look listen FEEL


Dickinson college students walk across campus every day and hardly think about their surroundings, I included in that. May be they notice the weather, but only if it particularly warm or pouring rain. Maybe they notice the trees a few days in the fall because of their bright colors. Or maybe it’s the first day the grass looks green in the spring. But for the most part we walk through the world relative unaware of our natural surroundings, minds on classes, eyes on phones, ears trained on our classmates as we talk on the way to class. Rarely do we step back and take in what’s around us.

As I walk across the academic quad, from ballet class towards my house, I see students heading to dinner, a women walks her dog, and it is mostly quite. College campuses on Thursdays at 6 pm tend to be very quiet. Students are at dinner, in meetings, playing sports or already in the library studying, especially as fall grows colder and colder as the sun goes down, you see less and less human life out and about. I pulled a red chair under my tree and looked up. I noticed that the leaves on my tree, still purple and green, did not match the trees around it. The others had started to change. Bright yellows and reds, still mixed with shades of green. My tree showed no signs of fall. Sandy held on to summer a lot better than I did. Here I was at school, reflecting on all my work, how the air was growing cold, and how very soon shorts really would be pushing it. Whereas my tree, Sandy, looked the same as she did, the first day of school. She held on to summer and clung to her sessional colors, while I drifted in to the school year, and clung on the all the stress that came with it.

Then I looked down. I saw brown leaves littering he ground. I did not hear them move when the wind blew. They were dead but not dry. Soaked form the perpetual rain of Carlisle PA, they stuck to the wide ring of mulch under my tree. But when the wind blew I did hear the sound of the wind bending branches and moving the leaves above. Drops of water fell form the tree and covered the notebook I had out in little drops of water. The wind was like a blow dryer and the leaves like a girl’s long hair, my notebook was like the bathroom floor on a Monday morning, covered in drops of water after a shower, as she rushes to get ready. My tree was not in a rush. It was never in a rush

As I listened again I heard noise pollution only. I did not hear birds, the sounds of little squirrels, I heard a train horn from the direction of the Kline, cars on high street hitting the gas as the light turned green, I heard a car door slam from the parking lot by Denny hall. I heard nothing that had to do with my tree. I only heard the busy lives of the people that surrounded my tree.

As I took a deep breath in I smelled nothing out of the ordinary. Just the smell of wet grass. This made me nervous. After reflecting on the cars and traffic and lack of nature, shouldn’t I smell all of the gas these cars are omitting as they wiz by during rush hour? Has my nose gone blind to the smell of population? I don’t think my tree has gone blind to it’s effects.

In some of my last blog posts, I personified my tree and gave her a lot of human like qualities. My tree had a life, and friends, a home, she liked to run and play, she got sick, but was saved. I want to take that back. My tree is nothing like a person. It doesn’t rush to class oblivious of what’s around it, it doesn’t rush to do anything. It lives in the moment and reacts in direct responses to the things around it. It doesn’t wiz by in cars that give off toxins, it doesn’t move at all. It doesn’t stare at its phone or complain about the rain. It listens and looks and lives in the world directly around it. It is forced to live and be impacted by the lives of everyone around it, whereas people have the power to make that impact, trees just live with it.

Dickinson College Class of 2017

Maggie Dougherty


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