For five minutes before the beginning of art class, I would watch the sky from a hammock outside of the classroom. This has been my everyday life throughout my four years of high school at Idyllwild Arts Academy. Whenever possible, I seek to deepen my appreciation of nature, meaning human nature as well as ecology and geography.
A particularly agreeable aspect of the Idyllwild experience is the climate: four beautifully unpredictable seasons. The flow of the seasons at Idyllwild is like the flow of its diversity. Although the school is located in Southern California, during the winter, there is much snow and hail. Just as enduring to get over a cold, so too the weather can be hard to adapt. Yet, winter is still very enjoyable there. Experiences of the weather can lead to expressions of diversity. During the snowstorm, my Chinese roommate and I walked down to campus road without any winter clothing and happily gathered snow by singing song relate to the weather. Then we came to discuss our lives before Idyllwild. As a result, I could better understand the differences between her culture and mine and even family differences. She talked about her family experiences, which I have never experience and imagine. At first, the differences were hard to understand, but gradually I got it. Her story led me to conclude that all families are different, the differences may be hard to understand, but we must respect the individual story. Encountering and understanding differences are the natural flow of Idyllwild, as are its seasons.
In addition to the seasons, Idyllwild also provides a habitat for many kinds of wildlife. On my way to class, it is usual to walk with squirrels, and I have even seen bears while hiking or during PE classes. Mice come much closer: they show up in our dorm rooms, just like a scene of Cinderella and Giselle. Wild animals often move in groups of their family. During a Literature class, we noticed a family of deer through the window, so we all went out to observe. It struck me that like the Idyllwild community, they moved together as a family. For all their diversity, Idyllwild students mingle as one community.
Idyllwild Arts Academy also taught me how to appreciate individuals, even tiny lives. Once a mockingbird was trapped in our studio and confused by the lighting, so my drawing teacher turned off the light, and we had our drawing lesson in darkness. Although it was hard to continue drawing, I was impressed by the teacher’s consideration for the individuality if this small animal. However, caring didn’t stop with people and small animals. I could achieve how to be appreciative with individual's characteristics. Our art classes conclude each project with critiques. Students bring their pieces, explain them, and get extremely useful comments and suggestions. Throughout this process, I improve my drawing skills without losing any artistic uniqueness. Before the first critique, I was afraid people would be harsh and unsupportive. Yet, when I presented a pencil drawing, nobody criticized its many rough lines. I did get useful suggestionsㅡa classmate recommended greater contrast. When I asked about the rough lines, I was told that the roughness contributed to the uniqueness of my style. Therefore, I could learn how to respect and appreciate individuals in many ways.
After finishing my classes for the day, I return in the darkness to the hammock. Lying there, I recall the day and look at the glow of sunset and the lights of the stars. I think about how my four years of at Idyllwild Arts Academy made me mature and taught me how to appreciate others in ways that I would not get anywhere else.