Adj Marshall

Archive for the ‘Physical Pursuits’ Category

The Big Adventure

In Art, Education, History, Physical Pursuits on March 4, 2011 at 9:40 am

Monkey Face part of my adventure in Oregon!

Artists are magical helpers. Evoking symbols and motifs that connect us to our deeper selves, they can help us along the heroic journey of our own lives.

~ Joseph Campbell

While taking a lunch break from my welding project  last week I found myself in a discussion with a fellow band member of our need to not be tied down to one kind of work. This year has allowed me the the opportunity to search out a bunch of differnt kinds of work all of which I find fulfilling. I have facilitated community building and leadership trainings, taught rock climbing lessons to high school students and special needs individuals, designed and welded bike racks and trash cans, and am now about to head off to lead a service learning course on Health Policy at Berkley in CA.

Around this course and training I have built a 6 week adventure that will take me across the country and back. It starts in Chicago, Illinois  where I will participate in a training for the Health Policy Class and meet my co-facilitators, I will then head down to Austin Texas to meet up with my band the Extraordinary Rendition Band to participate in HONK TX for a week, from there I am headed to Bend Oregon to Rock Climb at Smith Rock for 2 weeks.

Charting a Hero's Journey

After my time camping and climbing I will head back to civilization to meet my with my co-facilitators in San Francisco, one from nevada and the other from Israel, to teach the Health Policy Class. Upon the completion of the class I will move on to Charlotte North Carolina to visit with a friend who works in the Arts field there and was instrumental in the beginnings of my artistic stirrings and questionings. My adventure I hope will open me up to many new insights and allow me to continue on my path of growth I have set out for myself this year.

I first encountered the work of David Campbell in Lina Chisholm’s Charting a hero’s Journey. The book is a publication of the International Partnership for Service Learning and Leadership and was utilized as part of my studies in Ecuador . The book serves as a guided journaling prompt for those traveling for the first time, most often abroad. While my travel to Ecuador was not my first time abroad I still found it’s content quite useful in dissecting my experience while there. It gave me the space to be reflective about my intentions and the ability to recognize the personal conversations and changes that traveling was having on me.

Campbell speaks of the Monolyth, the basic elements common amongst all myths that chart a the heroines journey, a sort of rite of passage, in which the heros undergoes separation, initiation, and return. Linda Chisholm applies this structure to the experiences of the reflective traveler. From the following description you can see the parallels that can be drawn between Campbell’s story and that of a traveler in search of understanding their sense of self and their purpose and contributions to the world.

The Basis for Hero's Journey

“In laying out the monomyth, Campbell describes a number of stages or steps along this journey. The hero starts in the ordinary world, and receives a call to enter an unusual world of strange powers and events (a call to adventure). If the hero accepts the call to enter this strange world, the hero must face tasks and trials (a road of trials), and may have to face these trials alone, or may have assistance. At its most intense, the hero must survive a severe challenge, often with help earned along the journey. If the hero survives, the hero may achieve a great gift (the goal or “boon”), which often results in the discovery of important self-knowledge. The hero must then decide whether to return with this boon (the return to the ordinary world), often facing challenges on the return journey. If the hero is successful in returning, the boon or gift may be used to improve the world (the application of the boon).”

Traveling for me opens my horizons it allows me to see the world in ways I that expand my small city nature. As a life long Providenceite I feel comfortable in the city and often times attempts to find ways to challenge myself. Climbing is a major component of this but so is just getting outside Rhode Island. As I embark on this 6 week adventure I look forward to the insights I will gain and the new found knowledge of myself and the world I will bring back with me.

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Salsa and Patriarchy

In Art, Communication, Foriegn Language, Physical Pursuits on January 5, 2011 at 10:20 pm

“Let us read and let us dance – two amusements that will never do any harm to the world.”

-Voltaire

Last evening was the initial class for Level II Salsa. I have been taking salsa lessons for about 2 months now and find the physical and mental challenges of the art form something I look forward to each week.

Growing up in my household no one danced, so when I wanted to learn, I solicited the assistance of my friend Karin. A native Puerto Rican,  Karin had grown up dancing, it was a skill passed down from parent to child the way reading might be in most American households. Karen exposed me to a plethora of dance concepts most importantly that flexibility and freedom with your body and mind is a necessary element for making your motions flow into a dance.

Me and my salsa partner in Ecuador

As we grew older our friendship grew apart and I found other venues through which to dance. Almost a decade later I would find myself again immersed in the Latino culture this time while living in Ecuador for a summer.  While in Ecuador, I met a friend who would introduce me to the the local dancing scene, something few foreigners ever get to experience. Dancing a couple evenings each week my skills improved exponentially. I became a sought after dance partner which only served to increase my confidence in my own ability and allowed me the freedom to take liberty with my own style. Again while this was an amazing experience it only lasted a short time. Upon my return to the Sates I found few people I could dance with and went on another decade hiatus, returning to salsa only this fall as part of my LEAP.

As a strong independent minded woman I often find it difficult to not be in the leadership role. In salsa dancing as in the Latino culture as a whole there are norms that one may call gendered, sexist or even patriarchal. About  a month ago while having tea with a friend who is a native of Ecuador we got into a debate about Spanish as a gendered language and how the use of gendered words reinforces the sense of masculine as strong and powerful and feminine as demure and docile. My thoughts about this concept came to rest upon the implications of gendered thinking and practices within salsa dancing and its reinforcement of strict gender roles.

