For the past 40 or so years, the weather, soil, improved viticulture and winemaking techniques have combined to produce highly prized wines in the Napa Valley. In fact, there is a common adage, “Every year is a vintage year for Napa Valley wines.” Early in the Biodesign evolution, I discovered that each succeeding class was a “vintage year.” Each class was a unique and therefore extraordinary blend of personalities that could not be repeated or duplicated. Furthermore, each class was typically convinced that they were the best class, a claim that I was not about to dispute.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of The Class of ’84. They were colorful, dynamic and eager to learn all that they could. However, they had a melancholic quality that no other class could approach. Eight of their fathers had died before they would graduate from high school. Obviously their classmates were aware of this and in a mysterious way they seemed to have a deeper-than-normal appreciation for how precious life really is.
On the second trip to Grand Canyon, Christie handed out little cards with the names of “secret pals” on them. Students were simply asked to do whatever they chose to make the trip special for their secret pal. The Class of ’84 had been doing this all along.
In the spring we were camped at Van Damme State park, along the Mendocino Coast. During a break in the action, Mike Dunn said, “Mr. Young, these trips take a lot out of you, how many more years will you be able to pull off three of them?” I laughed and said that he must have been reading my mind because I was wondering the same thing. As mentioned, they were the second trip to Grand Canyon, and Christie and I were able to minimize logistical demands and lessen the stress level. Therefore, we were able to complete 13 more, 3-trip-years.
The Class of ’84 was fortunate to be able to visit Sasha the potter in Mendocino. As he demonstrated the art of throwing pots he mentioned, “The key to becoming a skilful potter is learning how to let go of the clay with “unspeakable tenderness.” On a later trip to Yosemite, I borrowed part of his idea.
We were sitting in a circle on top of Half Dome. It was a crisp, clear, moonless night and the stars arched above us like a canopy of brilliant diamonds. Heather secretly discovered it was nearly my birthday and assumed leadership of the evening circle. Without my guidance (or input) she conjured up an event that was above and beyond earthly description or understanding. I was left with the only plausible conclusion that each one of them was an “unspeakably perfect miracle.” They would deny it of course, but that did not mean that it wasn’t true. This does not mean that they could not be argumentative, even combative at times, but that is what teens do as they battle out of their protective, yet restrictive cocoons. John Muir would have rejoiced in their company and it would not have surprised me if his living spirit was guiding and inspiring our event.
I used to tell “Boba” (from the former Yugoslavia) “You are amazing!” She would laugh and say, “I AM NOT!”
Many members of the Class of ‘84 have high school kids of their own and I am guessing that when they look upon them they will agree that they too are “unspeakably perfect miracles.”
It is heartbreaking to know that many of them will never sit in a single “spirit-circle,” and none of them will be able to sleep on top of Half Dome with their classmates. This is why, in part, I wrote, Biodesign Out For A Walk. John Muir properly warned that no book can transport them to the mountains, however if the collection of student adventures stirs the sleeping-spirit within them, it will make the two years of writing it superbly worthwhile
Happy Anniversary, Class of ’84. You not only touched me profoundly, you contributed to the next 13 years of Biodesign and proved that “Every Year Was a Vintage Year” in The Biodesign Class.