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Dispelling the "Cranberry Myth"
from The Knothole, April 24, 2002
Sean Ryberg

Almost a year ago, I was finishing the semester, and was a bit pissed that I had no alternative to going to Cranberry for my "field experience," course work. More so out of financial reasons than any other. Because of job reasons I had decided on the second session, but there was little reason to be happy about it as far as I could see. So the beginning of summer went by and I readied my self for Cranberry, making sure I would have all the bug juice and sunscreen I needed to make it through the five weeks I would be there. Before I knew it, there I was standing on the dock with my bags, waiting with the others to go to an unfamiliar place with people I didn't really know all that well. When we arrived at the dock, we had to pick a cabin to sleep in, so I went from cabin to cabin until I found a bottom bunk, which was unoccupied, and after three cabins had success.

Not knowing anyone that well had its advantages, in that it didn't matter where I dropped my gear, anywhere was the same. Even though it was the second session, there was a bit of chill to the air so I put on my jacket and made my way to the dining hall, made hot chocolate and struck up a conversation with a couple others. As the days turned into weeks, changes began to occur. Our barriers began to crumble, and new associations began to form. Beyond the "jungle fever" of pair bonding <smirk>, new friendships were born and kinships that went beyond the superficial. Without a TV or on-line service to distract us, we gave attention to each other. We relied upon our "real" surroundings to fill our senses, and entertain our ever-chattering minds. Quite foolishly I had gone to Cranberry hoping I could somehow be a sort of orchestrator of gatherings. However, that is what I did do without even trying. We all have different gifts, and Cranberry is a place you can both learn and share them at the same time. So, fire being one of my gifts, I decided to make sure the fire pit was up and ready to go before it grew dark—my way of contributing to the group, and all it took was a little time.

Patience and compassion go a long way at Cranberry. If you want things to go your way, be ready for a life of disappointment. But if you are willing to see that things happen for reasons not always with in your scope of understanding, then life becomes a mystery that holds many pleasant surprises. The only person I heard say they were bored while we were there was a person sitting inside a cabin, reading a book while everyone else was outside enjoying Cranberry for what it is. All I focused on was trying to be as helpful as I could, and you know what... Those five weeks turned out to be five of the most rewarding weeks of my life. I say this after six years of active duty in the United States Marines, and four years of college, at the time. Perhaps it was because, at that time, I was ready for Cranberry. Perhaps I was ready for all the wonderful things it has to offer, if you only open yourself up to the infinite gifts that are there.

I love that lake now, and so do 95% of the people I know who went there. We lived and laughed and played, and came away with more than any class could ever give us. Some of us came away with a new sense of self, but I think ALL of us came away with a renewed sense of hope for what life has to offer. That in the unexpected, there can and usually are many good and wonderful things. If you have to go to Cranberry, don't count your chickens before they're hatched, because they might be golden eggs. So to all of you who have gone, you should know what I mean, and those of you who haven't and aren't sure what you want to do, but dread "having" to go to Cranberry... believe me when I say, if I had a choice that summer to go to Cranberry or somewhere more exotic, knowing what I know now, I’d be in Cranberry in a heartbeat.


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