Today: Andy Harris, Adventure Camp director at the Loppet Foundation. With his staff of counselors, Harris directs outdoors adventures and training for disadvantaged children ages 8-13 in the Minneapolis area.
I’m currently going through Carolyn Finney’s “Black Faces, White Spaces,” which seeks to address the question: Why are African-Americans so underrepresented when it comes to interest in nature, the outdoors, recreation and environmentalism? And, although this is really on a national-parks scale and doesn’t spend too many words on urban outdoor spaces, it has been illuminating. Many of the kids I work with come to Adventure Camp not knowing how to ride a bike or paddle a canoe. Building facility and agency in kids sets them up for a more fulfilling relationship with our green space.
I’m also coursing my way through J.M. Coetzee’s “Waiting For the Barbarians,” which has been a fantastic yarn. I also try and read some poetry every day because it’s ginger tea for my soul.
I hate to have to be following this, but the projected budget cuts for Minneapolis Public Schools has really taken a place close to center stage in my brain. Many of the counselors at adventure camp come from north Minneapolis, and Patrick Henry High School is facing a $1.9 million decrease next year.
It has been inspiring to see the same kids who are leading kids through the trails of Theodore Wirth Park act as leaders in the classroom and the boardroom — and is a little reminiscent of another youth-led movement in wake of the school shootings in Florida.
I’ve been watching the new trailhead building go from a pile of dirt to a restaurant-ready building, with gleaming, tiled floors in the locker rooms. It is startling how much that thing changes from week to week. One week, a roof; the next, windows.
I’m a novice podcast-listener. I do like “Dear Sugars” with the infinitely wise Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond, and which makes me a better person with a bigger heart. “Radiolab” with Jad Abumrad and Robert Krullwich is also always a fun, frenetic ride through the metaphysics of … well, physics, usually.
Artists that I’ve been spinning lately: Talking Heads and Fleetwood Mac (per usual), Kamasi Washington, this Norwegian band named Boy Pablo. I think that this mix is pretty much weather-induced. It’s dance-on-the-porch and bundle-up-inside weather all at the same time.
I keep putting away my skis, and then taking them out again on the trails. In between that, I run and bike and sometimes rock-climb. I have a couple trips: biking the Mesabi Trail and mountain-chasing out West.
I’m also interviewing a crop of excellent young people who want to lend their energy and inspiration to the Loppet Foundation and the larger Minneapolis community, fixing big adventure camp tents, pushing papers, and going on bike rides with prospective adventure campers. It’s a pretty charmed life, all in all.
Currents is a weekly feature in the Star Tribune's Outdoors Weekend section. Find previous Currents here.