Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Chapter 2: In which our heroine strolls in the President's garden

On the first afternoon, we had perfect weather. It was sunny and warm, but not too warm, and I didn't even notice the humidity, so it couldn't have been too bad. Not a cloud in the sky. And come to think of it, no mosquitoes. I started meandering at Paradise Pond. Paradise Pond is a misnomer. There is a sharp bend in the river, an elbow. At the inner curve of the elbow is where the real flow of the river is, deeper and faster. But around the outer curve, it is more shallow, with the current weakening as you travel away from the inner curve. There is even a tiny island built up there. It is the outer curve of this elbow, where the waters appear still, that is called Paradise Pond. The river itself, is really only a stream, and I think becomes a tributary to the Connecticut River south of Northampton, at the slightly famous Oxbow, notably depicted by the Romanticist Thomas Cole. When I can restore my right-click function, I can probably post his painting. Hasn't worked in 3 days and I don't know why.
In the middle of the pic above is an expansive sugar maple. Look closely underneath to the right of the trunk. There is a bench swing given by the class of '37. It seems that students have been contemplating the idyllic view for decades, even generations.
This is the view from the Sugar Maple swing. Can you see the island in the middle of Paradise Pond? On the far bank, you can't really tell, but that's where the track and Playing Fields are. When I was there, it wasn't very developed. Women have always been encouraged to engage in athletic pursuits at Smith, but only in recent years has there been an effort to really build up the venues. I remember wide open fields with minimal markings. I played intramural soccer once or twice, and wanted to play field hockey, but never did. I remember an Indian summer barbecue out there with chicken and corn-on-the-cob and coleslaw. It was a Saturday afternoon and there was a band. We sang at the top of our lungs: "Ai-meeeeeee, What-choo gonna' do-oooo.......Ah think ah could stay with you-ooooo...."And when you stand up from the swing and turn to your right, you look up a hill to the back of the President's House. And if you walk up the hill, angling to the right, you'll be coming around toward the front of the house, and you can walk right into the President's Garden.
There are peonies lining the path, their lush drowsy heads beginning to slump toward the ground for a rest.
There were only a few climbing rose bushes, with the blooms just getting started.

And a little iris struggling for relevance beneath the peonies.
Some with more success than others.
And some with a showcase all their own.

This foxglove was the only one.......... (This is a foxglove, right?)

I loved these colors together in the shade, but really couldn't set up a nice shot to catch the harmonies, never mind the melody.

Loved this little fern in the corner of the slate steps. Seems like there should be moss, to add even more texture.

No idea who this is...........St. Martin in the Fields, maybe? I'll have to do a little research......

And a final look at the President's House again, but only because I downloaded it twice, and I can't right-click to delete it.
It was so lovely.........but I didn't take pictures that showed the neglect in the garden. It was a little disappointing. I've heard that in the 24 years since I've graduated, when the budget has been trimmed, the groundskeepers, housekeepers, and maintenance department have suffered deep cuts. This makes me sad, for so many reasons. I have dear memories of the immaculate presentation of sweeping vistas and every little nook and cranny. Things were old, but meticulously kept up. Now, so much looks old and worn out. There is more of an air of decay. And frankly, I and my friends found it depressing. When I came to Smith, I had a complex case of culture shock, for so many reasons. I remember a profound sense of "self" importance, not in the usual sense. But in the sense that I mattered to the college. And it was at Smith that I realized that it was far less of a struggle to strive for excellence in a beautiful place than in a decrepit one. I used to disparage myself for not being so self-contained that I could thrive anywhere. Now I understand that part of being the best me I can be involves loving myself enough to take good care of myself. And that includes allowing myself to expend energy, effort, and resources to surround myself with order and beauty.
(You would laugh to see my home right now...)
I'm not talking about extravagance and luxury. I just mean permitting myself to attend to the aesthetic world, even if I'm just straightening up, sweeping up, and opening a window to let the sun shine in, turning off the TV to let birdsong in and the hush of the breeze soothe the soul.
Oh, I am a hopeless Romantic, if you haven't guessed............

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