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Blog posts by becca

The Sampler

Aquinas writers, poets, and visual artists await the release of The Sampler, the annual student literary and art publication.

It’s an opportunity to say “Hey, I’m [name], and I am a published writer/poet/painter/sculptor/etc.”

The deadline for submissions lies every year in February, and the following months includes deliberation and review from the publication team, including a slew of Aquinas professors, to select the most resounding pieces for the annual publication.  It is around this time, every year, that those who submitted pieces receive news of their selected pieces. Pottery, poems, paintings, oh my!

The nature of a liberal arts college, Aquinas in this case, is to push the mind into realizing different ways of thinking. In the Sampler, there is an artistic expression of this. At Aquinas, “it is in our nature to ask, ask, ask.” It is also in our nature to express our responses to the answers we receive. The pieces involve visions, experiences, conclusions, and imagination: all important aspects of a life of learning at Aquinas.

Check out last year’s sampler (and stay tuned for the 2014 release… coming this April!): http://www.aquinas.edu/english/pdf/sampler_XXV_2013.pdf

The Beauty of Snow

At Aquinas, there is snow everywhere. Snow packs into paths of wintry nature trails. Snow sits atop the Cook Carriage House, as my friends and I get warm inside with a coffee from the Moose Café. Snow is being shoveled across campus by the diligent Aquinas staff.


 There is snow on our heads as we walk to class, where the pre-lecture discussion is about all of this snow. Any glimpse through the window will tell you that it is snowing. The friendly Aquinas squirrels love it: leap, leap, leaping through the feet of snow. We revel at how marvelous snow is while it falls through the 108 different species of trees that live on our 107-acre campus. The trees hold the snow on their branches, creating a whiter—brighter— world of…you guessed it: snow.


 But, friends, don’t be turned away. It’s a curious thing, in fact, the chilly beauty of it all. Whether it’s the trees or the buildings, the geography of our placement in Michigan, the dutiful shovels held in the hands of Aquinas community, or the goofy sweaters worn by your dearest friends (perhaps even yourself), it’s the weather of a brand new semester. And any look at the sky will tell you that surely, at least for a while, there is more beauty (snow, of course) to arrive.



A Trip to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

As I write this, I glance down at a porcupine-quill bracelet that I bought from Charlotte Red Cloud last week during fall break. Charlotte and her sisters sell quillwork to assist with finances while sharing their Indian culture. I bought one to remember them.

Aquinas, in its pursuit of our service charism, offers many service learning trips for the academic breaks throughout the year. One of the trips for this year’s fall break, which took place from October 21-25, was a trip to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. This trip gave students an opportunity to learn about the Ogalala Lakota Indians, and how we could help them.

We found our home on the land of Henry Red Cloud, great-grandson of Chief Red Cloud and “man-in-charge” of Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center. Henry gave us an opportunity to serve him at the center through manual labor and reparations. A unique task, in particular, was creating “earth blocks”—soil was sifted into buckets, water slowly added, then compressed into sturdy, 35-pound blocks. Henry pioneered this and other ways to work with the land rather than against it, which is the way of the indigenous people.

Manual labor aside, we were experience many dimensions of social justice. The study of our history involves occupation of Indian land, the injustices done to these people and the way in which they were stripped of their culture. They live with the repercussions of this oppression to this day: the people drive cars with four flat tires, with shattered windshields, and expired license plates. Tarps billow on the windows of rusted trailer homes. People will approach you with crafts, desperate to earn money for gas or to feed their children.

Places like this exist, and a beautiful facet of being an Aquinas student is that we acknowledge this. We hear of the pain in the world, and we go out to it. We go to learn why it exists and how we can tend to it by learning about other cultures. We became swollen with love for this Indian community, and their culture that was so oppressed by our own. We came to serve each other as human beings, without division, and responded to a world that often seems to lack in righteousness.

And when people help people, the wind carries the news.

Location 1: Ireland

I am a senior at Aquinas. This year, I often feel like an old man, lounging back in his favorite chair, reminiscing (reasonably enough) about his life that seemed to evaporate from his hands like a half-dream. My few years at Aquinas have influenced my spirit in the greatest way. It is without a doubt that the time that warmed by heart and challenged me the most was the four months I spent in Ireland.

The Ireland study abroad program at Aquinas takes place from January to the end of April on the western coast of County Galway in a petite town called Tully Cross. I brag that I lived in a thatched roof cottage with a bright red door, complete with lace window drapes and yelping livestock in the surrounding fields. A mountain, Maol Reidh, stretched out from my back window. Eleven other mountain peaks created a rhythm along the long, barren road leading out of my new home.  The sea’s breeze cooled the air and filled our noses with its salty sweetness. Across the street, a few of the only buildings in the town were two pubs (always filled with our favorite Irish friends and the ensuing Irish banter) and a church.

During my four months in Ireland, I traveled to Northern Ireland and met a John McCourt, a peace worker who witnessed Bloody Sunday. I met John Hume, the only recipient of the three major peace awards for his peaceful involvement in the conflicts. I watched a performance of “King Lear” at the famous Abbey Theatre in Dublin. I braved a few RyanAir flights to rediscover my faith in Rome and eat more than I should have in France. I explored the mossy forests in the Burren and scaled the breathtaking rock structures of the Giant’s Causeway. I absorbed the architecture of dozens of ancient castles and tomb sites. I boated at the foot of the Cliffs of Moher, and watched as puffins and dolphins leapt from the water.

More importantly, however, I took the time to have daily tea. I made friendships with the pub owners. I read Irish poetry. I ran barefoot in the mud during an uncommonly sunny day. I went to have the craic (“fun”) with my newfound (and now lifelong) Irish friends in their homes. I watched the Irish newscasts. I went to the town doctor when I found myself with strep throat. I made goofy bets with Irish friends over a Guinness (and became one Guinness poorer). I took one entire day, alone, to breathe and be with the land. I returned to simplicity. I became Irish.

While traipsing the Irish land one day with my professor, she gave me insight on traveling from her years of ethnographic studies: “After every foreign experience, there’s a period of time when you’re floating between two places. Give yourself some time to write and think.” Upon the days of my return after my four months of Irish life, I wrote in my journal heavily, taking some time to reminisce and soften my landing in Location 2 (America). I quickly realized, however, that Location 1(Ireland) had changed me forever. Shaking off Location 1 was harder than I thought it would be. I decided that I would never shake it.

I remember once wondering if I’d ever die without ever leaving the country… but now I can say I have lived in another country; another country that has changed my life forever.

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