Plums, papaws, peaches, pictures, and other fruitful things

By Steve Duffy ‘77

Unlike many recent springs, the 2013 southwest Ohio and Yellow Springs’ spring has been consistently and wonderfully wet and green.  When it comes to planting a garden, I like to get into the ground early in the spring and get things going comfortably before mosquitoes return along with the summer’s heat. As a terribly neurotic and impatient gardener, after five or six days you might catch me talking to something I have planted and hear me petulantly talking to myself or the garden.  

“Alright, where ARE you? Hurry on up! What is taking you so long?”  

Perhaps planting and then waiting for the result is an experiential lesson in learning about “waiting.”  For me, a primer in patience it most certainly is NOT! Ha! Planting and many other things instead are more about endurance! Maybe I am wired that way because I used to do a lot of long-distance running.

So it certainly is not a surprise that I have been vigilantly watching a small edible fruit forest that was planted last year between the Gym (soon to be the nicely renovated Health & Wellness Center) and the Olive Kettering Library.  The trees were planted during last year’s drought and watered most caringly and carefully by a Physical Plant worker’s young teenaged son who often was a volunteer.  As last year’s days got hotter and drier, I kept wondering would these saplings even make it through their first year.  That edible mini forest feels somewhat like the College. Much is new and needs continual caring so that all will become fruitful.

With the first warmth of mid-April, the Peach saplings were abundantly covered with perfumed pink blossoms. With the plums and the paw-paw saplings, the verdict still seemed to be in the balance.  Every few days I would count the two rows of trees that gird the new sidewalk. In my head I would grumpily cluck and say, “Darn, just 20% made it!” Then, a few days later it was 40% … and by mid-May, 100% had sprouted. Some leaves appeared even if they had not flowered; oh those pesky and imprecise Papaws! (Well, finally joy and less angst for this ‘70s Earth child.)

At first I assumed the plums and the papaws were goners, but they actually had their own rhythm.  Blueberries and other berries have just been added to the part of the path that is closer to McGregor Hall and South Hall. I guess I will be watching again and now also waiting for that complete future fruit salad, (“Hurry up, what is taking so long?”) Throughout the last six years in the effort to revive the College, if I had a dollar for every time I wondered what was taking so long I might be a millionaire, and would have plenty extra for the Annual Fund and other things!

A spring walk to the Olive Kettering Library.

I take joy in some of these small things but also in some of the larger accomplishments as well.   North Hall sparkles nicely in the spring sun! Of course the solar panels shine but the brick exterior seems golden in the late evening sun.  When I see the south façade of North, I think about an article that was published in The Chronicle Of Higher Education (mid-June 2007) a few days after the decision was made to suspend the College’s operation on June 30, 2008.  I remember seeing a giant centerfold of North’s south-facing wall with a giant cascading and crumbling crack in the brick façade … in an insert down below was a picture of the foundation for what is now Antioch University Midwest. Those centerfold pictures and accompanying text made many Antiochians both alternately grief-struck and angry. I had not noticed the crack in North’s façade. Others and I spent most of the time looking at the students, staff, and faculty, and we were not always totally cognizant of everything in the physical plant that was gradually fraying.  


Later, during spring of 2010, a still-dormant Antioch College had its first Community Work Day (on Cinco de Mayo).  I chose Red Square (between North and Main Building) to be the place that I would spruce up. In all the cracks between the red bricks was a waving sea of tall grass.  As I yanked up the grass it soon became clear that the bricks were actually reverting to clay again (a most terrible grassroots issue, no?)  At the day’s end on that hot Cinco de Mayo, I was about as red as Red Square and exhausted physically and otherwise. With patience never part of the picture, I was definitely running out what endurance I had. I realized that fixing a huge place on which decades of folks had danced, walked, or gathered was a much bigger job than it first seemed. Well, two years or so later along with North, miraculously Red Square has been nicely redone. At this upcoming Reunion, hopefully, many feet will give it a test run in one way or another.

For some reason I have, in some way, wanted to “review” that picture from the Chronicle again.  But in this age, many old paper things get pitched and what is left is digitized. I remember that Joe Cali, Antioch’s consummate librarian, often kept long lists of things that digitized journals would not always include. Joe was ultimately old school but he always examined the new and compared it.   

Years after his passing, I found that the electronic version of that Chronicle article eliminated that picture which caused such a strong visceral reaction in many Antiochians. I am happy to see North get a new life and well, I have driven past that Antioch University Midwest building 2,000 times since (on the way home to Dayton every night) and have emotionally learned to tolerate and even forgive all the crazy stuff. In fact, good friends work and go to school there and I appreciate that.  Maybe it is also best to let that bit of grief go for my own well being.

I guess that picture really doesn’t matter now either.

At the library today, Doris Bean ’63 popped up from Seattle. She is in town for a family gathering.  She is the sister of Rodney Bean ’69 (who used to work in the business office after the payless paydays. The payless paydays might make another “Grazing” for down the road! Another May’s story, May 1979! )   Doris is also the daughter of Morris and Xarifa Bean.

Doris worked with Arthur Morgan and had found some old reel-to-reel audio tapes and wanted Antiochiana to have them.  (Now we will have to find an ancient tape recorder to hear what is in them.)

Doris commented, as have many others, on how bright and airy the library looked (Thanks to the Volunteer work crew for all that TLC, that is to say, months of light-bulb rewiring and replacing, making us much greener and brighter).  Doris also said the campus hadn’t looked so good in a long time.

At the library we are all still working our way through a “collection review” of the book collection. It is similar to an inventory and a comparison of our collection with the outside world.  We are going through way more than 200,000 volumes and assessing them. Plenty of student workers are in on this too!  

It is turning out that 160 years and hundreds of faculty have created a collection that is amazingly good for a liberal arts collection. According to Jim Kapoun, director of library and information services, who has been analyzing the findings.  

“As of May 15, 2013, in the library’s comprehensive inventory, 36.5% of the collection is ‘unique.’ There are less than five holdings in OhioLink, or one holding in OPAL (Ohio Private Academic Libraries), or less than 50 holdings in WorldCat. To date, we have found six items in the collection where Antioch College is the only known library to hold a copy.”  

At this point data has been analyzed through the Library of Congress classification GV (dance).  We still have a long way to go. I might almost be tempted to ask, “What took us so long?” But the answer here is it takes 160 years and hundreds of faculty to produce these fruits and then quite a while to figure what their current significance and relevance is.

Also Joe Cali’s legacy remains. After we added JSTOR (a national digital library of academic journals, books, and primary sources) to our library “toy store.” The JSTOR people visited us they seem very interested in what we have that they do not yet have. Fifty years of Joe Cali’s care and armies of donors bringing Joe all sorts of “journal runs” that still bear not only fruit, but also some extra prestige.

Finally, when it comes to checking out Antioch’s “Human Side of Enterprise” please think about a Reunion rendezvous, a Founder’s Day fieldtrip (October), or pass through if you are within a daytrip or so away.  You can check out all those things fruitful whether they are papaws, new students, faculty, the Glen, the gym, and don’t forget to come by the library too. See what there is to see. Our community fruit salad and some other things are “works in progress.”

With some waiting and endurance, all will be ready in due time.

When you come to visit, and if you are an old friend, maybe you’ll hear the following: “What took you so long?”