analyzing his backgrounds and by the looks of it, Octavio is Latin-American with a little amount of a Japanese heritage.

In the final image, the bird is settled and surrounded by Octavio’s culture and background. It is sitting on top of the Japanese cherry blossom and is surrounded by the Mexican sugar skulls. The way the bird is facing is showing symbolism to the way that, Octavio see’s and lives in a life full of a Latin-American culture, since it is looking directly at the skull. The cherry blossom’s pedal that is placed in between the bird and the skull is used as a way of showing that even though he practices more of his Latin-American culture; he is still taking a glimpse and learning more of his Japanese background. The letters above the skulls, bird, and blossom are in the language of the angels, and it is quoted by Ayn Rand, which states “The question isn’t who’s going to let me; it’s who’s going to stop me…,” Representing Octavio’s spirit of ambition wanting to reach something greater without paying attention to those who want to stop him from doing so.

The different versions of the drawing represent Octavio growing as a person and discovering new facts about himself. The first version includes a similar bird, quote, but the skull on the left, and the tree is different; it’s just roses that symbolize that he felt good as himself and as a person, and he even thought of his life as beautiful as a blooming rose. The skull on the right is of a girl and she is maturing into a different look as well as Octavio maturing and beginning to look different. The second version of the drawing includes the exact same bird, quote, roses except for the same skull on the left. This time the skull on the right has a more matured look and is far more detailed. Also the flower that is in the hair of the skull on the left now has a more detailed view to it. The hair has grown and looks completely different as well.

Finally, the third version of the drawing includes a whole new item; the roses have now become a Japanese cherry blossom. The reason behind this is that as Octavio grew even more and dug up his past information using letters and pictures, he has discovered that he has Asian roots. That’s why the bird now sits on that cherry blossom as it is looking at the skulls and that pedal derived from his Japanese heritage. So in the end as the title states “Beauty is… Simply Me” it doesn’t mean he thinks beauty is his physical appearance, but him, as a person, where he is from and who he is.


Beauty in a Moth

Yasi Zeichner | Vermont Technical College VAST program ’13 | Northfield, VT

This spring, my siblings and I found a large, dried, brown chrysalis. We kept it, wondering what kind of butterfly or moth would hatch out of it, and hoping it would be a novelty of some kind. When the insect began to break through, we gathered round to watch the process. This is a slideshow of the transformation of the moth that emerged; a Polyphemus moth.
I think these photographs show beauty in many ways. There is beauty in the warmth and depth of the colors on the moth’s wings, and beauty in the intricate details of the insect’s whole design, from the eye-spots and stripes on its wings, to the fuzzy hairs on its body, to its little black-tipped feet. The fact that such a magnificent creature can emerge from a dry, drab chrysalis, starting out almost all body and no wings, and in the course of two or three hours, pumping its wings to their full size and then flying away; that is beautiful. Also, beauty is in the way that Nature puts such care and love into every detail of this little insect, despite the fact that the moth will only live for a few days. I think that if we slow down sometimes, and take the time out to watch some of the little things that are happening all around us, we will have the chance to observe some amazing processes, and see beauty at work. I also think there is beauty in taking the time and effort to make little, seemingly insignificant things beautiful, as Nature did with the Polyphemus moth.


Beauty is Community

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One of things I like best about Thanksgiving is that it is one of the few days a year people open their homes to friends, family and yes, near strangers.

I’ve spent Thanksgiving in a lot of different places in the twelve years since I left home for college – at friends’ family gatherings in New York, at a farm school community feast, around a wicker table in Malawi, and trying to cook a full sized turkey in a tiny dorm room oven.  In each of these cases, I joined friends of friends of friends, or had similarly loosely connected folks join me. Are there any other days in our calendar when we assume that no one should go cold or hungry or have to spend the day alone? When we are willing to put up with a little awkward conversation in order to ensure that everyone can feel they have something to be thankful about? Could we make a commitment to bring the beauty of this openness, generosity and sharing to other parts of the year?

Yes. And at the same time, I am reminded of how much beauty there is in the communities we hold close. Other bloggers have described a gut-level experience of beauty. For me, that warm glow comes during easy-flowing conversations with old friends, that bone-deep certainty that someone would come through for me in a pinch, collaborating to create a colorful and satisfying meal, and feeling pride in my sisters’ accomplishments.