In salsa class the first thing you learn is that it is the woman’s role to follow and the man’s to lead. In class comments like this are plentiful: “Gentleman your responsibility is to lead and care for the woman on the dance floor, if you look bad it’s your fault, if she looks bad its your fault”.  While the concept of being faultless as a female may be alluring it leaves little room for recognizing ones own weaknesses and creating  space for growth. In salsa dancing the one place of fault for woman lies in her attempt to hold power ” ladies if something goes wrong it is 90 % the guys fault, if you however decide to lead it is 110 % your fault”. In her book All About Love, which I just finished last week, Bell Hooks states ” sexist socialization teaches females that self-assertiveness is a threat to femininity. Accepting this faulty logic lays the groundwork for low self esteem”.

While I have set the stage here for a diatribe on the patriarchal nature of salsa dancing I will digress. Not because I have not had these thoughts, for they have been running rampant in my own head these past couple days but because as my studies have moved forward my understanding of partnership.  I have come to recognize the give and take that is inherent in the art of salsa dancing. Comments like ” ladies men only lead you 10 % and you must follow though on the other 90%” and “Ladies don’t do the work for them they wont learn from their mistakes”,  gives a a more holistic sense of the give and take of the process required to make a salsa dance work between partners.

In any partnered activity there is a trust that is required, a trust that forces you to be vulnerable in the presence of another. In that vulnerability you must trust that your partner will take up the responsibility to care for you, whether on the rock wall, in a salsa class or in life. I dont know if it is the American understanding of rugged individualism that allows us to miss the subtleties of a give and take relationship where  equity–the giving of what one needs, in the amount that one needs it in, is at the center not equality, but I do know that we must always maintain a healthy critical awareness of the ways in which our societies gendered norms influence our everyday lives.

Eddie Torres: My salsa instructor’s instructor.




The Art of Climbing –Zines!

In Art, Physical Pursuits on January 4, 2011 at 6:31 pm

Climbing circa 1965 before modern climbing gear.

When I learn to let myself ebb and flow with how my situation pans out on the rock, I find the clarity and vision for problem-solving echoing in the canyons of my mind.

–Al Smith III

A few weeks back I got a package in the mail it was from my friend Luke who lives in Colorado. We met this summer while I was visiting a friend at the Rocky MountainBiological Laboratory in Gothic CO. I had headed out west to enjoy the great outdoors something often times hard to find in East Coast city life. Inside the package was the second installment of the Climbing Zine. I had received the first Climbing Zine as a going away present when I left Colorado this summer.

Climbing Zine Volume 2

So you may be wondering What a zine actually is? If you are one of those people don’t fret I wasn’t exposed to my first zine until after college in my work with New Urban Arts.  A zine pronounced (zeen) can generally be defined as a self published work reproduced via a photocopier with has a circulation of less than 1,000.

Quoting the publishing page  from Climbing Zine Volume 2, Luke says that ” Something that has always fascinated me about zines, and the process is the fact that they are produced simply for the sake of creating and sharing art…we are souls that have something to say and this is the venue where we can share that with an audience. He goes on to state that “there is an unquantifiable value in the exchange between a writer and a reader, rewarded in karma that is greater than money.”  These quotes epitomize the heart of zine culture –that of a deep appreciation for the art of creation.

In Luke’s Piece ” A Year in the Heart of a Climber”  I am reminded of my introduction to the climbing world. I first got hooked on climbing though my volunteering on the Leeuwin II tall ship  in Australia. While I loved climbing masts I didn’t know how this could be translated to a land based activity until I met Mark two years later. Mark was the lead Instructor of Search and Rescue, the experiential outdoors education program at Andover where we taught together.

All Hands on Deck route on Shipwreck Boulder Skyland Boulder Patch, Crested Bute C.O.

Showing interest I chose to volunteer as a staff support. Here I learned a few essential differences between climbing masts and climbing rocks. 1) You generally don’t climb barefoot unless you are a rock star climber, 2) Other people, not the mast will serve as your safety system 3) There is more than one type of climbing depending on the type of routes and protection and gear you employ.

When I first immersed myself in the climbing community I felt as if I had walked into another world. Fellow climbers were throwing around terms like beta, barn door, dyno, mantle, match, send, smear, stem, traverse. While these words held specific meanings in my own vocabulary their new definitions eluded me. Some one might say to me if you match you won’t barn door so much and will be able to send that stem climb. Each new piece of information shared with me about a climb, while utterly useless due to my lack of comprehension, made me feel a welcomed part of the community. Since my immersion almost three years ago I have watched my mastery of my physical technique and mental capacity grow.

Crack Climbing Left Arm Route in CO

Climbing has opened many doors for me and forged connections and friendships that will last a lifetime. It has given me reason to travel all over New England including NH, CT, MA and RI. This summer in CO I had the opportunity to climb thanks to Luke and another friend Shane. While in CA later in the summer I was taken under wing as an honorary member of the Bay Area Outdoor Rock Climbing Group . There is immediate acceptance and sense of community that exists amongst climbers –one I have rarely found elsewhere. I don’t know if this sense of community stems from the passion we share for the sport or the trust we place in one another when climbing a particularly risky venture.

Each climb I make influences my understanding of my own physical limitations as well as that of others. Each community member gives me a new appreciation for the role climbing can play in ones life.  Luke’s Zine offers a space for climbers like myself to explore the many ways in which climbing has influenced our lives. Each story I read inspires in me new thoughts about what it means to be part of a community that values pushing ones own physical limits in the pursuit of the next “great climb”. While I am far from an amazing climber I am very happy with my solid 5.10 /V2 status. In the spirit of the pay it forward climbing culture I work hard to create that same welcoming environment I first experienced when I joined the climbing community.

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