Sep 2, 2008
|We turned off I 90 onto I 94 for the drive to Bismark, North Dakota some time ago, actually when I started this journal entry for the first time. Out here in these wide open and empty ranch lands internet connections often drop and because I wasn't wise and saved my work at frequent intervals I lost the first draft - so here goes another try!
Last night we camped in the Bear Canyon Campground outside of Bozeman, Montana. I spent two years of my teenage life attending boarding school here at Mt Ellis Academy some 40 years ago. My that seems like a long time!
This morning I took our two dogs for a walk down to the Academy. It was very nostalgic seeing the place again, I was amazed how how little things had changed. Standing at the front entrance by the bell tower where all those years ago I had pictures taken of me and my friends brought back so many memories, please indulge me as I reminise for this journal entry. We won't be in Bismark until tomorrow, so no proclamations at any capitols to report so join me as I remember.
Standing at the entrance to Mt. Ellis Academy, my eyes were drawn to the 3rd floor, second window from the left corner. That had been my room when I was a boarding student. How many hours after lights out I had spent sitting up in bed with my head under the drapes watching gorgeous fat snowflakes silently cover the earth or follow moonbeams tracing trails across glistening snow. My roommate thought I was crazy, afterall it's just snow, but to a Florida girl it was a wonderland. Being a southern girl in a school surrounded by red-neck cowboy types, Eskimos and Canadians and wealthy rancher’s daughters was both exciting and challenging!
The old gym was gone, but the open area by where the old gym had stood that was flooded every winter for an ice rink was still there. My roommate Teresa was a terrific skater and I wanted to learn to skate like her that I begged my mother to send me a pair of ice skates. She did, bless her heart – a brand new pair – only she got them a size and a half too big – room for extra socks she told me. I could never get them tight enough to secure my ankles so I never really learned to skate like Teresa, not to say that she didn’t try!
The cafeteria used to be in the basement of the girl’s dorm, they have since built a separate cafeteria building, but looking at those windows brought back all kinds of memories. First of the horrible food, I lost 24 pounds in the first six weeks, and then of the rich blessing of Mrs. Beavins. She came to be the relief cook. She was every kids dream of the perfect mom. Mrs. Beavins loved us no matter what we did (like butter fights in the dining room after dinner during clean up) and we loved her in return. She cooked lunch and dinner on Tuesday’s and took over every other weekend. Everybody looked forward to those days especially Tuesdays which she turned into donut suppers. All afternoon she and her crew would make and fry and powder donuts. If you worked for her you got to eat all the donut holes you wanted. I was assigned to laundry detail, definitely not my mind bent, so on Tuesdays I’d go AWOL and come help in the kitchen.
Mt. Ellis Academy was a blossoming time for me. I loved dorm life and pillow fights and late-night story-telling. I didn’t like band – I played the clarinet – but I did enjoy the weekend band trips to different churches all around Montana and Wyoming. I loved Friday night sundown listening to the bells ring in the Sabbath and singing every verse of every song during vespers song service. I loved the weeks of prayer and Afterglow, even though I was too shy to pray out loud, I loved speech class with Mr. Ashbaugh who one day came into the classroom leaping his way across the front of the class trying to make a point about the scripture verse he was highlighting for the day, something about leaping for joy. We all watched him with our mouths open for Mr. Ashbaugh was (in our eyes anyway) a frail and spindly old man. He was one of my favorite teachers though, always fun and entertaining. I loved the school picnics in the mountains near Livingston and the girl’s club retreats, the initiations though – UGH! – which were at a very “rustic” retreat center. My roommate and I were sharing a large bed that had a hole in the upper corner of the mattress. I awoke in the night to find myself eye to eye with a mouse. I screamed, he dove back in his hole in the mattress and all the girls in the cabin helped us change beds!
My favorite memory of my time at Mt. Ellis was one night after vespers. We were on our way to the dorm and one of the girl’s made a casual comment, oh look, the northern lights. I looked up and saw the most dazzling display of color that I had ever seen. I stood there transfixed, no longer caring about the intense cold. Many times when I think on YHVH/God now, I see him through the eyes of that experience; His majesty, His boldness, His beauty and splendor, the magnificence of all that He is in power and presence and knowing and I am awed once again.
Even though I only attended for two years I see my time at Mt. Ellis Academy as one of those life defining events much like a dry sponge put in a large bowl of water, soaking it all up. I thank my dad and mom for giving me the opportunity.
On the way back to the campground I passed the Bear Canyon Road, how many times I had walked that 3.7 miles up to the ski lodge and ski area owned by the academy.
I learned to ski here. The school offered ski lessons for gym class during the winter and I signed up. My instructor told me at the end of the season that at the beginning of the class he hadn’t held out much hope for me, but he wanted me to know that I had turned out to be the best skier in his beginner class. What a confidence booster that was!
Thanks for taking this journey with me, maybe it has set you on one of your own, if so, Happy Traveling - It's good for the soul!