Mountain Day (repost)

I originally posted this last year on my old blog, but here it is again!

Today is Mountain Day. What is Mountain Day? You may rightly ask. I attended Mount Holyoke College. Every year, on the first really nice day of the fall, the Mary Lyon bells ring out to signal to the slumbering campus that classes are cancelled. Everyone then boards shuttle buses to Mount Skinner, to climb to the top and eat ice cream served by the president of the college.

Yes, this is a real thing! Not a figment of our collective lady-imaginations. It’s pretty much the best tradition, second only to the Laurel Parade, and maybe singing Bread & Roses around Mary Lyon’s grave.

I’ve been thinking about Mountain Day a lot lately. I think about it every time there’s an article about The Entitlement Generation/Generation Me/Jesus Christ These Milleniums are Lazy. I thought about it a lot last week, as I talked with a college friend who just this last Sunday was widowed. I thought about it a lot when I got the email this morning from the Alumnae Association, saying that today is Mountain Day, and then checked my twitter feed and found out that the U.S. Government apparently also wanted to celebrate Mountain Day and decided to give itself the day off. (Obviously that’s a very simplistic description of what is happening.)

Mountain Day, on the one hand, is a fun vacation from your cares. You get the day off class. You get ice cream. You get the beautiful view from a mountain of the Pioneer Valley spread below you like a green hippie paradise. But on the other hand, you have to walk up a mountain to get the ice cream. And it’s not the most intense mountain ever, but it’s still a mountain, more hill than any of us New Yorkers encounter on a daily basis. (Unless you live in Inwood.)

Mary Lyon believed in exercise and exertion. She encouraged Mount Holyoke Seminary students to walk at least a mile every day. In addition to being a fun day of relaxation and skiving off class, Mountain Day is also a chance to test yourself, to challenge yourself to do something you don’t usually do. And yes, the mountain is a fairly easy climb, and yes, there’s ice cream as a reward, and yes, a lot of people spend the day sleeping instead of climbing the mountain. But the option is there, and the fact that so many MHC women choose to walk up to the top is something great.

So yeah, these articles about how everyone my age is a lazy, entitled jagoff are partly true. Some people do choose to sleep in instead of waking up when they hear the bells ringing. But many more choose to climb the mountain. Or work three part-time jobs. Or go back to graduate school, or volunteer. For many of us, especially MHC students, every day is Mountain Day, where we get to choose which one we’ll be.

N.B.: My first year I climbed the mountain, but my friends and I decided to be idiots and climb up what we thought was a trail instead of following the road like every single other person was doing. We arrived several hours later at the top, ice cream long gone, sweaty as hell, but with a feeling of idiotic accomplishment.

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