The Guardian Rock

Gus Ruchman - Senegal


September 21, 2010

The Guardian Rock is rooted in the California earth, perched high above Petaluma, sitting reverent, immovable, and secure. A relatively short distance from the main campus of IONS, the home of our US Training Institute, the Guardian Rock marks a place of meditation removed from the noise and distraction of modern living, even in the hills of Petaluma.

Before breakfast this morning I set out on a solo hike for the farthest hill on the grounds of IONS, unaware of the existence of the Guardian Rock. As I climbed I was overwhelmed by the immensity of the scene. A field of clouds lay like a blanket across the valley below me, pierced only by a pair of lonely hills in the surrounding miles. Tall grass swayed gently in the morning breeze as I approached the nexus of golden ground and the void of an empty blue sky.

At the top of my climb stood the Guardian Rock, a silent vault for the collective memory of the people who have passed it while searching the landscape in thought. Since arriving I have spent every minute surrounded by my most motivated peers from every corner of the country, forming bonds, preparing for the unknown, and exploring our own identities. Each moment is both exhausting and entirely refreshing, inspiring confidence as well as new questions, in ever greater numbers.

On October 1 I will board a plane bound for Dakar, Senegal, a city in which my family and friends at home never imagined I would live shortly after graduating high school. To say that I am excited and nervous is a statement of gross reductionism. But after only a handful of days I know that for the next eight months I will be supported by a group of people in-country and Stateside who are my Guardian Rock, just a few hills away, trustworthy and optimistic.

Gus Ruchman