When Lindsey Allenby gathered the senior class after assembly on Monday for their class photo, I looked over. There was a lot laugher, some kidding around, and the mood was upbeat and positive. Lindsey snapped pictures, the group scattered, and it was only later, reflecting on the class, that I thought about the background hum of stress coursing through the group. When the college process peaks in the fall of senior year, the pressures can mount to unreasonable and unhealthy levels.
It feels like we have been opening school in gradual, gentle stages. There’s a methodology behind the soft start, but sometimes it feels a little like walking into a supermarket with only the dairy section open. Or the snacks aisle. Or maybe fruits and vegetables, but not the canned goods. Definitely not the ice cream, and definitely not the entire store. We gather and begin in fits and starts: Early Orientation, Regular Orientation, Sports Camp, Campus transition day...it feels like the school lights blink on over weeks!
Thursday evening I hit the trail to drop in on a Wilderness Orientation group. It was getting dark, but I knew where the group had camped along the Pond Brook Trail in the Sandwich Wilderness. I knew the swimming holes, knew the rerouted section, knew the waterfalls. I jogged up through a tree farm a little after 6:30 pm. The sun had dropped down behind the Sandwich Range, and where the Guinea Pond trail angled left, I hooked a right on the Bennett Street trail to run along Pond Brook in the softening light. The dog stitched back and forth through the pines, and after a mile or two I caught the sound of laughter against the brook. It was Patty Pond and Lori Patriacca’s ‘01 group.
As a reader, and also one who enjoys the writing process, I think about flow. For me, the way a piece of fiction or an essay moves forward is like watching a dance come together. Well conceived, well written pieces flow, movements sync together, and you feel yourself a part of something bigger, something powerful, something instructive. To create a piece of writing with flow is not a haphazard process. It requires time, patience, and an openness to craft, not unlike what is required of any quality endeavor. When you step into this Proctor community at the end of this week or next week, you become a part of a school and a mission that has been moving forward since 1848. The “flow” of this school has taken over 150 years to create, hundreds of faculty and staff have contributed to it, thousands of students have benefitted from it, but if we think of this as a piece of writing, the essay is still being crafted.
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?