A bucket list and those "R" months

By Steve Duffy '77

After what seems like the wickedest winter weather in four decades, spring is finally creeping into Yellow Springs and the Antioch College campus.  Although the lawns are still mostly brown, the first clusters of seasonal wildflowers (snow drops) are starting to let us all know the worst of winter has finally passed. Also popping up in clusters is what looks like groups of metal buckets that are collecting sap from tapped maples all over campus.

As the campus has more maples than you can count, the odds are that there may be cuisine here soon which includes maple syrup. In memories that resurface (after decades!) I remember Ken Hunt, Glen Helen Director (1946-1973) and some others at Trailside at the edge of Glen Helen (1969 or so) with an enormously wide bathtub-sized thing with an aromatic smoky wood fire underneath. People in relays took turns slowly stirring oceans of watery sap with huge wooden paddles.

I remember that 40 gallons of sap eventually equals 1 gallon of syrup. Perhaps some “syrup nouveau” might go on future pancakes! I also know that maple syrup can do wonders in the cooking of collards.  As an urban gardener in Dayton I can tell you that some garden collards with red onion, some Canadian bacon, maple syrup, and chicken broth are true divine culinary delights. So perhaps soon deliciousness like that may also be on the evening menu here. On the Antioch Farm we do perennially grow plenty of greens, too!

So that recent clear and frosty but promising Monday morning it was a pleasant surprise to see syrup buckets as a harbinger of seasonal change.  I also thought and chuckled to myself that is the kind of thing that one can do easily in a safe bucolic college village.  In my neighborhood in Dayton those buckets would be gone in a hot minute!  They would more than likely find their way to one of the recycle places in downtown Dayton. People are struggling just to try to make ends meet. I have even seen aluminum siding disappear off houses even on major and highly visible streets in northwest Dayton. It almost seems like two different planets. We may approach the concepts of recycling or sustainability from vastly different perspectives. So I know how to appreciate this forest of buckets that I see every day and the fact that they even stay there!

As spring arrives it is now also that fortnight that includes finals and presentations so students are working on everything under the sun. (Yes, finally there is some sun!) Other Antiochians are a working on securing their co-ops and preparing to pack for that journey to Chicago, New Mexico, New York, and elsewhere.  At the library, in between some deep studying, there is some occasional laughter as people take breaks to get fresh air or let off steam.  Last Saturday DIV DANCE happened in the Glen Helen building, always a great way to let off steam!  I have even recently heard that eternal question, “How much should I pack for co-op?”

I have been within earshot of students drilling each other for their environmental studies final and also a history final.   What a way to relive one’s own history by hearing the chronology of the ‘60s and ‘70s retold. Do you think that all really happened?  I may have selectively forgotten some of that (or maybe it is simply senescence setting in).

In between that studying have been some fun ways of learning and mixing disciplines.  Recently all the foreign language classes broke down into small teams and each team made a four- or five-minute movie in their particular language but with English subtitles so all might understand and enjoy the texts.

Spanish, French and Japanese groups made mini movies that honed writing skills, translation and storytelling skills, as well as stimulated imaginations by using a video camera, doing sound editing and creative script writing.  Among the entries were some great campus tours, a zombie apocalypse, a black and white Jean Luc-Goddard piece about ‘Mai 68’ in France, a Spanish telenovela, Horace Mann murder mysteries, and much more.  It seems Antiochians can speak, write and even dance!  

The movies were presented in McGregor Hall and hosted by the language faculty with some great fanfare like the Academy Awards.  These first foreign language video awards were called the “Mannies” (named after Horace, of course).   Awards were given for cinematography, acting and best use of a foreign language.  Award certificates were given and attached, what else, a free pass to a night at the Little Art Theatre.  In that darkened room about 80 students, staff and faculty watched, listened, laughed. All were in awe of what is possible with language practice, imagination and some great high-tech equipment and subtitles.   

Some of these film clips show the campus’ natural beauty. One mini movie in particular highlighted some heavily falling February snow in the horseshoe by North Hall and Main Building. It seemed serene and poetic and maybe the music underneath heightened that feeling. I enjoyed seeing the aesthetics of cinematographic snow but indeed have had enough of the real stuff this season!  The students seem to have mastered foreign language and the language of film and sound at the same time. Maybe these mini movies are some first steps toward one of those terms that seem to be appearing on PowerPoint bullets I have seen at Community Meetings: cultural competence.

On Tuesdays The Diversity Committee continues to gather.  In the works are to bring the Sustained Campus Dialogue Network here for fun both spring and summer Community Days. Maybe there will be a celebration dinner or picnic at each day’s end.  A group of students and staff from Community Life went to check this organization out at a conference at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania. (See Sustained Dialogue Network promotional video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDscmx6Td0o)

Students from various colleges and universities from both the United States and Mexico were there.  Our Antioch College delegation felt it would be an exceptionally positive opportunity for people to learn how to talk with each other and create an environment where trust and understanding are an outcome.  It will be an opportunity for everyone to learn how to dialogue and really listen so that after a conversation everyone leaves being broadened or changed.   And the goal is to accomplish this in a space where everyone feels secure and valued. Maybe it would also be a great skill to carry if you co-op at a place that is distant both geographically and culturally.  

During a recent Diversity Committee meeting, Louise Smith ’77, dean of community life, was also talking about an old piece that Steve Schwerner ’60 had written for an old student handbook called “Tips for events for social action.”  The Diversity Committee is working on what may be helpful to include in possible future orientation packets.

With spring’s arrival the campus, the Glen and even downtown Yellow Springs seem to add a certain spring to their steps.   A couple of Saturdays ago I came up to have a short visit with the alumni board and found that the Village Farmer’s Market had already  started up and had the added flavor of some frenzied accordion playing.  In a Yellow Springs’ spring, musicians pop up downtown like flowers. Near downtown a major new hotel is in the works.  So the odds are if you come to visit there may be a new option for lodging for a future sojourn.

These early spring days of course find students sitting on the lawn during the first blue sky days.   I wonder if any of the new language professors are aware of a factoid or wellness advice that Anna Otten, former language professor (1956-1992) would tell Antioch students when she saw them sitting on the lawn. Anna knew and taught many European languages.  She once said, “Check out Spanish, French, English, German, and Italian. You will see that only certain months do not have an R in them.”  Anna said her mom reminded all to be mindful during the “R” months, like not sitting on the ground. Then you would hardly get sick.

Anna indeed said no one in her family ever got sick.  So while many of us are worried about our P’s and Q’s, maybe we also might to pay homage to our R’s to be mindful until that first month sans “R” arrives!  Gee, maybe we could include that in a script for future mini language movies. 

And finally being mindful of the letter “R,” keep Reunion 2014 in mind!  It will be one of those months that sans an “R.”  So you may sit worry-free of the lawn.

This was written while waiting for the third issue of the Antioch College Record to arrive.   The “adios” “Ja mata” or “au revoir”  for co-op issue!