I wonder how I could “make something beautiful” that expressed this feeling? A photo collage of friends and family? A story about a transformative moment in a relationship? Or can this only be truly expressed in things others make and share with me? A quandary for the long weekend…

-Ariel Brooks

Director of Non Degree Programs

Beauty and the Divine?

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Some final questions from resident philosopher, William Edelglass, to help propel you to those brilliant submissions!

My colleague and dear friend, Amer Latif, is a scholar of Sufi poetry, especially the work of Rumi.  In a Rumi poem Amer has translated, Rumi questions God, asking where the poet should seek the Divine.  And God answers, “Seek me in your beautiful conduct.”  What does it mean that our conduct can be beautiful?  And what would it mean that in the very beauty of our conduct we can find God?

Taking this a step further, what is the relationship between beauty and the Divine?  This summer I gave several talks in Estonia and went to an Estonian Orthodox Church for services on two Sundays.  The music and icons and ritual were so beautiful and I felt a deep connection to the Divine.  Thomas Aquinas argued that beauty is an attribute of God, and that when we experience beauty we are connecting to God.  I have also felt this in the mountains and singing with friends.  Is this encounter with beauty, both natural and artistic, an encounter with God?

-William Edelglass

Philosophy Professor

Beauty is connection, with people, with places, with ideas.

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Beauty is standing on the balcony of the Marlboro College library, facing a 180 degree view of the rolling hills of Vermont, and knowing that there is no where else you would rather be.

Beauty is reading a book written by someone oceans and years away from you, and finding a sentence that makes you say, “I’m not the only one who thinks that!”

Beauty is laughing at something no one else thinks is funny, and then looking up and making eye contact with a person who is laughing at the same thing.

Beauty is someone looking you in the eye and asking, “How are you?” and really wanting to know how you are.

Beauty is finding someone else who loves your favorite band as much as you do.

Beauty is a handmade birthday card tucked under your bedroom door.

Beauty is hearing from a lost friend out of the blue.

Beauty is connection, with people, with places, with ideas.

-Phoebe Lumley ’16

The Beauty in the Barrios

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“What is the Spanish word for snow?” my friend, Catie asked me. I came and sat next to her and the little girl next to her.


Catie smiled, and pointed at the picture of a house covered in feet of powdered snow in her hand. “Nieve, snow.”

The girl’s face lit up with wonder, as her eyes looked at the picture and then turned to look at her own surroundings. Sand, and plywood and cardboard houses, and scrawny dogseverywhere. The air smelled of dirt, sweat, and the chemical plants not far away. “Nieve,” she sighed. “Me gusta.” I like it. And she smiled.

At the age of sixteen, I had never seen such poverty, if poverty even does justice to their stories. Dirt and sand clung to the bottoms of the children’s bare feet, and scraggly dogs ran between their legs and in and out of the ply-board and cardboard houses. The air smelled of urine and nothing green could grow. Yet, these poorest barrios of Lima, showed me a form of beauty that I had never seen before.

Each day, I assumed the role of translator for the children and my friends, and watched the barriers of language fall down. When I came home, it was all I could talk about, the power of language. While we were separated from these children by barriers of culture, of age, of wealth, these began to break down when I helped them communicate with us. It allowed us to enter, however slightly, into their lives. Speaking to the children in Spanish was more than just speech; it was proof that we wanted to interact in their lives. It showed that were cared about them. It built trust. Watching these barriers between us fall down as the children told us what their favorite colors were, who their siblings were, how old they were, was beautiful. In the midst of all this dirt and sand, the friendships we made with these children were pure beauty.


-Amelia Brown, ’15

Beauty is Light

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Beauty is light. The warmth of the sun on your back, the patterns thrown on the ground through the leaves on the trees, the moon through a window in the middle of the night. A lava lamp, the lights on a Christmas tree, a single candle flickering against a wall.

Beauty is a lantern and the silhouette of a robber as a train comes rushing toward him.

Beauty is a dying man’s journey through the Elysian Fields.

Beauty is the light in the elevator as con men rob a casino vault.

Beauty is the glow of fairies as they dance around a boy who refuses to grow up.

