Mike's Notes: The Places That Make Us

Posted by Mike Henriques


Oh, the places we go, the geographies we ramble across, the memories we make. When we spend time in a particular setting and then leave, we carry with us the memories of people and adventures, but we also carry within us the geography of place, and that geography is a powerful force within us. Or as Wallace Stegner once noted in reflections about wilderness spaces these places can become “geographies of hope,” entering into the heart.


The notion of settings comes into so much of what we do and is often overlooked. Ours is often a mindset that gravitates to the importance of people above all. But think about it. The “places”  at a table are set for a meal, the “stage is set” for a musical, and writers of fiction create the tapestry of settings against which the action of the story takes place. (You can’t have a story just hanging in the ether.) Settings are important, critical elements for the unfolding of action. One doesn’t walk into a theatre to watch Hamilton to see a jumble of 2x4’s on the stage, sheets of plywood, and a scattering of paint cans, drills, and saws. No. The work has been done, the stage has been “set.”  And this is true of Proctor as well. We have our own particular geography of land and buildings, and while we are a community that focuses, yes, on the people, the action all takes place amidst a particular setting. 


Only a week before graduation and this community now tethered through fiber optics will soon scatter. Perhaps it is worth sifting through some of those places within the Proctor geography that create the setting that binds us collectively and individually, the setting that still (and will)  ground us. For each of us the setting speaks in a different way even as we share the common of Proctor. For some it could be a locker room, for others the forge. It might be the sauna, perhaps the common room of Sally B. It could be a Learning Skills office or the Physics classroom. As we think about graduation and parting for the summer, here are a few parts of the Proctor “set” that resonate for me and have found their way into my heart.  


Balanced Rock:

A reminder both to strive for balance and to understand that perfect balance is almost impossible to achieve. It’s a temporary state at best, an elusive one 98%of the time.


The Swinging Bridge on the Blackwater:

It’s a strainer, a swimming spot, a good place to bird watch or enjoy the swirl of currents. The river always reminds me that time is a constant, that change is always occuring.


The Bulkhead: 

This nubbin of rock, once a climbing area used by Proctor students, lets you peek to the bigger mountains and the Whites to the north and also to the flatter lands of Concord to the south. It seems to hinge two worlds. It sings the journey.


The Studio in Slocumb: 

Stand there in the late afternoon with the light streaming in through the big windows facing west and it is like being in a chapel for the creative. 


The Library: 

There is something beckoning about the hues of wood complimenting the books on the shelves. It’s a call to contemplation, to slowing down, to reading and learning for the sheer wonder of it.


I could go on. How much the geography of space has permeated who we are! The landscape of Proctor, in all of its forms, holds and steadies us as we stand on the cusp of summer. The solace of these spaces, even as we leave them behind, is that we carry them with us as steadying companions. Yes, we will carry the memory of people at the forefront, those who journeyed with us in the months just passed. Those we have laughed with and shared our pain with. Those who have brought us joy and wisdom. But the geography of this place is unique. 

Carry it with you in the months ahead, the solace of these and other Proctor spaces.  


Mike Henriques P'11, P'15

Proctor Academy Head of School

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