There is always this week. Garry George shows up outside of Maxwell Savage with a pallet of bricks, a saw to cut through asphalt, a shovel and some fine grit fill. On each brick is the name of a member of the class of 2018. The ground is prepared, the bricks are set, the tamping is done, and by the end of the day the new section of walk is complete. Seniors start to drift by and pause to look for their name and the names of friends. It’s one of the rituals in the final week.
To find traction and a sense of laying down tracks, making a mark, having a voice, you need these spaces. It’s not just Slocumb. It’s the Norris theater, the machine shop, the forge, the metal shop, the music studio, the woodworking shop. In Segovia and Aix we have them, and collectively they are some of the most important creative soul corners in our community. In the jargon of the day they might be called makerspaces or tinker spaces, but I like to think of them as soul corners, these eddies within community where one finds a path of one’s own while connecting with something much bigger than oneself. They are both humbling and inspiring.
It’s moment is fleeting. Tucked against the side of Maxwell Savage, actually jammed up against the building, it’s an unobtrusive presence. Who planted it? Why there? It’s a protected spot, but it’s cramped. One side brushes up against brick, marginalizing its spread. Its size is overwhelmed by the building and the nearby maple. Most students and faculty zip past it as they bend down the path towards the Wise or Meeting House. There’s a bike rack that shares the same corner of Maxwell Savage, so at least those who roll their bike into the rack have to acquaint themselves with the tree. Particularly in the spring, usually in the first week of May when the unfurled blossoms emerge, flourish, and fade in what seem to be minutes.
I have this ability to fall asleep, to take a cat nap, and have had it since before I can remember. I could curl up in the space behind the passenger’s seat in a car (before seat belts), or tuck myself on the shelf behind the backseat and sleep for miles. I could sleep anywhere: boat, backseat, under the piano, and definitely on the sofa. Ordered to take an afternoon nap? No problem. But as I grew older, the habit slipped. Guilty about stealing a few minutes after lunch as an adult, I powered through and “coffeed up.” Why is that? Was napping a childish habit? Does the puritanical work ethos demand bulling ahead until the day is done? Is napping a sign of slothfulness, one of the seven deadly sins?
Vaping. It’s in the news and it’s something we have been paying attention to at Proctor. Although the technology has been around for longer, the mass production and marketing of Juuls and other “smokeless” devices has started to significantly impact campuses over the last couple of years. It’s not a good development. We started noticing a higher presence of these devices last year, and then a further shift this year. Our experience mirrors what is being reported in the NYT article on April 2nd: ‘I Can’t Stop’: Schools Struggle With Vaping Explosion. It’s a bit like trying to contend with an invasive species in your garden. Weed it out, chop it back, and it just keeps popping up.
I was in Maine this week, in Freeport, for an appointment to see an old friend. We’d set up the meeting a couple of weeks ago. She was someone who I had worked with years ago, in the late 90s at LL Bean, and today is the Chief Human Resources Officer at the company. She is someone wise with a quick wit, ready to laugh or share a world of experience. I see her as a friend even though we hadn’t seen each other in over 15 years. No Facebook connections, no instagram feed.
A fall, a whoopie pie, and the art critic dog - lessons from a birthday.
I am used to birthdays announced in assemblies, used to shout outs in the dining commons, know that advisors often have a card or treat for students on the celebratory day. I love that about this school. I like seeing students swing through Maxwell Savage to pick up the cakes baked by the Andover Service Club. But what I am not used to is a couple of advisories cramming into my office to sing happy birthday to me. What I am not used to is Barb calling me down in the middle of lunch because Edna wants to say hello (which she did want to do), then rustling up more birthday song during the lunch rush. There’s an age, and let’s just say I have reached that age, when birthdays….well, you like to see them slide by without much fanfare. No notice is just fine. Really. Who needs reminding that the next decade has begun? Not me.
In this time of everything-always-now, of streaming content and the new next, it can be remarkably centering to step into a sugar house in March where there is fire, sap, and patience - an antidote for the age of hurry. The sugar maples and the weather conspire to pick the timing of the season, and however much you want that first thimble of syrup to come out of the evaporator, there’s no hurrying the process. You are not in control. There’s no overnight shipping. No Prime. You move in the rhythm of the season or do without.