Beauty is three teenagers with three candles exploring an abandoned mansion.

Beauty is florescent lights, a train, the glow of fairy dust, sunlight, a lantern, a candle. Beauty is light.

-Saskia Giramma ’15

Do you remember?

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Technology is the application of science.  Science is beautiful!  But in the application of science, its beauty is very often obscured or completely hidden. That can be necessary when the science is dangerous or fragile.   Power lines are kept out of reach and engines and computers alike are enclosed within metal and plastic.

It’s not always necessary, though.  Sometimes science is hidden within technology so that technology can look or feel or sound like something else – or nothing at all. Think of how new products are smaller, quieter, faster, or smoother than they used to be. Part of why I’ve always liked to take things apart is that it reveals a certain kind of beauty to me.

Do you remember dialing a phone with real push buttons?  Or even a mechanical dial?  And then someone at the other end started talking? Remember the grinding noises your computer used to make?

Remember the first time you saw windmills lining a ridge?

Remember when we landed a robot on Mars?


Or the first time you felt a plane taking off?

I think those are the sorts of moments where technology reveals its beauty.

-Johnny Stiteler ’06

Technical Support Coordinator



“Ugly” Pots

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When I was in graduate school we were asked to make the most ugly pots we could imagine.  I know this is a common assignment, designed to coerce students to reexamine what we value in our work. I worked counter to all my conventions; I made pots using only my left hand, slathering them in slip and covering them with narrative drawings reflecting my broken heart.  The resulting pots were uncomfortable and awkward, but not ugly.  Did I fail, or was the assignment a success?  It is still unclear to me whether I failed by being unable to force myself to make something I considered ugly, or succeeded in broadening my perspective on what constitutes a beautiful pot.   

Active engagement in making moves the work like a pendulum between the poles of failure and success, each serving to inform the other.  The act of making the most unattractive pots I could imagine sowed the seeds for my subsequent ideas. I now embrace variation in the slip and continue to incorporate elements of the drawings I used on those sloppy, bumpy, wobbly, unkempt jar forms.

If, as they say, beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder, then makers should make what they see as beautiful.  Staying true to our individual sense brings the definition beyond the sunset, rainbow and kittens. Securing for ourselves what we understand as beauty and finding ways to communicate this comprehension creates a richness in dialogue, an opportunity to instruct and the possibility for growth.

In this way, we may satisfy our own creative needs.

- Martina Lantin

Ceramics Professor

Beauty – Is it only in the EYE of the beholder?

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As a person who responds primarily to the visual, I see beauty everywhere. That’s easy. It’s the sunlight coming through the spores on a patch of moss.

A painting by Diebenkorn, a photograph by Ansel Adams. A decaying piece of birch bark on the forest floor (I was going to talk about the beauty of decay, but my friend Kevin McCamant beat me to it).

But hearing beauty?—well, that’s easy, too. The opening strains of Mendelsohn’s Octet, the closing chords of “Hey Jude.” The first song of the season from the white-throated sparrow, a chorus of spring peepers, the wail of a faraway train passing in the dark of night.

Smell? Or rather, scent. (Scents are beautiful; smells—not so much.) The first whiff of the ocean as you cross the bridge into Maine, especially if it’s low tide. The waft of her perfume as your mother leans over to give you a good night kiss before going out for the evening. Freshly mown hay on a hot summer afternoon.

Now it gets trickier. Touch. Does a touch feel beautiful, or does it feel tender, soothing, warm, soft? Can touch be beautiful? Do we say, “this feels beautiful?” Is it the caress of a lover, the body sliding into clear cool water, the feel of a dog’s warm head under a crippled elderly hand? Thick warm socks on a cold morning—that’s a beautiful feeling.

Here’s one Josie didn’t ask about in the video: Taste. Do we talk about food as tasting beautiful? Delicious, sweet, comforting—yes beautiful: Macaroni and cheese; good strong coffee thick with cream; a ripe tomato still warm from the sun.

What I end up with is this: I think it is the magic in the perception of things that makes them beautiful. Ice skating alone on a startling pink sunrise, reflected on the surface of a pond. The gentle touch of a dragonfly as it lands on your bare shoulder. The surprising taste of chunky salt in a bar of dark chocolate.  It’s the little sensory surprise, the little gasp “oh!” that makes something beautiful.

