Gun violence. I would rather not write about this topic. I would rather write about listening to the singers who performed in the chapel last Sunday, or Corby talking about his art, or The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (performed tonight and tomorrow night). I’d rather write about ski jumping or basketball, women’s hockey or Nordic races. I’d rather update on the construction in the Field House or the latest heroics on Maintenance. I’d rather sing the praises of the artists who dominated the art show up at the Ava Gallery in Lebanon. But my weekly Notes can’t always be whipped cream and bonbons.
It’s the mountain that clanked and rattled and almost shut down. The t-bar gears clattered so much you could hear them across the valley. The cement slabs across the Hameshop Brook, the “bridge”, was slowly settling to become a beaver dam accessory. The “groomer,” better suited to smoothing snowmobile trails, labored up and down the hill, coaxed along by Garry George. The snow making was first generation, vintage at best, and when the lights flickered on at dusk, dusky corners held their ground. A dozen years ago this was the question on everybody’s mind: Why keep the little big mountain going?
As someone who is relatively - maybe completely - incapable of carrying a tune (I’ve been told I couldn’t carry one in a bucket), who dodged requisite instrument lessons as a youth with artfulness and guile, and who only much later (this year) started tinkering with chords on a piano, you’d think appreciation for the individual and collaborative journey of musicians might have eluded me. Not so much. It’s more a sense that I didn’t carry that “gift”, that innate wizardry the musical seem to possess enabling them to hear and see the intricacies of beats and rhythms and to speak in that language, but that doesn’t translate into a lack of appreciation.
There are the upsides. We couldn’t do half of what we do today without technology. It’s made us smarter, more collaborative, and the benefits are clear even if it’s just writing an essay on Google docs or incorporating video into a bio lab report, or skittering through an Excel spreadsheet. But it’s also arriving with unprecedented force, delivered at ever higher pressurized streams. It’s like fracking, that practice of drilling into shale deposits and injecting super compressed fluids - “slick water” with “proppants” - to drive out oil or natural gas trapped in the rock. With technology fracking, the aps, news, entertainment, and social media injected into the bedrock of communities is consequential. It raises the question: what’s being damaged?
One of the best parts of the Hays Speaking Contest comes right after the last speech has been given. Sitting in the back of the auditorium it unfolds like a fan around the seven participants who stand in the front of the room. Family, friends, and teachers make their way down to congratulate the students who have spoken their truth, and from the back the fan seems to open up slowly, pushing its way across the stage, and the truth of the night’s words rise up and swirl.
Forecasting the weather has always been a tricky endeavor. The early calls for Thursday’s storm were for wind, a little snow and cold weather backing in after the event, but nothing epic. Nothing like a winter hurricane. Nothing like Grayson’s bombogenesis of 24 hours. And there is something delicious in the unpredictability, something cleansing in the wildness of a storm.
I wrote about the “small marvelous” last year at this time, wrote about the bell that sits in the bookcase in my office, the bell that was dug up on Proctor grounds by two self-proclaimed “dirt fisherman” Dave Elwell and Dana Newton, the bell that must have jostled off a harness a hundred years ago to sit quiet and silent in the dark for years before the metal detector pinged on it. But it rings again when I pick it off the shelf, the small metal clapper knocking against the nickel sidewalls to send out a warm, wholesome sound. A chuckling ringing, a smiling sound. I imagine it shaking out its winter melody, the sound of sure-footed joy, as a horse-drawn sleigh slips through snow-packed Andover streets. Not hard to conjure after this week’s snow.
On Monday night of this week, I leaned against the door frame in the gym to watch the boys’ varsity basketball team run through shooting drills, conditioning drills, passing drills, defensive drills. I watched the coaches - Gregor and Scott - wave, whistle, and encourage. On Wednesday I sat at a lunch table while the girls’ varsity hockey coaches - Maggie and Doug - discussed the line strategy they would employ against Middlesex, which resulted in a thrilling win in the last seconds of the game. I chatted with Buz about his upcoming trip to Quebec with Nordic skiers and he talked about waxing (always waxing). In mid-afternoon, I watched Junior and Lindsay coach their team to victory against a strong KUA squad. At dinner I saw David Salathé with a radio still clipped in to bib ski pants in the Brown Dining Commons after spending the day with USSA/FIS skiers up at Bretton Woods.