Thursday, August 27, 2009

Bloomington changes with the seasons, but learning never ends

It’s time to gear up for the annual migration of students into our small town. Circumstances are always changing here, and as much as my human nature resists change, I love the total package of Bloomington: the seasonal fluctuations, the town and the gown. As the product of two IU students who fell in love, got married, and decided to build their lives and family here, I bridge both worlds.

This summer I had the opportunity to stroll through campus, deserted and quiet like a ghost town. In my current phase of life, activities like walking through campus carry more significance than they did when I was student here. I feel as if I am walking on hallowed ground. My mind stirs with the thoughts of the students and scholars who walked these very paths over the past 189 years.

Here are some campus scenes and sensations that are presently calling up from my memory to be shared in this community forum.

The Hippie Hangout. I don’t think I’m hallucinating. In the 1970s I remember riding down 10th Street in the back of our red Dodge station wagon, passing by Dunn Meadow and staring wide-eyed at the mass of bell-bottomed, long-haired students throwing Frisbees, sitting in the grass talking, and enjoying the sunshine. We called it the Hippie Hangout.

The Sugar and Spice shop. When I was in early elementary school, Mom returned to college to finish her degree in education. I frequently accompanied her to campus. One of my favorite places to visit was the Memorial Union. I called it the Elevator and Escalator Building. Mom always treated me to a gingerbread man at the Sugar & Spice shop. I remember munching on my cookie while I sat in the row of seats at the base of the escalator, biting off one arm at a time, watching the students walk by.

The Wrubel computing center. Dad worked at Wrubel when it was located in the basement of the HPER building. We descended a concrete staircase to enter his department, humming with room-sized mainframes, the cutting-edge technology at that time.

Tenth Street stadium. Just steps across the parking lot from Wrubel stood the old stadium, now the location of the beautiful campus arboretum. The Marching Hundred practiced there. My brother played trombone in the band and I loved watching them rehearse.

Assembly Hall. I was lucky enough to be in a family that held season tickets in 1976. Need I say more?

Showalter Fountain. I was a student in 1987, part of the mad dash of NCAA championship revelry to Showalter Fountain. I was there when one of the fish statues was stolen. (Disclaimer: I didn’t steal the fish, and I don’t have a description of the people who did.)

The Library. I never quite got over the amazement that the IU library is huge enough to hold a cafeteria. And the stacks: floor after floor, row after row of nothing but books. A guaranteed quiet place to study.

Ballantine Hall. Even as a young adult, I always appreciated the beautiful walk along the creek from Jordan Avenue to Ballantine Hall. Back in the ’80s, “Mad Max,” a campus crusader, shouted his sermons to passersby outside the building where I spent many hours in liberal arts courses.

It is my hope that the influx of new and returning students take a moment this semester to realize they are making history: their own personal history from a brief yet important time in their lives, and a contribution to the collective history that walks the pathways of the Indiana University campus. I sometimes wonder why we are given the wisdom to appreciate something so many years after the experience itself. Again, I return to the truth that the learning really never ends.

Friday, August 14, 2009

It’s too early to say goodbye to another summer season

I’ve always had trouble saying good-bye to summer. As much as I try to deny it or push it down, I feel a grief at summer’s end like no other. The 10 weeks fly by so quickly.

Written or unwritten, most people have their list of summer wishes. While some are realized and some are not, this is the time of year to accept it all and begin making the transition to a new season. So, as we gear up for the start of another school year, here is a look back at this columnist’s memorable moments from the summer of 2009:

  • Being away from my family for seven full days in June — the longest separation I’ve had from my daughter. While I was away, we talked on the phone as she was putting her very first batch of homemade scones in the oven. This produced a flash of awareness that, at age 11, she doesn’t need as much help in the kitchen as much as she used to.

  • Sneaking away one evening to meet my husband halfway between Bloomington and Cincinnati at a Batesville pizzeria for dinner — being reminded that the most romantic dates are those that aren’t set up to be romantic.

  • The feeling of terror upon finding out my 70-year old father fell off a ladder while trimming a tree near his house. Relief that he only has a small fracture in his lower back that should heal up just fine.

  • The realization of a dream to offer a Young Women Writing for (a) Change circle in our community.

  • Making moon-blessed water: setting out a jar under the full moon — an emerging tradition between mother and daughter, daughter and friends.

  • Moon jellyfish glowing in the ocean near our feet as we walked along the beach at night while on vacation in coastal Alabama.

  • Floating on the waves.

  • Watching my nephew’s theater camp performance of “Man in the Mirror,” then finding out about Michael Jackson’s death right after the show concluded.

  • Late-night firefly shows. There’s nothing like fireflies in Indiana.

  • Discovering how a sensitive person is prone to difficulties with reading Harry Potter books at bedtime. “He Who Shall Not Be Named” has a tendency to creep into one’s dream life and frighten one into a shivering crouched position on top of the toilet seat.

  • Letters from a reader, reminding me of the “I-me-my” syndrome in my columns — that I am close to Bob Hammel’s record (which isn’t such a bad thing in my book).

  • Sharing Mom’s peanut shell antics with Herald-Times readers — Mom saying she felt “like a celebrity” that day.

  • The sights and sounds of Drum and Bugle Corps performances in Lucas Oil stadium, sitting between my brother and husband, reminiscing about our involvement in the activity more than 20 years ago (has it really been that long?), all in agreement that Indiana University’s Memorial Stadium offers a much better atmosphere for the experience.

  • Buying fresh basil from my friend Denise at the farmer’s market.

  • The unusual coolness and low humidity — not so conducive to juicy red tomatoes in my garden.

  • Retiring my daughter’s purple L.L. Bean dolphin backpack from school use, the one she has used since first grade, not due to wear and tear, but because she’s grown into a more stylish, over-the-shoulder, messenger bag for sixth grade.

OK, now the nostalgia has really kicked in. Therefore, I officially declare that summer isn’t really over until sometime after Labor Day. This declaration is supported by a Google search that reveals the last day of summer is Sept. 21.

School starts too early, anyway. Let’s just submit to the illusion of eternal summer, youth, happiness, barefootedness and freedom. Who’s with me? We’ll call it the Declaration of Never-Ending Summer.