Now the question is, how do you capture that gasp?

-Dianna Noyes ’80
Publications Coordinator & Graphic Designer

Taking Stock

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Violets, trout lilies and spring beauties

poke through the duff,

trillium follow

and pink lady slippers.


Now after warm rain

the red efts emerge,

with their soft

bodies and tiny feet,


the open woodlands

with delicate deliberation –


like young women

studying their first garden party

as they hesitate

near the roses.


- S.C. Tappan ’77



Colorful Decay

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I can find beauty in just about anything.  This picture is of rust on an old door on the building across the street from the jail where I work and I find it beautiful.

Beauty is more of a felt thing than a thought thing for me: there can be an element of surprise, a swelling of the heart, a smile and/or tears in the eyes.  It catches me, transforming my sense of perspective and scale, pulling me into its dimension.

It can also be ironic, or perhaps even paradoxical, like the rust in the photo, generative in its colorful decay.

-Kevin McCamant

Class of ‘76

Help is Beautiful

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I think that helping people is beautiful.

I know that sounds super cheesy and dumb, but it’s true.

In my opinion, giving something selflessly to someone else is

one of he most beautiful things a person can do.

– Maggie Wood ’13


Skeptics of Beauty

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More questions and musings from resident Philosophy Professor, William Edelglass:

Some recent thinkers and artists have argued that beauty is not the support for ethics and justice that earlier thinkers had imagined.  Instead, they have argued, the valorization of beauty is an expression of privilege: only people who have all their basic needs met could really care about beauty.  Moreover, attention to beauty lifts us out of the ethical demands of a world in which there is suffering.  Instead of contemplating beautiful scenery or works of art, we need to respond to that suffering, it is argued.  And if we do make works of art, they should not reflect the tastes of the privileged but should disturb them, to draw our attention to social and political truths which are obscured by the devotion to beauty.  What is the relationship between beauty—say, for example, the beauty of a painting by Mark Rothko — and morality, justice, and politics?  Ought we to be skeptical of beauty and strive to escaped the “cult of beauty”?




I don’t believe in beauty.

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Or at least I try not to.

What I mean is that beauty is so wrapped up in aesthetics, which are so subjective and yet socially inscribed, that I don’t believe anything is purely, ultimately, innately beautiful. I fear that we limit ourselves in our thoughts of what could possibly be beautiful – day to day, we enter into routine and forget to really see, hear, touch, feel…

Therefore, I think we should question why we think something is beautiful to see what it implies about what we don’t think is beautiful. It’s easy to see where I’m going with this – I often wonder why I turn heads (and apparently invite comments on my “beautiful” appearance) when I strap on a pair of heels, as opposed to when I go to the corner store in my sweatpants. I wonder, doesn’t ugliness have its own beauty, and maybe beauty its own ugliness? This is why I attempt to disregard beauty all together.

When I think about this question in relation to my own experience, I often think about people’s labeling of themselves as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ dancers. As a dancer and dance-maker, I run into so many people who, upon hearing what I do, comment on their inability to dance. Do they not believe they are beautiful dancers? To me, the awkward stumblings of these pedestrians are more innovative and inspiring than the calculated precision of a ballerina. The way I see it, what qualifies as beauty – or ability to create a “beautiful” dance – is the motivation behind the person performing a dance, their own joy in movement. I see the uninhibited commitment to movement (whether that movement could be see as beautiful or ugly) as beautiful. And there, I’ve admitted my own surrender to beauty.

Maybe it’s arbitrary to do so, but I don’t want to call it beauty. Beauty implies form, implies an image – just as the word “movement” implies a particular shape. Why can’t we define a particular “beauty” or “movement” by intent or by how it arose. I want beauty, like movement, to be a process, not a hard image which bodies try to recreate.

In lieu of flushing all these snip-its of ideas out, I pose to you this video as a site of investigation:

Beauty in Cultural Context

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Between individual feelings of pleasure in the beautiful and objective properties of the beautiful object, there is also the question of the cultural contexts in which we cultivate our tastes.  The first time I saw Tibetan opera it was culturally interesting but not particularly beautiful.  But after several years of living with Tibetans in northern India, regularly hearing Tibetan music, and seeing many hours of traditional opera, I did find it both entertaining and more and more moving and beautiful.  Does one have to enter into another culture to appreciate its aesthetic productions and find them beautiful?  Do some manifestations of beauty just take more time to appreciate than others?  What is the relationship between beauty and cultural contexts?

