On Our Way

Autumn Woods 2013 - Newton MAA while ago, many of my colleagues began to think about ways to more effectively share the good work we do here. Some individuals have moved on and others have arrived – as happens in the way of offices – but the ideas took shape and persisted and now are bearing some fruit:

Last year, we began to play more often in the Twitter sandbox (and will pass 1,000 tweets later this week). Earlier this summer, we launched this blog (six posts and counting!). And, in recent weeks, we have begun redesigning and adding to the content of our website. While we do not claim to be social media wizards yet, we are pleased and proud about these three new ways we’ve embraced in order to share our story with you, our campus, and the wider higher education community.

From our presence in classrooms and offices, conference rooms and coffee shops, we meet colleagues – older and younger; experienced and just starting out – who have news to share and questions to ask. From the ceaseless stream of 0s and 1s that move through our devices, our thinking generates and captures a lot of information, develops much knowledge, and on occasion brings forth a bit of wisdom. Some insights gradually emerge, as we all move forward.

Here, then, are a few thoughts as we slide away from summer and into a new school year. With the help of Cape Cod poet Mary Oliver – as epic a prophet of the natural world as you’ll ever find – let’s look at a quiet yet surprisingly dynamic landscape:

Song for Autumn

In the deep fall
   don’t you imagine the leaves think how
comfortable it will be to touch
   the earth instead of the
nothingness of the air and the endless
   freshets of wind? And don’t you think
the trees themselves, especially those with mossy
   warm caves, begin to think

of the birds that will come – six, a dozen – to sleep
   inside their bodies? And don’t you hear
the goldenrod whispering goodbye,
   the everlasting being crowned with the first
tuffets of snow? The pond
   vanishes, and the white field over which
the fox runs so quickly brings out
   its blue shadows. And the wind pumps its
bellows. And at evening especially,
   the piled firewood shifts a little,
longing to be on its way.

Along with the delightful image of our dorms and living spaces as ‘mossy, warm tree-caves’ awaiting the return of their student-birds, I take away three insights from the poet’s generously attentive observations:

We should take heart. Our memories – of summers and school years past; of families and communities left behind – are not lost, but find root and are incorporated into our current daily activities. That which we once knew nourishes what we now do.

We should await and expect transformation of all sorts, visible and invisible. From where else would our eagerness, enthusiasm, and excitement emerge? Change, though perhaps not always perceived as our friend, is at the very least a constant traveling companion.

We should ever be crafting our own songs – of autumn and other seasons, of course, but also songs of our dreams and aspirations, what we imagine, what we make. If we are honest with ourselves, we are always shifting a little, like the firewood; always longing to be on our way.

And so we go.

(“Song of Autumn” by Mary Oliver / Originally published in Poetry (May 2005), revised and collected in New and Selected Poems, Vol. 2 (Beacon Press, 2005))

(“Autumn Woods 2013 – Newton MA” from Janet Rankin / cc by-nc-sa)

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