I have become something of a swinger lately. Those of you who know me will understand that I do not mean that I am now a wearer of chic clothes and a habitué of swank clubs. No offense, but that is just not my scene. No, I mean I have literally been swinging—soaring back and forth outside the chapel on the new-old swing that was recently reinstalled in celebration of the life of former trustee Kathryn Wasserman Davis ’28 (see “Up, Up, and Overjoyed”).
There’s something about a swing that lets you sail not only through space, but also through time. Today, as I pumped my legs to get Kathryn’s swing moving, I was suddenly back in the vast hayloft of my parents’ horse barn. I was flying—thanks to a push from strong fatherly arms—out through the barn’s two-story door, screeching at the top of my lungs. Out toward the blur of pine trees and the flowering dogwoods. Higher and higher, until the rope of the tire swing jerked, and I was suddenly careening back down into the barn.
Those soaring summer evenings from 40-some years ago have not faded in my memory. Even the sweet smell of the freshly baled hay is vivid to me. I would guess that when Kathryn last visited campus, and she asked about the whereabouts of the swing that she had been so fond of as a student, she had similarly clear memories from more than eight decades before. The favorite places of our youth—our beloved spots for play and daydreaming—stay with us.
Landscape designer Julie Moir Messervy ’73, profiled in this issue, believes that all of us have what she calls “an inward garden,” an internal landscape of joyful places dating from childhood and added to as we grow older. She draws on her clients’ memories of those spots as the foundation for the gardens she creates for them. Julie has shaped public and private spaces around the world, and—just take a look at the pictures—those gardens have got to be on the list of beloved spots for the people who use them.
It’s summertime, and the warmth and the sun pull us outside. Fireflies, hammocks, kids splashing in the waves, ice cream. No matter how old we are, we have to ask ourselves—do we have places for play and daydreaming, for recharging and enjoying the moment? Are we actually using them? For me, it’s a beach in Maine. At low tide, the sand is so wide and flat that it seems like you could walk forever, with your thoughts in neutral. And when you get tired of making footprints, you perch yourself on the jetty and let the waves crash in around you. That’s how I catch my breath every summer.
I suspect that Kathryn Davis, wise woman that she was, recognized that we all need to soar away from our serious pursuits now and then. My guess is that she would be pleased by the number of students (as well as faculty and staff—I am far from the only one!) who have lined up for a turn on the carved cedar plank hanging from chains anchored high in one of the chapel oaks.
How about you? Have you taken time to swing lately?