- William Edelglass

Philosophy Professor

Beauty is a Roommate

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My roommate and I this year are half best friends, half the same person. We finish one anothers sentences, like the same kind of music, and wear the same size shoes. Soulmates are not necessarily a romance thing. A soulmate is a person who understands you, and loves you, even the pieces that drive them nuts, and sometimes, if you’re lucky, a soulmate is also a roommate.

There is beauty in not having to explain why you’re cranking loud rock music at 11pm, and there is also beauty in dancing around your dorm room folding clothes just because you can.

There is beauty in laughing so hard with someone that you literally fall on the floor and can’t breathe.

There is beauty in discussing, in September, where you want to live together the next year, and in making the assumption that after another year of living together, you’ll still want to live with each other.

There is a strange kind of beauty in singing “What Is This Feeling” from Wicked with your roommate every time you get in the car.

There is beauty in sitting on opposite sides of the room playing Words With Friends with one another, and yelling “Play a word! Play a word!” 30 seconds after you send a word.

There is beauty in watching TV shows and movies together that you won’t admit you watch to anyone else because they’re so bad.

There is beauty in accidentally staying up until 2am talking about life across the room in the dark.

There is beauty in having a bad behavior spray bottle for one another, and then deciding that you’re going to drive each other nuts with it, and so seriously debating getting water guns instead.

There is beauty in being in class together and reaching for the other person’s water bottle without asking because you don’t need to.

There is beauty in having an unspoken agreement to leave the windows open until it’s literally so cold you have to close them or get frostbite at night.

There is beauty in living together, and knowing you have someone there for you all the time.

If you’re lucky, there’s beauty in a roommate.

-Rosie Kahan ’15 (the one on the left)

The Problem of Naked Dead Things

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The mind isn’t always a beautiful place. Leontius, for example, couldn’t restrain himself from looking at the naked corpses lying at the executioner’s feet. At first, he covered his eyes, turning away from the grisly scene. Eventually, his prurient interest won out.  His eyes popped open and his legs propelled him forward for a closer look. Embarrassed to find himself standing over the bodies, Leontius cried out, “Look, you damned wretches, take your fill of the fair sight.”

A modern reader might diagnose Leontius as psychotic. His contemporary Athenians, however, had a different vocabulary. According to Socrates, the great doctor of cities and psyches, Leontius was a man whose inner desires were in revolt against the authority of reason. The “damned wretches” were not the bodies before him but his own unruly passions. The cure for this uncomfortable condition was not medication but dialectical philosophy. Once Leontius reasserted the rational part of his soul – through reason, argument, and experience – his mind would achieve its natural beauty.

Socrates was impressed with Leontius’s anger, a spirit that usually aligns itself with reason. Leontius’s strange public outburst, he explained, shamed the appetitive aspect of the soul into submission. If Leontius’s ruling function could then show the “damned wretches” some love and kindness, his soul would get back on track. While not providing us with the rest of the conversation, Socrates gives us enough information to chart the course. Begin with a terrible embarrassment and then call out the wretches. Next, lovingly guide them in a healthier direction.

I am most impressed Leontius’s public performance. His recovery not only requires humility and courage, it also demands a wild sense of humor. He is training his inner demons like dogs to a whistle. “Leave it!” he shouts as they rush towards the pornographic. “Come!” he commands, bringing their crazed unruliness back home. No longer ashamed of their puppy ways, the man with the beautiful mind can channel their exuberance to his own delight and to the comic relief of any spectators. How lovely that we humans can improve and still be entertaining!

- Meg Mott

Political Theory Professor

Beauty is Where your Head Turns

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Beauty is where your head turns when it seems to be out of your control. We see and touch and taste things all day long, automatically doing what we’re doing. But on occasion a switch flips inside us and our senses connect to memories—places we’ve been or a voice we heard once—or to some animal impulse deep within, preserved from our days as hunters and gatherers. The connection happens without us knowing, until we feel a jerk in our gut, like someone tugging on a fishing hook and line that was dormant for years. Whether it is inherent in an object or dependent on the genius of some compartment in our brain, beauty, when it matters most to most people, is something we feel. It stirs, shakes, pokes and prods, like new organs growing and dying inside us.

