Signature Memories. I suppose as we make our life’s journey we all collect them—those moments, seared into our consciousness,
frozen in time. For me, a few key memories come to mind: learning of the Kennedy assassination and watching my tough-as-nails, battle-tested former Marine father, crying. Sitting in a hospital room, holding my firstborn, a son, throughout the night in the first hours of his life. And now, COVID-19 and an empty campus.
As I stood in the circle this morning, waiting for my students to virtually drop by, I wondered, what will my memory of this pandemic be? What will my students' memories be? Scanning the campus each morning is like looking at a still life portrait of the landscape. It’s been over six weeks now since our students departed for spring break and it feels like nothing has moved.
When we are in session everything moves, all the time. Not just the humans, but our picnic tables, our Adirondack chairs, other benches and chairs...constant motion as our students form, and reform and shift their spaces yet again to fit the needs of this group or that group. They move to catch the best rays of the sun or to accommodate friends as they come and go.
But not now.
Every day when I visit the circle in the morning or step away from my screen to get some fresh air, I note that the placement of all of these objects is exactly as it was at the end of the day, March 6th - the final day of exams before spring break began.
That includes Bob.
On a chair a few yards from me at my station in the circle is a skateboarder's helmet, red (I’m told - I’m color blind), that has been my constant companion each morning as I visit the circle. When I began my chats from the Circle, for some reason I thought I’d move Bob (I decided if the helmet was going to greet me every morning it needed a name, much like Wilson in Cast Away). After a bit of thought, I realized that I welcomed that bit of constancy in my life, where everything else seemed chaotic and rapidly changing.
So Bob sits in his chair, in repose, unmoved now for six weeks. Someday, sometime, this will all change: the campus will come alive again, humans will interact, chairs and tables will move, and someone will reclaim Bob and return him to his original purpose. I will once again stand my post in the circle in the morning, absent my iPad and my newly constructed stand, and greet students and faculty in person. Until then, with the chirping of birds as background, the still life of the Solebury campus will greet me each morning, as will Bob.
I offer this reflection with this hope: that all of you can periodically pause for a bit and reflect what this moment means to you? For you? Find the good in these otherwise chaotic and scary times. What brings you peace? What calms you? What makes you smile? What are the constants in your life? Be intentional as you take all this in. The onslaught of news and all that changes every day can overwhelm anyone. Focus on the few, rather than the many, and revisit those few stakes you can place in the ground every day.
What will I remember of the pandemic of 2019-20? The courage of our healthcare workers, the resilience of our teachers and students, or the tenacity of our community? Yes to all. And, I suspect, the still life of this campus...an empty circle...and Bob.