Happy Fourth of July! I hope you’re enjoying being the third oldest cousin (for now) at the family reunion. I have to admit that it does make me a tiny bit afraid that you’re driving now. But I’ll have to get used to it. As to your question about the scholars, I have to say that I’m not sure how much detail is appropriate to give you about work. They’re all driven high school students, prone to drowsiness in class, incredibly perceptive and sassy, and rather inspiring. So there’s a good deal of resemblance to you, I think.
I realized recently that until now, I had never lived in Harvard Yard. Harvard likes to publicize the fact that the majority of freshmen live in the Yard, citing the improved social connections. As there are certain social connections (mostly involving alcohol and late nights) that I do not enjoy, I was placed outside of the Yard and enjoyed my quiet single in Greenough. Greenough also had a relatively low incidence of peeping tourists, which is probably the biggest inconvenience of living in the Yard. However, I’m realizing that there are certain subtler qualities of the Yard that hold some appeal for me.
Getting past the tourists, a more romantic, sentimental side of the Yard begins to emerge, and it begins with the trees. I realized the importance of the trees when I was awakened one morning by the pulsing growl of a wood mulcher. For one reason or another, one of the trees was being removed. The branches had been stripped off, and the trunk was being sawed down in 15-20 foot long sections.
If one were to remove all the trees from the yard, it would appear much smaller. The trees fill up the space and make frisbee and soccer difficult, but they also give texture to the space. The sunlight is broken into pieces as it shoots toward the ground, and the puddles of shade provide respite for people trying to enjoy the outdoors during the hot summer days. The crowns of the trees come together to form a patch work roof, a transitory layer between the solid earth and the open skies.
Brightly colored chairs are dispersed across the grass, and they too create shadows, as they sit empty. One chair: a lone scholar, perhaps with a book or a meal or a notepad. Two chairs: an intimate discussion between friends or lovers, or maybe more simply a footrest for a solitary person trying to get comfortable. A circle of chairs: the beginning of many new friendships, as high school students enjoy the freedom a summer away from home brings.
As I spend the evening sitting on the stoop of Matthews, waving away the bugs that hover around my bare arms, I can understand why Harvard Yard attracts so many tourists. There’s an aesthetic appeal to the space that goes beyond its association with a prestigious university, although that certainly helps. Hopefully tourists can see both sides of the Yard. In my opinion – having acclimated to being at the college – the aesthetic beauty of the Yard is much better.