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What We Learn From Leaving

     I left Appomattox, Virginia one year ago. Quite often, I find myself reflecting back on the three years spent in at Cub Creek Foundation. Toward the end of my stay I began to adopt the viewpoint of place as mentor – knowing that there is no more qualified, truthful and unbiased teacher than the land around us. Upon reflection,  the relationship between myself and my setting during this time is clear, yet the knowledge acquired lies in a less distinguishable realm. Many of the things I took away from the experience blend together like the changing seasons - much like how some hint of the spring can always be found patiently waiting in winter's frozen branches. In a similar sense, when I reach into my memories of working in Appomattox, I pull up experiences of harvesting clay – only to find that they emerge clinging to memories of watching storms pass. Similarly, I recall the paths created by weeks of walking in open fields watching the grass grow around me with time – a memory sharing roots with felling trees in autumn. It is not from the events themselves that my curiosity is summoned, but in the ability for two seemingly unrelated experiences to bring about understanding and growth only when viewed in the context of one another. Simply put, it is a matter of eutectics – both requiring each other to create a situation unachievable by one alone.

     Since leaving Virginia I have called home and later bid farewell to four other places. I have had the privilege to rest my head and, for some period of time, pursue my creativity in the states of New York, California and Montana, in addition to Denmark. Each opportunity has brought new memories, friendships, and experiences upon which I will continue to build. I notice that the relationship in my memory between each place functions very similarly to the tangled web of knowledge acquired during my time in Virginia. Each place promotes growth individually through small day-to-day teachings. Yet in the context of one another, larger gaps become filled. Over this past year I have found answers in the mountains to questions about the desert, have learned about trees from watching the wind, and have discovered what I gain by the things I leave behind. In the end, the right answers arise in strange places and are revealed in curious ways. Regardless, they are always worth the wait and the search.


Mitch Iburg