In the grand scheme of things, ten years is not a very long time. Most ten year old are just starting fifth grade. Maybe they will learn the basics of the scientific method, or how to add and subtract fractions. Perhaps they will begin to further their understanding of social situations, and how to properly interact with their peers. Most ten year olds are just beginning to experience life; they are just starting to notice the world changing around them. But for someone who is rooted in place, ten years can mean an eternity of observation.
The sugar maple outside Althouse has been a sentinel to the academic quad for just about ten years. From the time it was planted during the era of President Durden, this tree has lived amidst the hustle and bustle of collegiate life. On a day to day basis, the sugar maple stands silently, invisible to the hundreds of students rushing out of the HUB to avoid being late to class in one of the many academic buildings on the quad, only to see the same students meander back an hour later. Days fold into months, months fold into years. Some years are more interesting than others. Regardless, the tree watches. It stores its observations in the layers of its bark.
Spring 2005: the sugar maple watches, perplexed, as many, many students walk by all at once. Some look excited, some fearful. Others still appear to be in a daze, not truly registering what is about to happen. These students, all wearing similar clothes, file past the sugar maple on their way to the Old West building, where hundreds of folding chairs have been meticulously placed into rows the previous night. The students all sit, listen to an address given by the state governor, and then march down the steps of Old West. This is the sugar maple’s first commencement; one of many to come.
A few months later, the tree again witnesses a mass procession of students. This time, the students are not wearing matching clothes. The tree doesn’t recognize any of these students yet. Perhaps they are new here; they look young. Again, rows of folding chairs have mysteriously appeared during the night. The students sit anxiously in their seats, fidgeting as they are welcomed to Dickinson by President Durden. In a way, the sugar maple feels as though it is also being welcomed to the campus. The students applaud, and process up the steps of Old West. This is the tree’s first convocation.
Over the next ten years, the sugar maple continues to grow. Every year, it bids farewell to the graduating class as they walk towards commencement, and every year it welcomes a new first year class to the campus. This ebb and flow of students becomes routine, and the tree feels honored to bear witness to such important moments in these students’ lives.
The sugar maple also hears talk of a few more unique events during its first ten years of life. It hears of new buildings, new additions, new dedications. An archeology lab is built; Stuart and James halls are added to Rector, which becomes the new science building; the tree’s very own Malthouse becomes the new hub for international business and management studies, as well as economics studies.
The tree sees the start of various social movements started on campus, such as the first Run for Steph, the first of a series of Pride @ Dickinson progressive dinners, the first awarding of the Same Rose and Julie Walters Prize for Global Environmental Activism. The tree also gets wind of replacement of President Durden with the college’s first woman president, President Roseman. For all of the campus’s festivities, tragedies, firsts, and lasts of the last ten years, this sugar maple has been a witness.
Flash forward to Friday, September 4th, 2015: the tree experiences yet another first. On this day, I was introduced to this sugar maple. This is the first time that the tree finally has a chance to become the observed rather than the observer.
Dickinson College Archives and Special Collections 2014. “Timeline.” Dickinson College: Carlisle PA. Retrieved September 27, 2015. (http://archives.dickinson.edu/college_history/browse_timeline).