I have been ruminating on change for many years. When is it good? Is it inevitable? What is lost when things we treasure change? Are there ways that change brings growth?
I am not naturally one who likes change. I want the same meal on holidays. I take the same route to the grocery story every single time I go.
And yet, I know I—we—live in a world of change.
The picture below is beautiful. The patterns, the abstraction, pull the viewer in while pushing us away.
What is it? It is the root ball of a tree that crashed to the ground some months ago on the Salem campus. As you walk past Corrin Refectory, if you did not know it had been the scene of a huge tree falling, you would still gasp at the beauty, including that of a much smaller tree that has since been planted there, with some ceremony.
When the tree fell, I felt a significant sense of loss. I was, I confess, made unhappy by the change. Today, what is left are memories and this visual of an accidental abstract, calling to mind the renewal of the earth, calling to mind a very different kind of beauty.
As we wrestle with all we are doing these days as a community, I think of that tree—a tree that connected generations and connects us still. Our classes and our meetings, our screens and our calls, stand for much more than the obvious, the visible—they stand for the ways we are FOR one another; and we know in our heart of hearts that in this moment we are learning more than we could ever have imagined from one another.
The delights of nature remind us that we are part of an ecosystem and that we all need multiple strategies—talking with friends, reading books (I am in the middle of White Fragility and a terribly silly mystery called Lethal Licorice), walking in the rain, using a calculator, cooking dinner.
As you head into the next part of the history and future you are making, remember liberal arts education is about creativity and compassion, generosity and grace. And, at Salem we are stronger together.
Dean of the College