Beauty isn’t just something that pleases your senses—it’s something that triggers that organ-growing effect inside of you, that makes you step back from the comfortable touching and tasting and seeing you’d been contentedly doing all day long. When you experience beauty, you open and escape, however briefly, from your own little world and recognize how big and all-encompassing everything around you is. Beauty transcends individuality. It’s almost as though it causes you to connect more deeply with some energy or source of power in the universe, even though you probably don’t know what you’re connecting to, or even that something touched and changed you at all.

You might try to translate the feeling into something familiar, but the beauty that pulls you up always puts you back down, like being cast back into a veil of salty gray water. You have to resort to fishing analogies to describe the feeling because beauty is beyond language and, with it, comprehension. As close as you may come to capturing that experience, you are still left with just a shadow of what you experienced, and must hope that something in your description resonates with someone else who has also known beauty. And maybe realizing that you’ve felt the same way they have makes you both remember that touch to your soul, or hook in your gut, and feel it again. Remembering beauty connects the two of you, which is the same thing as when you experienced it in the first place—it opens you up to realizing the world is bigger than you, that you’re connected to everything. And that connection is what is beautiful.

- Patrick Magee, ’14

Structure is Beautiful

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As someone who spends her time studying science, I have come to truly value what the natural world has to offer.  Here at Marlboro, I have the luxury of spending my time looking at all different aspects of life on Earth.  For example, this past semester, I began taking Comparative Anatomy.  When I walked into the lab last week, a model of a human skeleton was staring me in the face.  Across the room stood the actual skeleton of a cat accompanied by a few bird skulls, a dog skull, and a hyena skull.  To anyone else these may be just bones.  But they aren’t simply bones.  They are a contributor to life and that’s magnificent.

I find that the beauty is in the life form entirely, but the root of this form is the skeleton.  These bones are the basis of our structure, some of our mobility, and our self-protection.  How can something so seemingly fragile be so important?  For example, the tailbone of a cat appears as though is could snap in an instant and, yet, without at least some of that tail, the cat lacks the strong sense of balance it requires for everyday life.  Similarly, that same cat relies on its ribcage to protect many of its vital organs.  However, with some impact, it’s possible that a few of the ribs could crack.  Without even thinking about it, living organisms put a lot of faith on these breakable forms to allow them to live their daily lives.

Further more, I find the commonality of structure just as beautiful.  It’s amazing to me that humans and cats have many of the same bones in their skeletons.  For example, our skulls are categorized into the same three sections as a cat skull.  By looking at these structures, we can see similarities between humans and many other organisms, which can provide a basis by which all organisms relate to each other.  Our bones are the same.  The pure foundations of our forms are what we all, as living beings, have in common.

While the skeleton of any organism is fascinating to study, the bones themselves are not necessarily what is so beautiful.  It’s how living things rely on them so heavily, how they provide us with the ability to exist in life as we know it, and how we are able to believe that something that appears so fragile will be strong enough to carry us and other organisms wherever we need to go.  Because of bones we are here and we have structure and that is what is so remarkably beautiful.

– Emma McCamant ’14


Is Beauty REALLY in the Eye of the Beholder?

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Another set of thought provoking questions from Professor William Edelglass:

Is beauty a property of things out in the world, or is it really “in the eye of the beholder”?  To experience something as beautiful is to be moved, to feel a certain pleasure.  And we can sometimes say why something is beautiful. We can indicate the properties of a tree or a painting or a song that might lead others to recognize its beauty.  Thus, we act as if beauty is when we feel a particular kind of response to things, as well as a property of the object.  But when I experience beauty — say the glory of Palestrina — I never experience it as something which is relative to me. I feel it as something that others should also feel, that they are missing something important if they do not feel the pleasure of this particular beauty.  Can this dilemma between subjective feelings of beauty on the one hand and objective properties on the other be sustained? Or does one have to abandon one or the other to have a consistent understanding of beauty?

Check out William’s first post for an introduction and more questions!

