The Miocene and the Metaphor

The thing about PEAK is that you are kind of expected to hate it. Just a little bit. It makes sense for you to dislike it, really.

On principle, it’s the academic version of having to choose which questionable bar patrons you want to sit next to for an evening. The exception being that it’s not just for one night, it’s for four years. And the people you decide on are going to give you a grade at the end of every  topic you guys awkwardly small-talk through.

You’re supposed to hate it. You’re supposed to be made uncomfortable by whichever minors you choose. They push you outside your comfort zones (sometimes violently, but, whatever. If you chose physics as a minor, that’s your prerogative) and make you push yourself to make every conversation you have with shifty strangers at bars to be a proactive learning experience.

As a junior, I’m on year three with my quirky conversationalist companions and things are going great. I love them. I wouldn’t be who I am without them. If I had stayed in my comfort zone, I would have never met them and I would be embarrassingly unprepared for any conversations I will endeavor to have in the future.

While I love all three of them, there’s one I’ve recently developed a particular fondness for. In the beginning, my relationship with my Natural Science minor could be best described as a mutual feeling of respectful annoyance; Natural Science sensed my fear and capitalized on it, while I resented the fact that my ability to put words on pages in half-decent order would be useless to the natural sciences. But, like I said, we’re past that. It’s all water under the bride. Bygones are bygones and a scholarly field of study can’t really hold a grudge.

Which brings us to Wednesday.

I spend four hours each Wednesday with a ragtag group of aspiring geo-provocateurs in my Idaho Natural History lab; we take rock samples, hypothesize stratigraphic happenings, and go unintentionally off-roading in the Idahoan wilderness. It’s fun and amazing and a whole other slew of adjectives that describe how truly great it is to have class outside the classroom; for four hours each week, we get to be adventurers. The final frontier can wait, because this one still has something left for us to boldly go towards.

This Wednesday, we drove up to Succor Creek in Oregon. There lies one of the world’s most studied fossil floras in the world. The plant and animal fossils persevered in the rocks are around 15 million years old and there’s a lot of them; thousands upon thousands of remains carefully pressed and buried for safekeeping in the hills. Our lab was simple. Our professor just gave us hammers and let us loose to try and find as many fossils as we could. It was raining and freezing and generally a miserable environment to be in, but I couldn’t have been happier. I was living life a little less predictably.

Going back to my delightfully convoluted PEAK metaphor, I don’t regret choosing to share a table with Natural Science. Nor Journalism, nor Visual Studies. Along with my best friend (Creative Writing), we make for a good team. Like the X-Men combined with the Breakfast Club with a dash of the Scooby-Doo gang. Also Hall and Oates.

They took my good education and made it into a great one. Just this week alone, they kicked me from my comfort zone and placed me in the middle of Miocene period with only a rusty chisel and my witty repertoire as my tools.

And who knows where we’ll go next.



Ashley is a junior Creative Writing major from Payette, Idaho.