– William Edelglass

Philosophy Professor

Beauty is…

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a chocolate cake


a vintage dress


a place of one’s own


fresh flowers




a sunlit porch


sharing it with someone you love.


-Desha Peacock,

Director of Career Services

& Style Blogger


Photo Credits: Desha Peacock and Elle James

Beauty is Having Super Powers

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On Saturday, I was leafing through the local weekend paper and came across a photo spread of the Paralympics. Across the page were photos of amazing athletes with what many of us would think to be impossible challenges. Many of the athletes were playing their sports from wheel chairs. Some were leaping or running with one or both legs supplemented by prosthetic running legs.  Other aquatics athletes were swimming or diving with an arm missing or both legs amputated at the knees. The looks of determination, strength and joy were so inspiring I started to tear up. If these folks can do these amazing things with the impediments they face, what is holding anyone else back from their goals?

What I find beautiful is that grit and magic we do find within us to push ourselves beyond what we thought humanly possible. This is when we discover our “super powers.” When Vermont was ravaged by Tropical Storm Irene last year, the whole state rediscovered their super power of caring for each other, doing what needed to be done in order for their neighbors to be okay, to dig out, to clean up, to get back on their feet. There wasn’t necessarily a plan in place for exactly how everything needed to happen. People simply responded. They came together, looked at who and what was in front of them, and did what made the most sense: picking up trash, making food, lending a hand, being good to each other.

In improv theater, actors are constantly tasked with exactly this problem every time they are onstage together. A set of circumstances are randomly assigned to a group. They arrive on the scene and go.  When they perform, pulling ideas out of what seems like nowhere, audience members are awed. It does seem like magic when these actors seamlessly pull together and perform what ends up sounding like a cleverly written Tom Stoppard or Woody Allen script.

Where else do you find that magic, those super powers that give someone or even you the strength, knowledge, determination, the shear awesomeness to do what you didn’t think was possible?

The magic that all of these people are drawing on is that of working hard to hone the skills of handling what seems impossible. All of these folks in their communities, gyms, fields or rehearsal spaces have been super heroes in training, working together, learning from each other how their individual or combined “wonder twin” powers prepare them to take on big challenges.  Super powers are truly beautiful, and they change the world.

– Jodi Clark

Director of Housing and Residential Life

Beauty is Truth, Ye Know

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Let’s just forget for the moment that T.S. Eliot considered the last two lines of John Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn” to be a blight upon an otherwise lovely poem. Keats wrote: “‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,’ that is all/Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” Okay, let’s also forget that the quote is craftily lifted from Sir Joshua Reynolds, an 18th century English painter. Finally, and this is my favorite, let’s ignore the fact that our man Keats distilled this fetching bit of wisdom, with the sleek simplicity of a mathematical proof, from contemplating a dusty old vase. At face value, I mean really, can you imagine a finer description of beauty than John’s?

If you’re living in the captivating psychological thriller known as the teenage years, you probably can. Is it an “Ode on a Double Latte,” or a computer program that randomly generates the mating calls of all known mammals, or a kinetic sculpture of the Big Bang constructed entirely of matchsticks? All it takes is a bit of that crazy, way-out-of-the-box, cross-multi-inter-disciplinary, Harry-Potter-meets-Lady-Gaga thinking that happens when you’re watching YouTube videos and thinking “this yoga breakdancing is awesome but would be even cooler if…,” imagining what the character in your favorite book would look like in person, or just laughing with friends.

And just think, first prize is $1000, or enough for a Grecian urn full of lattes. I kid you not—beautiful, eh? And that is all ye need to know.

- Philip Johansson (aka Potash Phil)
Senior Writer & Editor

Democracy is Beautiful

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Marlboro was founded in the wake of World War II with the explicit goal of redefining democracy in a world of uncertainty, a world where ideas such as fascism and communism were fresh, raw, and frightening. With the foundation of democracy in mind, Marlboro pushed its students to participate democratically through Town Meeting.

As the editor of Marlboro’s school newspaper, The Citizen, I have seen and participated in my fair share of democratic messiness. Marlboro is a small institution and is dramatically affected by the actions and opinions of the individuals who make it. When people talk, they talk to each other, they challenge each other, and they force each other to fully articulate their opinions. A diversity of thought and opinion forces them to think harder and learn how to interact more reasonably and intelligently with one another. When people are silent, the college stagnates, and so do students’ minds.

When people talk, the result is a gorgeous, frightening, and entirely unpredictable organism. The beauty of Marlboro is that people are not only encouraged to speak their minds; they are expected to. And if people speak enough and are able to find common ground, they can make real and tangible changes to the college. I’ve seen it happen over and over. I have seen students stand up, either through a speech or through articles in The Citizen, and demand more from their school, and I have seen those demands transformed into action.

Marlboro absolutely needs disagreement and its resulting discourse. Marlboro needs opinions that clash. Marlboro’s students, no matter how much they have changed over the past six decades, still expect their voices to be heard. And they should make them heard, because nothing here is more beautiful than the knowledge that someone is listening.

- David Amato ’14

Former Editor, Marlboro Citizen

Beauty’s Broad Range of Meaning

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In Plato’s Apology, an early dialogue about the trial of Socrates, Socrates famously claims that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” By this he means that a life lacking in self-understanding, a life without the kind of inquiry and exploration that for him was characteristic of philosophy, would be constricted, with limited meaning and value. My students are often skeptical about such claims to set up a hierarchy of lives; they tend to recognize value in a multiplicity and diversity of ways of being in the world, including an unexamined life, whatever that might be—though they generally wouldn’t choose such a life for themselves.

But I can’t help wondering about beauty. Is beauty so important in my life that I would regard a life limited in beauty as fundamentally lacking? What would my life be without the commonplace moments of transcendent beauty: when I walk to school in the morning and marvel at the sunlight catching dew on a spider web; hearing students singing in harmony under the apple trees below my open office window; watching the first snowfall bring a kind of purity to the landscape?

As Plato pointed out, so much of what we take to be of utmost importance in our lives, we may not understand. I think of this when I think of beauty, for even as I recognize how singularly significant it is for me, I am not sure I understand it very well. Indeed, the more I think about beauty the more perplexing it becomes. Below I pose a question about beauty, the first of several I will offer in the coming weeks, to express some of my perplexity.

What are we referring to when we describe something as “beautiful?” In English, “beautiful” has a broad range of meaning. It includes, of course, the beauty of the Marlboro hills when the morning light plays with the rising mist.

But we might also hear someone describe as “beautiful” the embarrassment or humiliation of an arrogant politician or acquaintance. What does it mean to refer to both of these as beautiful? And what about sex appeal, which we often describe as beauty? Is sexual attractiveness its own kind of beauty or is it basically similar to the beauty of the opening first movement of the Schubert Cello Quintet, or is it something altogether different from beauty?

– William Edelglass

Philosophy Professor


Searching for Beauty

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Student in the Library

Katheryn Lloyd ’11 in the Marlboro College Library

As a librarian and researcher, when presented with a question like “What is beauty?” or “How do I explain why my creation is beautiful?,” I immediately think about finding information on how others, be they scholars, bloggers or anyone, have approached the subject of beauty. In an academic environment, we often stress the importance of building on the research completed by others before us.

The Oxford English Dictionary traces the first use of the word beauty back to 1325, then in its Middle English form of bealte. 1325! The OED also provides eight different definitions of beauty. Just as there are several different definitions of the word beauty, there are many different ways to approach the question of beauty and, in turn, different disciplines that tackle the study of beauty from the arts to the sciences. Even the Library of Congress devotes several different subject headings connected to the study of beauty. Just a few examples: aesthetics, art —philosophy, beauty—personal.

I think we often forget how significantly the words we choose to search for information influence the results we get. Gee, that sounds obvious, but think about it and test it out. Try substituting the word aesthetics for beauty and vice versa. Try ambling around in your research. Try many different searches. Explore. Read. Get a bit lost.

If you are looking for inspiration or places to search, you might want to check out a few of following great freely available online resources and well as visiting your local library:


A catalog of books in libraries around the world. Use the “Find a copy in a library” feature to locate books in a library near you or visit your local library to learn more.

Google scholar:

A free place to search for scholarly books and articles. Some are available freely, others you’ll need to check with your local library to get access.
A fantastic place to search and browse public domain books, articles and videos.

– Amber Hunt

Reference and Technology Librarian